Well, here I am. Sitting in my late muzzleloader season honey hole, hoping to pull a rabbit out of a hat and fill my last buck tag of the Maryland 2012 whitetail season. As the sun begins to sink below the Blue Ridge, the cold chill of winter starts to creep down my spine. This is it, the last 30 minutes of my season, and what a season it has been!
Looking back on a year filled with summertime preparations, early season trials and tribulations, an unbelievable November rut, and a beautiful, snowy December, I cannot help but think that this has been one of the best years of hunting that I have ever had. Not just because of the number of tags filled, but because I had the opportunity to share hunts with old friends, my dad and I’s first bow hunt together, and introduce a new hunter to the sport. But as movement catches my eye, my attention quickly returns to the snow-covered fields and the deer working their way across them.
My stand is set in a shagbark hickory growing in a fenceline overlooking an alfalfa field to the east, hayfield to the north, and cut corn fields to the south and west. Late season hunting in Maryland can be very difficult as the two week rifle season beginning at the end of November puts an incredible amount of pressure and stress on the deer. Their movements quickly turn nocturnal and opportunities during daylight hours seem to be few and far between. With air temperatures in the 20’s and 5″ of snow on the ground, I know these deer will be heading for the groceries. The only question is whether or not they will make it into the range of my CVA Optima before the sun goes down.Tracks in the snow show that there are plenty of deer in the area and I watch anxiously as a herd of ten deer, including three young bucks, have left their beds in the creek bottom and start heading my way. They are almost a thousand yards away and I know they will never make it in time. But my good friend, Levi, is in a better position 600 yards down the same fenceline in the “pond stand” and I cross my fingers in hopes that he may be offered a shot.
The air was growing colder when the evening’s silence was shattered by the report or Levi’s Remington Mode 700 .50 cal muzzleloader echoing off the mountains. We had sighted his rifle in only 3 hours earlier and now he had fired his first shot at a deer. When I got the message that he had a deer down, I couldn’t climb down fast enough to meet up with him and help him with the recovery.We started the tracking job at the point where the deer was standing when it was shot. With a nearly full moon glistening off the white snow, I could follow the blood trail in the dark. After only 70 yards, our flashlights fell on the downed body of a deer, and Levi’s first buck! The young four point had piled up at the base of a briar within sight of Levi’s stand.
The pride in his eyes and the excitement rattled in his voice as he began to tell me what events had transpired. I knew that tonight’s hunt would forever live in his memory and will be a story told and retold time and time again and I was thankful to have been a party to it.