Last Saturday in Morgan Co, GA

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GAHUNTER60

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This is my first post here. Shot this deer with a TC Hawken, .50 cal., 90 grains of 777, RWS musket cap, 385-grain Hornady GP bullet.

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Best ML deer to date (but then again, this is the first year I decided to forego my scoped modern rifles and hunt with nothing but traditional muzzleloaders during regular season. This meant that I would have a smoke pole in my hands during the "magic" time when the big boys go on the prowl).

I decided to hunt with nothing but muzzleloaders this year, because the inherent challenge might actually prompt me to pull the trigger on a nice buck. Over the last 10 years I have let every deer walk, including several over 130 B&C points. I'm now 69, and have lost count of how many deer I've taken in my life, but I know it's approaching 100. About 15 years ago, I contracted the tick borne Alpha Gal meat allergy, meaning I can no longer eat any flesh from a mammal, including venison, without a trip to the ER. This didn't mean I would quit hunting, but since I can't eat them, a great deal of the incentive to shoot them was gone. (Now, I have two sons with families who live and work out of state who love venison and have been encouraging me to shoot one every now and again for them. Still, it's not the same as when I lived to put a whole smoked hind quarter on the table at Christmas and Thanksgiving.)

You older guys will understand this: I just ain't mad at them (deer) like I was when I was younger!!!

So far this season, including our special ML season, I've passed up a couple of dozen legal deer, mostly small bucks and a bunch of does. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to let the same reluctance to pull the trigger govern my hunting attitude, muzzleloader or not! Then came last Saturday.

That morning, the rather stout NE wind was all wrong for my most prolific stands, and I was letting a young hunter, Jason, that I mentored into the hunting world, sit on the one stand what was right for this wind direction. So, on the fly, I decided to hunt a ladder stand overlooking a creek bottom that I have not been to in two years. It was not a perfect wind for this stand, because it would be blowing from my nine o'clock to my three o'clock, (left to right), and in years past, most of the a.m. deer have approached that stand from the three o'clock position -- but not always. In fact, the biggest deer I ever shot on this lease approached from 12 o'clock ten years earlier (the last deer I killed, before Saturday).

I got to the stand well before daylight and got situated. It wasn't long after shooting light that I found out that the pattern of deer approaching from three o'clock was still the norm on this stand. I wasn't paying a lot of attention to my right, because it was dead downwind. Deer just don't approach me from downwind. I stink (at least to them I do). But a little before 7:00 a.m., I heard a fox squirrel rustling to my right (we are eat up with fox squirrels, and I love watching them) so I glanced over to see which color-faze this squirrel was - black, rust or gray with a black head - but what I saw was that this was a big brown fox squirrel, with antlers!

Standing just 20 yards from me was a six-point buck, and he had me dead to right. I wouldn't have shot him anyway, but I was totally busted. He was staring right at me and I could tell he was about to bolt, which he did post haste, back from the direction he had come! And he did not stop to check out what was behind him, and he did not collect his $200. He was gone, buddy!

I chuckled to myself, "of course the deer comes from downwind. I've got 270 degrees of territory in front of me they can come from where they can't smell me, but that one came from the only place where he could get a good whiff!"

So I go back to looking for the upwind buck that might actually present me with a shot. About five minutes later, I glanced back to my right, and was shocked to see the body of a deer 40 yards away, again, dead downwind of my stand!

I could not see what the deer was because his head was behind a big red oak, but, body wise, he was much bigger than the six pointer. Since his head was hidden, I took the opportunity to switch the gun around to shoot left handed if he turned out to be a good'un, and shouldered the rifle. While I was at it, I set the trigger for the first time this season. No sooner had I moved the rifle into position, when he pulled a step backward to look straight at me head on. That's when I saw that he was definitely a shooter -- rack well outside his ears and nice and tall -- only thing is, he had my wind, big time!

As we stared at each other, I could tell that he was just about to bolt. I don't normally like a head on shot, but it was either head on, or don't shoot at all. All this was taking place in the space of about a half second, but I made my decision. I closed my dominant right eye to allow me to place the Thompson Center's gold bead front sight in the notch in the bottom of the rear sight with my left eye, placed the bead on the center of the buck's chest, and touched the already set trigger.

I don't remember the sound of the boom, or the feel of the recoil, but I clearly remember the cloud of smoke that obscured everything in the deer's direction. I could see nothing, but I could hear. And what I heard was a crash in the thicket behind where I first saw the buck, then another crash that sounded about a 100 yards away. Now, In my 55 years of deer hunting, I've missed my share of deer, and with those misses, I don't remember any crashing sounds coming from the direction the deer ran. Yes, I've heard them crash before, but all those deer were fatally hit with a bullet and recovered by me when I took up the spoor.

Could that mean..............?

About that time, I got a text from Jason. It simply said "Well?"

I decided to wait a while before taking up the tracking job, so I texted Jason that I would let him know when I got down to look for blood. It was 30 minutes before I lowered my rifle on the rope and climbed down the ladder. I did not reload my Hawken because I had neglected to include any patches in my possibles bag that morning. This particular rifle likes to be cleaned between every shot, or if not cleaned, at least a spit patch run down the bore. If not, accuracy suffers tremendously. So I decided to take up the spoor with the 10mm Glock pistol on my side I carry for coyotes, an animal whose presence we are blessed to support in very large numbers. It was more than capable of dispatching a wounded deer if indeed that need were to arise. So leaving the Hawken at the stand, I eased over to where the buck was standing when I cut loose.

There was a pool of blood right there!

Now, normally, I don't pick up a blood trail at the point of impact. Usually, the deer has to run a few yards to start leaking. I didn't know if this was good or bad, but I now knew for certain that it was hit! I immediately texted Jason that I had blood, who answered me with his voice from 20 yards behind me, "I'm right here."

Jason had headed my way because he knew the old guy he was hunting with would need his help. I was very glad to see him, by the way.

We took up the trail and soon found ourselves following, not a blood trail, but a blood river! The deer was leaking a steady, almost connected stream of blood. Jason said out loud what I was already thinking, "This deer is dead, and close!" Just seconds later, I spotted him curled up in the creek bottom below us. Miraculously, his head was up and he looked like he was about to get up and bolt. I drew my Glock and took a bead, but the buck didn't move.

"Wait a minute," Jason said, "I think he's dead."

Sure enough, when we approached, we could see that the buck's antlers were stuck in a bush and he had died head up! Relieved I walked up to him to admire his rack and and examine the bullet hole in the center of the chest. It could not have been placed better. When I field dressed him, I found a quarter-sized hole right through the center of the heart, which explained the copious blood trail. I could not find the bullet, but it did not exit.

I could lie and tell you how much of a struggle if was to get the big guy out of the woods, but I won't. Jason insisted that he drag it up the hill by himself in order to protect me from having a heart attack. Since he's an ex state champion wrestler and built like a cape buffalo, I let him. Besides, it was only about a 100 yards to a pasture we could drive through to pick him up.

As far as the rack is concerned, it is nowhere near my biggest deer ever, but is far and away my biggest muzzleloader deer. The buck is a perfect eight pointer with a 16-inch inside spread. He has pretty fair mass and good brow tines. In the last ten years, I've passed up bigger bucks while hunting with modern rifles. Unfortunately for this guy, he happened by while I was carrying a traditional muzzleloader.

My out of state sons, who will receive the meat when I get it back from the processor, are very glad he did!
 

Okie Hog

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Thanks for the great post. Congrats on the great buck.
 

DJH

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Congrats! Thanks for taking us along with the excellent story!
 

Britsmoothy

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Good for you sir. Good shot and yep, never give up on your six.
Now tell us please....what aftershave do you use because I'm thinking it's dynamite!
 
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Great story about how it became... super nice deer taken by you and I credit old age and tenacity for composure. My bullet of choice at 385g as it leaves no doubt as your choice. Congrats on your bounty as GOD has blessed us well in our age to have this opportunity. Hang in there with the allergy as one on my buddies had the same a year or so back and now we speak about what game is on the smoker weekly, as all, it shall pass.

Don't bring your pistola to TN on a hunt if you find the chance...Ranger boys don't take to kindly to that. Heard a story years ago about one of our own jumping from a tree stand and taking a deer by Bowie Knife...ended up loosing truck, rifle and bounty over that. Strange as they are as they figure your carrying a rifle...
 
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GAHUNTER60

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In Georgia, it is perfectly legal to hunt with a handgun during regular rifle season. Remember, I took this deer with a muzzleloader during regular firearms season, not during the early muzzleloader (primitive weapons?) season. Besides, I was not hunting with the handgun, it was only my side for a coyote emergency or to dispatch a wounded animal should the need arise, which, admittedly, is unlikely.
 

wvbuckbuster

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Congrats on a fine buck and the story very well told. I was with you all the way. Dan.
 

Mad Professor

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Great story, thanks for sharing.

Bummer about the tick disease and you can't eat venison.
 

GAHUNTER60

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Congratulations. I'm very jealous of those of you who can already be hunting deer with a muzzleloader.
Here in GA, if they opened the deer season any later than they do, we would totally miss the rut in most areas of the state. In middle GA,, where I hunt, the bucks start chasing does around October 31, with the peak coming somewhere around Nov. 10-15.

At some point during this period, we will get what we call "the magic days." Those are the 1 -3 days where you will see multiple bucks dogging does all over the place. If you are lucky enough to be in the woods at this time, you can see why it's called "magic!"
 

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