In seasons before, I’ve often found myself sitting in a tree stand overlooking what I thought to be promising sign, for countless hours and without seeing any deer movement, at all. Frustrated, I’d climb back down time and time again without notching a tag. Then my friends, who have a multitude of deer on their property, would tell me their stories about how they had decided to kill a deer one evening and they would go out and that’s exactly what they do. I haven’t found hunting that simple at all in my neck of the woods, but I try to persevere and continue to pursue the same pieces of ground.
This year I decided to become more aggressive in my approach to see if I could coax the deer into getting up and moving my way by calling more. I have a cheap grunt call and a rattle bag, neither of which have seen much action in previous years. So I figured, why not, and this year I broke out my grunt call on nearly every hunt from about the third week into October, and throughout the whole month of November. This proved successful in provoking both bucks and does to become curious and come seeking the source of the noise.
On November 23rd I was in Montgomery County, VA, on one of the first pieces of land that I had acquired permission to hunt. I was hunting a ladder stand at the edge of hardwood bench that I had grunted in a good buck last season while hunting with Randy. After scouting out a few trails back in September, I knew this was going to be a good spot again this year and it was just a matter of being in there at the right time. It was getting late in the day, about 4:45 pm and daylight was beginning to fade in the timber when I decided once again to use the grunt call. I gave a couple of contact calls that were not too deep, but fairly loud. I sat for a few minutes without seeing or hearing any movement. I figured that my hunt this evening was nearly over. When I felt the notion to look over my right shoulder and noticed a doe that had snuck up behind me and bedded within 50 yards. She was looking right at me! I slowly turned back around and grabbed my .50 CVA Optima with every intention of shooting her to fill a doe tag and put some more meat in the freezer. When she decided to get up, I saw another deer move 10 yards or so behind her, a buck! My focus on the doe turned to being fixed on the buck. I didn’t know how big he was and before I ever got a good look at him, he stopped with his head and vitals hidden behind a tree. Like a statue, he stood still for what seemed like an hour, but it might have been 5 minutes. I got my composure, and with the barrel pointed in the deer’s direction, settled my breathing, and slowly reached for my grunt tube once more. I hit it with a quick soft grunt. The buck began to take a few steps in my direction, quartering to me. I patiently waited until I had a good clear view of his vitals and I pulled the trigger!
I knew I had the cross hairs in the right spot, but as every black powder hunter knows, you hold your breath until the smoke clears and you see a white belly on the ground. I was so excited, and prayed that I made a good kill shot.
I waited for my nerves to settled down before climbing to the ground. I found the buck laying dead, of course in a very deep creek bottom. I was going to need some help getting him out. So I jumped on the phone and asked Adam if he was busy. He was happy to help and the two of us pulled my first muzzleloader buck out of the depths and into the bed of my pickup.
Being the weekend before Thanksgiving, I was indeed thankful for a wonderful hunt and for the friends that have helped me in so many ways preparing for each season. I was so happy to get my first decent antlered deer with my muzzleloader on the ground. Both deer I’ve killed so far this season came within range only because I called with my grunt call, a tool that has earned a permanent place in my pack.
– Kevin Jones