A friend and I hunt in Eastern Nebraska on a farm we call E-Unit’s. It is 360 acres of crops, half soybeans and half corn. Of the 360 acres, only 30 are timber. However, this piece of property borders 1,000 acres of superb whitetail habitat consisting of Missouri River bluffs covered in hardwoods and pasture. The deer population has never been an issue until this past 2012 season.
It was a difficult bow season with a large percentage of the deer in our area dying from EHD. Several of the bucks we saw in velvet on camera, were found dead on neighboring ponds and creeks. The extreme drought we were having was causing problems. The food source we were hunting was withering and so was the deer population. Many hours were spent in stands with little or no action, with only fawns roaming around. There were literally no deer we were even able to draw back on.
However, in December, we finally got a snow fall of about 3 inches. Snow covered the remaining food sources and deer were starting to filter on to our property. We went from zero deer to approximately 140 of them coming out in the evenings to feed. By now we are in muzzleloader season, and we are getting nervous that the season is going to be a waste of a buck tag.
On December 18th, we had a calm, cold evening. It was 12 degrees and felt like it was going to be the perfect evening for a sit. So I grabbed my Accura .50 caliber muzzleloader and headed out. I decided to sit in our Primos blind on the North finger of the farm, overlooking some of the snow covered corn. At 4:45 the deer started jumping the fence line to the East and heading west in to our field and walking anywhere from 8 yards to 90 yards from me. Most of them would disappear in a small valley in the field and reappear to the West of me.
I was really getting excited thinking that this was the night! All of a sudden, every deer popped its head up and stared to the West. A truck driving down the gravel road spooked every deer near me, and they all headed back to the timber. I was devastated, and didn’t know what to do. I texted my buddy Joel to ask his advice, but wasn’t hearing back from him and I was starting to lose faith that this was going to be a successful hunt. At 5:30 PM, I decided I was not going to sit anymore and I was going to attempt and sneak out of the blind and stalk some of the deer to the South of me that I was sure were out feeding. I had just grabbed my muzzleloader and glanced up at the fence line and there he was!
It was like a photograph. He was posing in the remaining sunlight like he was the ‘King of the Timber’. All I needed was for him to jump that fence. It didn’t take long for him to jump but he didn’t stop! He headed straight west and down in to the valley that I had mentioned earlier. I grunted and snort wheezed but could not get him stopped. He straight up vanished…
I was not about to get this close to having a shot on a buck to have him walk right out of sight in to an open corn field. I grabbed my muzzleloader, snuck out of my blind, and started for the valley. I army crawled about 40 yards and peeked over the valley dip in the field. There was nothing down there. I knew he didn’t head north because I would have seen him and I know he didn’t head east. The only logical place he could have gone was west. So I started in that direction. I only saw snow and the remains of a cut corn field.
Then a doe coming over a crest in the field at about 200 yards south of me got my attention. I grabbed my binoculars and glassed her. She kept looking behind her to the West. I glassed in that direction and there he was. He was following her, but he was in no hurry and had no sense of urgency.
I crouched down in a hurry so that they both did not see me. By this point, I only had a few minutes left of daylight and had to make a decision. At just over 200 yards, I knew that my .50 caliber could handle it, but I was worried about how cold I was. I was breathing hard from all the stalking and the adrenaline, but I was also freezing. I decided this was the one chance I was going to get at this buck.
I put him in my cross hairs and tried to settle my breathing. I was wobbly and very unsure of myself at this point. Once he stopped walking and he was broadside, I knew that I had to take a shot. I eased back the trigger and let the shot go. I had no visual of the shot after the recoil due to the powder cloud and declining daylight. I did, however, hear a thud and knew that I hit him.
Excited about the shot I headed back to the blind to grab my stuff and then headed to the truck. After 35 minutes of warming up in the truck, I went to look for a blood trail. I didn’t have to look hard. He ran about 15 yards and dropped right in the middle of the field! I waited for Joel to drive out so that I could get some pictures and some help loading him in to the truck. After we got back, we checked some trail cam pictures and realized that he was one deer that actually survived the EHD.
It is just amazing how you can feel like all hope is lost, and then your luck can change and you are provided with an opportunity at a quality buck. The 121 inch deer is, by far, not the biggest deer we have seen in our area. However, this buck was a great hunt. He gave me an experience I will never forget.