8 point and a Savage
Being laid off the day after Thanksgiving I was pretty depressed. The only good thing, at the time, was that deer season opened the following two weeks. I packed the van on Friday night and headed out Saturday to camp along a trout stream and hunt the Allegheny National Forest. There was a heavy snow fall before Thanksgiving and I was hoping my van could make it to the camping area over any snow covered or icy back roads. I had enough eats for the week and there was a spring nearby should I need more water. It was suppose to warm up by the end of the week so as long as I got there I figured I’d make it out ok by Thursday or Friday or….
The side road along the creek had been partially plowed leading the way back to the gas well pump station but there were plenty of ice patches along the road in the shady areas. I carefully drove down the road and was lucky enough that the road was dry where I wanted to pull up into the camp sight. This gave the new Good Year tires a good start and gripped the 2-3 inches of snow without spinning as I backed up into place. I always try to face downhill when I park the van so I’ll always get momentum when I’m ready to leave. After setting up camp and getting a fire pit ready for the evening I walked down to the creek.
A sheet of ice covered a slow stretch of water. From there the water gurgled through an open patch of ice that opened into a shallow riffle. Ice patches partially covered the shallows and snow covered tree branches that overhung. The snow along its banks was pure white that made a picture perfect setting worth framing.
I finished off the evening with a Criollo wrapped Habana Cazadores as I sat next to the fire under the starless night with Captain Morgan and Dr. Pepper.
Sunday I was up early. Breakfast was a couple of reheated sausage patties, a few blueberry muffins and a hot cup of tea. About 10 I got some warm clothes on and headed up the hill through the forest for some scouting. The snow was a soft crunch with every step I took but I made it a point to move slowly. As the morning warmed small ice balls and patches of snow fell from the tops of pines and bare hardwood branches throughout the day. As I traveled up the hill I’d find used deer trails, of two or three deer tracks. I found a good place to make a stand and cleared a spot next to a large tree. I figured I’d use this stand for the morning till about 10. Up the hill, in more dense cover, I cleared another area that I planned on moving to after 10. Up on top of the mountain I followed the fire trail and came across a flock of turkey on a down slope. This was right where I hunted them the two weeks before that they didn’t show. They scattered about with two flying to the tree tops in the distance. I was surprised I found no deer tracks crossing the fire trail so I didn’t plan on this place to be a good spot to sit on Monday.
Sunday evening I fried up sliced potatoes and onions over the Coleman stove as a deer steak cooked slowly over the charcoals. With a nice fire going I finished off the evening with an Oliva Connecticut Reserve before an early bedtime.
In the dense cover I watched two squirrels scurry about through the treetops. Softened snow fell to the earth from the tree tops as the day warmed up above freezing. After awhile I figured deer might not get pushed through the dense cover so I decided to take my time and still hunt. I slowly made my way to the top of the mountain and sat occasionally at deer crossings that I came across.
All of the deer tracks were going along the ridges and not straight up and down. This told me that surely the deer weren’t being spooked into a running escape. I decided to walk slowly along the hillside watching the bench below and forward.
I was moving a few steps at a time when I seen a white tail flash and focused on the brown and white rump of a whitetail about 100 yards out through the trees. I stopped instantly and rotated my 3X9 scope to about 8 power without looking at the scope. The deer was slowly moving away but I thought I seen a tine bobbing from above its back. The deer didn’t appear to hear or scent me as it casually moved but I needed a better angle and space to visually see its head.
As I waited patiently the first thing I saw through my scope were tall tines above its head. The buck continued to move through the opening and soon I seen brown in my crosshairs. It wasn’t the easiest estimated 100 yard shot with the vine and limb but I knew I might not get another chance of a better shot or seeing this buck again. The Savage boomed after I squeezed the trigger. After the recoil it was if the buck disappeared. I didn’t see it fall nor heard any crashing of sticks after clicking the lever action, loading another round in the chamber. “Could I have missed?” There was a good chance I knew.
I kept my eyes wide open focusing through the forest for signs of movement. I waited about 15 minutes than slowly and cautiously walked to where I shot at the buck with the vine as a reference point. I came across the lone deer tracks and found no blood on the white snow. I looked back at the vine and tried to visualize from where I was when I shot. Not satisfied I hung a red handkerchief on a limb and walked back to where I shot. From where I took the shot I relocated the vine and the opening. The red handkerchief was about 25 feet to the right. I hung a strip of toilet paper on the tree limb and walked back to the deer tracks. With a better reference I found the tracks but still no blood. I put another strip of toilet paper on a limb and went back and grabbed the handkerchief. This all took about 15 minutes or so. Slowly I followed the lone tracks and found deer hair along their path but still no sign of blood.
I knew I aimed above the curved branch which should have put the shot into the upper body behind its shoulder. I glanced ahead trying to pick out blood along the path of the tracks. Again I slowly moved trying not to crunch unforeseen sticks or branches below the snow cover. I stopped now and then looking down the hill watching for movement. Another 20 yards I seen red dots on the snow cover and further the snow was covered in red. It looked as though the buck fell, got up and kept moving beyond. I scoped the scene in front of me but couldn’t spot the deer in the snow. When I got to the red snow I looked down the hill and seen where the buck had slid. Part way down the hill I seen a full set of tall tines above the head of the buck as it was butted up against a tree keeping it from sliding anymore.
As I walked nearer to him I was amazed at the big solid rack for a mountain buck. The 300 Savage had come through once again! After moving him to a flatter location, so he wouldn’t slide, I leaned my rifle up against a tree and put my orange hunting parka in full view over the barrel. I looked at my watch and it was 1:30. I than rolled up my sleeves and began to field dress the deer.
I motioned the driver to stop and my luck it was an older gent. I told him my situation and I expected some younger guys to help me out. He assured me, at 73 years old, he was in good shape and could help me out. After parking in front of my van he got out and he did look fit but was only about as tall as me at 5’ 7”. He admired the chocolate rack and tall tines. We got the deer as high as we could and I tied off the rope to the tree. We talked a bit and he said he’s been hunting these mountains for many years and that I should be proud of the 8 point buck. I thanked him and he went on his way.
After changing into dry clothes I celebrated with a Capt. Morgan and Dr. Pepper before preparing dinner.
I heated up cut deer meat in egg noodles and gravy. After cleanup I got a warm glowing fire going and set my tired body in a camp chair. I relaxed with a Hobgoblin and a Gurkha Warlord. What could be more fitting on a moonless, starless, dark night within the Allegheny National Forest away from the modern world…alone!!?
Spread; 16 3/4"
G1; lft 7 1/2", rt. 8 1/2"
G2 7 1/2"