It’s about 9:30 a.m. on November 21, 2007. It’s my fourth day of hunting during the Indiana firearms deer season. I’ve been sitting in the tree stand since about 6:30 a.m. I’ve also just been discovered by a shooter whitetail buck that approached undetected from my right. I was spotted when I turned my head to investigate a faint sound from that direction. He then disappeared in what seemed like a fraction of a second. I suspect that I’ve blown my chance for the day and possibly for the rest of the season. Discouraged, I consider calling it a day. However, I’m in the woods with the landowner and another friend and we all have to leave at noon for other commitments anyway, so I decide to stay in the stand until then…
At 9:57 a.m. I see and classify a shooter 10-point buck trotting through the woods toward my stand. One minute later he crosses in front of the stand from right to left at about 30 yards on his way to bed down for the day. One shot later he becomes the buck in the picture. As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
The buck fell to a single .50-caliber, 200-grain Shockwave bullet that was powered by two 50 grain Hodgdon Triple Seven pellets and was launched from my Thompson Center Encore muzzleloader. I was also using a Leupold VX-II 3-9X40mm riflescope set at 4X. Being left-handed, I swung the rifle to slightly exceed the buck’s crossing speed as he trotted past the front of the stand and fired when the crosshairs caught up to his left front shoulder.
The bullet entered about 4 inches behind the left front shoulder, passed through the heart and both lungs and came to rest just under the skin behind the right front shoulder. The buck collapsed approximately 40 yards from where he was hit, after running head-on into the trunk of a hickory tree. The recovered bullet had expanded to a diameter of 0.60 inches and now weighed 157 grains. Six weeks later the taxidermist green scored the rack at 145 2/8 inches.
The weather that day was wet with long periods of rain, and the temperature was unseasonably warm at 60 degrees. The winds were from south/southwest at about 10 mph. The long dimension of the property I was hunting runs north to south, and this particular treestand is on the east edge of the property near the center of the tract. Thirty yards to the east is the property fence line, which is adjacent to a large harvested corn field. The property is mostly surrounded by corn and soybean fields, all of which had been harvested before the opening day of the Indiana firearms deer season.
So how did I become fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time that day? I’m a friend and invited guest of the proud owner of a 90 acre tract of woods located in northeast Indiana. I’ve been his guest on the property for the past 6 years, although this is the first deer I’ve harvested from his property. This is the best buck I’ve ever taken in over 40 years of hunting.
This success tends to confirm that Indiana’s “One Buck Rule” and the landowner’s ongoing efforts toward quality deer management on this property are both starting to pay off. For example, one of the landowner’s standing rules for deer harvest on the property is that a buck must display at least 8 points before it can be harvested. As a result, three such deer—including this one—have been taken from the property over the last two seasons.
Several other “qualifying” bucks have been sighted on the property over the same period. That’s not been the case during our earlier hunting years.
The landowner’s other management techniques include declaring the southeast corner of the property as a “deer sanctuary” that’s completely off limits to hunters. This sanctuary contains extremely thick cover and occupies approximately 20 percent of the total property acreage. The landowner also maintains two large food plots on the property to help maintain the resident deer population.
Finally, he’s also working with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to improve the tract’s timber quality by eliminating a quantity of less desirable trees from the forest canopy, which then allows the more desirable young oak trees that are already present to fill in.
In summary, I’m very fortunate and grateful to have been in the right place at the right time on that November day. I’m even more fortunate and grateful that I’m able to hunt at all, let alone have access to such a wonderful place to do so. After all, I’ve yet to have a bad day in the woods, and this year I’ve clearly had some particularly good ones.