The story begins on the last day of muzzleloader season in 2005. I headed out into the woods to one of my favorite spots that I had hunted for years. I had no idea what might be traveling this area (I had not hunted in the area for several weeks) so I was taking a blind shot at hoping to see something. I should mention that I did not own a muzzleloader at this time, so I was still bowing hunting. Rut that year was a trickle rut in my neck of the woods, because of that it was prolonged well into December that year. I put a scent wick out with one of my favorite scents just to see what would happen. The weather was perfect, and even the wind was cooperating by blowing towards a bedding area. I got up in my tree around 2 pm and settled in for the evening. I had not seen anything by 4pm, so I started grunting a little just to see if any bucks might be in the area. After a few minutes, I heard a grunt from over in the thicket. I had no idea how big the buck was, but I knew I had his interest and he was headed in my direction. Finally, around 4:30 a very respectable 9 point buck walked out of the thicket grunting. When he came out into the clearing, he had no idea what was grunting back at him, but he was looking to fight.
After a few minutes of him walking back and forth just out of shooting range, I started to think with the sun going down behind the trees that I may never get a shot. I watched this 9 point buck walk around grunting looking for his opponent for what seemed like forever (about 20 minutes). Finally, he started walking towards me, I just needed him to walk 15 yards and he would be within bow range. As he got closer, I got a better look at him and he would have been a nice trophy for any hunter. I was guessing him to score between 120 – 130 inches. Finally, he was getting ready to turn broadside within bow range. I got ready to draw my bow and just as I do I hear another grunt, not from me, not from the 9 point, but another buck!!
My first thought was should I attempt to draw and shoot the 9 point or turn around to see what else has walked in from the other side of me. My first thought was that no smaller buck would have come in grunting that deep, so it had to be something willing to challenge the 9 point. So…I turned my head very slowly, not moving anything else, as I turned my head the deer grunted again and as my eyes found the source of the grunting I could not believe my eyes…..
My eyes saw a monster buck, pawing at the ground and grunting, he was ready to fight the 9 point. This deer made the 9 point look like a baby. I had to make a choice, I now have a 9 point buck 35 yards off to my left, and off to the right I have a 11 point buck about 60 yards and closing on me. I figured since the 11 point was much larger I would wait on him to walk down, plus I now have two sets of eyes rather than just one. I waited, and I was losing light fast. Therefore, I decide that they are going to fight, but they are currently in a standoff. The 9 point has moved behind a fallen tree which means that now I do not have a shot on him. The 11 point is now about 50 yards away on the edge of the brush. Finally, the 11 point makes his move, he wraps around the outside of the 9 point, far too far for me to shoot. Both bucks are now off to my left getting ready to fight, perfect for me as soon as either deer walk out into the clearing.
With just 5 minutes of legal shooting light left, I was ready to draw and the first deer to present a clear shot was mine. As soon as the 9 point moved, the 11 point put his head down and as he did the 9 point turned and started running.
I think we all know where this story is headed now. Yes, the 11 point took off after the 9 point and I heard them crash through the woods until they reached the edge of a nearby field. I sat in my stand for about 25 minutes after dark that evening listening to them fighting about 100 yards away from me.
The moral of the story is that I went out and bought a muzzleloader the very next year. Had I had my muzzleloader, I probably would have shot the 9 point before I even saw the 11 point. So since I was bow hunting, I got to see that beautiful buck. Had I not shot the 9 point, I very easily could have shot the 11 point the minute he entered the woods.
I hunted the same area for several nights over the final 4 weeks of hunting season. Like always when hunting, I never saw either of these bucks again during daylight. However, that spring I was out shed hunting and I came across one side of the 11 point (pictured below) about 200 yards away from where I had seen him 2 months before. I do not know what happened to that 11 point buck, I never saw anything even close to him the next fall. I would also like to note, since I have purchased the muzzleloader, I haven’t seen anything but does during muzzleloader season in all the years since!
I found this to be one of those experiences that many of us might only be presented with once or twice during our hunting careers. I enjoyed every minute of that evening, but I felt like I missed an opportunity of a lifetime. The only part that did make me feel a little better was finding the shed that spring. I could finally lay hands on the deer that I had missed out on; even though I was not able to take this trophy.
Have you ever been in a situation like this? What would you take out of this to turn it into a positive experience?
What do you think the 11 point would have scored, based off the one side of his antlers I found?