My First Buck
When my father asked me write about a hunting experience, my mind ran wild with the memories that I’ve acquired in the past 8 years of being able to hunt. Should I talk about the turkey hunts in Connecticut (two doubles) or the harvest of my first ever deer while my father and his best friend watched. It is tough to pick one specific hunt because they all have so much meaning. The one I decided to write about was the 8 pointer I took in the Delaware Water Gap, New Jersey. For those who don’t know much about this area, it’s something you need to go explore. A place in New Jersey that is full of wildlife is hard to come by, but this place doesn’t lack excitement. My grandfather, uncle, father, and I have grown up hunting the mountains of “the Gap” and chasing big whitetails.
My big buck was taken during the muzzleloader trip in 2007 that our hunting group goes on after Thanksgiving every year for the first two days of the NJ muzzleloader season. We travel down the Sunday after Thanksgiving to hunt Monday and Tuesday. We head down on Sunday to unpack and do some scouting before the two fun filled days ahead of us. The food and company never seizes to disappoint and the atmosphere of a good camp is present. As we sit down and eat we discuss where we are all going to sit in the morning. I wasn’t able to hunt the archery season so I was depending on my father and others who were there to give me advice on where to sit for muzzleloader. They decided to give me a spot overlooking a laurel area near the power lines we normally hunt. I would sit behind a big tree that had fallen the previous year and watch out towards the pines that surround the power lines.
As I lay in bed that night, deer fever got to me as it was hard to fall asleep. The excitement of the hunt kept my mind racing all night. As all hunters know waking up in the morning for a hunt isn’t hard at all and that’s what happened. I jumped out of bed and got packed, ate breakfast, and we were off for a cold day in the woods. My father dropped me off at my spot as he continued on his way to reach his spot down towards the power lines before sunrise. It was a slow morning as the sun came up over the mountain and began to warm the air slightly. I have to say one of the most amazing views is watching a sunrise light up the woods slowly. There is nothing better than to sit and watch nature at its finest moments such as that. The morning showed no activity so we decided to all meet up for lunch and discusses our plan for the afternoon. I couldn’t walk away from my spot just yet; so I decided to go there again in the afternoon and wait it out for some deer to pass by my spot.
As the afternoon rolled on, my hopes for anything coming by were diminishing. Suddenly, a nice 8 pointer comes walking through the pine trees a little over 100 yards away. My heart instantly started racing as my moment to take down a trophy buck has come. I pull up my Thompson Center Muzzleloader and fire a shot. After the smoke clears I lose sight of the buck. I get a call on the radio about the shot and the situation. My uncle Steve was the closest to me so he came and helped calm me down and prepare to look for a blood trail. As we were talking about our approach of tracking this deer, the big buck appears on the hill about 75 yards away. He seemed very much alive so my shot clearly missed. Now it was my uncle’s turn as he slowly walked around the tree that I sat next to and set up for a shot. Again smoke fills the air from my uncle’s muzzleloader. The deer runs off and seems untouched as we sit in disbelief that this trophy has escaped two shots in the matter of 20 minutes.
As the day came to an end, we head back to camp for a big dinner and start swapping stories about our day in the woods. Of course, I get a little heckling from the guys about missing a big buck, but it’s just part of being the young guy in the group. I decided that I would go back to that same spot tomorrow regardless of the previous day’s events. I had a feeling that my spot was in a prime location of the big buck’s path.
The second and last day of muzzleloader camp came all too quickly as we all got up bright and early and headed out to our spots. I was determined to sit in the same spot and hope for just one more chance at this beautiful buck. Soon after we all settled down we get a heads up on the radio from Jimmy K about him spooking a couple deer as he was walking into his spot by the power lines and they were heading our way. Thoughts raced through my mind about the buck coming by again. My father sat with me on this day which made this hunt even more exciting. He made the decision to walk to the bottom of the deadfall to get a better look at the deer that could be approaching from the hill below us.
Sure enough, the big buck starts walking the same path he did before just 50 yards closer this time. My father started using the grunt call to bring him to a closer range for a nice shot. The buck decided to give me another chance as he walked 60 yards away and stood broadside. Everything slowed down and got quiet as I looked into the scope and fired a shot at this buck once again. As the smoke cleared, I could see the buck running directly away from me. The difference between this shot and the other one was that the deer was running differently than before. With the tail up this time, I was sure I had to of made contact, but was a little skeptical after the previous day. My father came back up to meet up with me and had me retell what happened from the shot to where I last saw him. After a couple minutes we decided to go to the spot of the shot and start to look for a blood trail. Our first sign of blood trail was 50 yards after the shot and we knew we had a good chance of harvesting this deer. As we were tracking the sign, we hear another shot that came from Ernie, one of our CT hunting buddies that was with us. We hear from him that he put a second shot in my deer that was on a death run at this point. As we were tracking our shot, Ernie and Bobby were tracking Ernie’s shot.
Finally, my father and I get the call on the radio that the big buck is down and I have harvested my first buck. As soon as we heard that, my father and I yelled with joy and hugged each other. That moment we had is something I will always remember and cherish. To have my father with me to witness the harvesting of my first buck made me feel proud and I felt that I made him proud. He taught me everything I know about hunting and that moment made it all come full circle for me. He always says that he gets more enjoyment from watching me hunt than him hunting by himself. For me to see the smile on his face was all I could ask for because I knew that I was becoming the hunter he wanted me to be. Once we finally got to the trophy, I sat back with awe at the beautiful creature.
After taking pictures and gutting it (thanks Ernie), the mile long drag was left. I’m thankful the road was an old logging trail that was flat because the deer got heavier and heavier with every step. As we made it back to the cars, I was congratulated by everyone on my kill. I was the king of the woods that day and nobody could have brought me down.
I want to thank my father for giving me the opportunity to write this story. I always want to thank him for being a great teacher, role model, friend, hunting partner, but most importantly, being a Dad that has been there for me with the ups and downs. Being at college, I have little time to get out in the woods due to my stacks of homework and extracurricular activities. Having been away from hunting for a couple years, it has made me cherish the moments I had with my friends and family out in the woods. Like my father and grandfather have told me though, “Get an education, have your fun, because hunting will always be waiting for you when you return.” I think that is something that not many people realize is that the woods are accepting of hunters that care about it. It’s a place to get away from everything and enjoy the beauty that is Mother Nature.