I am fairly new when it comes to the wonderful sport of hunting. I have been hunting for almost two years now. I have hunted rabbits, squirrels, and my all time favorite, whitetail deer.
There’s something about sitting in a stand on a brisk morning in the peace of the woods when suddenly, the peace is broken by the sudden crunching of leaves. You look behind you and see a bruiser buck standing broadside twenty yards away. You can’t beat that adrenaline rush and excitement.
My first whitetail hunt taught me a lot about the sport; both what to do and what not to do. It might not have been the monster buck that some people have shot, but it was a wonderful experience that I will cherish for years to come. He may not have been considered a trophy according to Boone and Crockett, but he was definitely a trophy in my book. He was a spike buck, so I named him “Spike”, for obvious reasons.
In Ohio, firearms season is very short. Youth gun season is one weekend and the regular gun season is one week and two weekends. Since I am a student, I can’t hunt on weekdays. This year, ODNR cut out the last weekend of gun season to try and increase our shrinking deer herd, so there is only two weekends I can hunt.
So this year I will try bow hunting so I can have more opportunity to hunt. (Ohio bow hunting season starts in September and ends in February.) Which might not be a bad idea for anybody else in a similar situation. It was November 23rd, the first day of the youth gun season in Ohio. It was a beautiful morning. Temperatures were in the upper thirties and sunny. A frost had hit the ground that night and there were still a few days left of the post rut so we knew the deer would be on their feet and active this morning. In Ohio, it is illegal to use any rifle cartridge to hunt whitetail deer.
The only firearm you can use is a shotgun. I was using a Mossberg 500, 20 gauge shotgun with a rifled barrel. My ammunition was Hornady SST Sabot slugs. We had just gotten done eating doughnuts and hot chocolate with our friends when we saw the yellow sun peaking over the horizon. It was time to head to our stands. My dad, brother and I would be hunting a corn field’s edge and my friend and his dad would be about 250 yards away in another stand.
My stand was a 2 man ladder stand sitting at about 15 feet in the air. Which brings up something I didn’t do, wear a safety harness while in the treestand. It’s not a good idea, being in a fifteen foot stand with a firearm and no safety harness. I am also scared of heights, so I always had one hand on the bar and another on the gun. I would suggest wearing a safety harness from the time you leave the ground to the time you return. After we were set up it was just a waiting game.
Patience is the key to any kind of still hunting. For the first hour and a half was very quiet and relaxing (which is one of my favorite parts of hunting). Then I suddenly saw something about twenty yards in front of me. It was a six point buck walking around in thick brush. I could only see his antlers and flashes of white. My heart was racing and my body was shaking with adrenaline. As any hunter does, I had always dreamed of taking a big buck on my first hunt, so I readied my gun. Then he suddenly disappeared. I started frantically trying to see where he went, but I couldn’t see anything. My heart sank with utter disappointment. Before, I could try to think of where it went – I heard loud crunching behind me.
Whatever it was, it was coming in fast. I turned to see a spike buck (“Spike”) and two does trotting across the field. At this point my heart rate was right back up and my body was pretty shaky again. I knew this was my opportunity so I tried to calm down. I figured the six pointer was gone so I decided I would take ”Spike”.
They came in to the left of me at about 30 yards away and I had a perfect broadside shot. I pulled my gun up and he stared right at me. I didn’t move a muscle. He relaxed and walked a few more steps, so I made a noise to stop them and I took the shot. My slug went right through him like butter. One of the does ran back to where she came from and “Spike” and the other doe ran into the woods in front of me. Once, I could see them no longer I relaxed in my stand and almost cried when I realized I had just shot my first whitetail deer. To say I was pumped would be an understatement.
We waited about a thirty to forty minutes and climbed down. In my excitement I accidentally left my gun up in the stand. I used my brothers gun to track my deer, but leaving my gun up in a stand not attached to anything was a pretty unsafe thing to do. I ran to the spot of impact and saw a lot of blood. We started tracking him on a good blood trail that contained chunks of fat. We thought he couldn’t be more than 50 yards in front of us laying on his side. Boy were we wrong. We had walked several when we heard him suddenly get up and run further into the thick, thorn filled woods.
We stopped where he must have bedded down for a while and saw a large, bright red puddle of blood. At this point, a few inexperienced hunters have absolutely no idea what to do. So we called my friend’s dad (who has been hunting for his whole life) and told him we had a wounded deer coming right towards them. He told us to slowly start walking toward their stand to try and push him to their stand so they could try and get a shot at him before he ran off their property. So we started walking and sure enough, we pushed him right in front of their stand.
We heard a shot ring out followed by my friend and his dad yelling, “He’s Down!” and “Yeah Baby!”. I knew they had just downed my first deer. I started sprinting towards the spot where my deer lay. I was thrilled. They told me that when he shot the deer it was blown off its feet by the impact of his Winchester Sabot Slugs.
I believe as hunter, we should kill the animal as fast as possible so that it doesn’t suffer. My deer had suffered for too long as it was, falling down every few steps, so I happy that my friend was able to release it from its suffering. Some people say that after you shoot your deer, the farther it runs, the less flavorful the meat is. That was not the case with, my deer. “Spike” ran about 300 yards and went through a lot of stress, yet he gave our family the best tasting meat we have ever eaten. Not to mention it is a very healthy meat. So don’t worry about how your deer will taste after he has run a couple hundred yards. It will be the most scrumptious, delicious meat you’ve ever tasted. My first hunt gave me a good experience and really got me excited for whitetail hunting in the future. It is something I plan to do the rest of my life. There are a few things I learned from this hunt.
Things that will help me and hopefully you in your future hunts:
1. Always make sure your scope is sighted in correctly. As it turns out, my shot was a little bit too far forward (barely hitting the lungs) and we figured out my scope was off. When sighting your scope, take your time and make sure it is as accurate as possible.
2. Be patient! If you are going in to track your deer and you hear him get up and run, back out. You can always come back a few hours later and find your deer dead where it bedded down.
3. Hunting with friends can be a great experience, not to mention a whole lot of fun. After I shot my deer I was involved in deer drives and strategies that you can’t have when hunting alone.
4. The quicker the kill, the better. I never want an animal to suffer, so if you can get the job done quicker, by all means, do it. This also goes back to setting your scope correctly.
5. Safety first! Always wear a safety harness and never leave your gun up in a stand unattached to anything. It might come back to haunt you!
I hope that my story and what I learned from my first hunt can help anybody going out to hunt either for the first or fiftieth time.