Have you ever gone through the exercise of writing down the time you’ve spent in preseason preparation? How about the sum of hours spent on ballistics testing, range work and gun/gear prep? It’s daunting and my wife thinks I’m crazy! This doesn’t include the time in the field and the hours spent in your stand or blind. Sounds exhausting, but like most of you, I LOVE IT and I’m addicted to the #SHWATlife! Don’t get me wrong, frustration is part of the game and I’m an honest believer that hunting is the one sport which you will fail most of the time and feel disappointment more often than not. Nevertheless, we do it again every season looking for that one moment, that brief wrinkle in time when we pull the trigger and feel the emotional rush of success. Can you remember the last time you felt this rush? I can and it was 72 hours in the making….
It was November 13, 2015, my bags were packed and my 458 SOCOM and SBR Ammunition rested comfortably in my Pelican case. I’m headed back up to Indiana for the first week of deer firearm season and the weather forecast for opening day was nearly perfect. It was time to make up for a tough and disappointing Florida bow season.
Opening day of firearm season was text book. All the prep work was done, the gear was all in order and the weather was cooperating. It was like Christmas in November and all the emotion that goes with it. My dad, Kelly, a family friend and I set out for Richard’s Farm an hour before sunrise. It was close by and we know the farm’s layout pretty well. The farm rotated to soybean this year and freshly harvested corn was located on adjacent properties. This translates to a great transition zone for us, so I was optimistic.
The sun slowly crept over the horizon and I propped my 458 SOCOM SBR against the climber’s gun rail. The first sign of life was just after 8AM when two squirrels came out to play. A chipmunk also made an appearance, but no deer. Hours past slowly and all I heard were dogs in the distance. At roughly 2:30PM Kelly called me on my cell phone and said he’d seen several hunters using deer dogs across the river. My heart sank, opening day’s morning hunt is officially a bust! We all decided to clear out and headed out to Kelly’s cousin’s house, the Willmay residence.
We had hunted the Willmay residence the previous year and there was plenty of sign and a solid bedding area nearby, so it looked promising. The afternoon went by quickly and I did hear a few gunshots just beyond the wood line on the other side of the field I was sitting on. Each time I heard a shot I’d text Kelly hoping it was him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t him. The land owner on the adjacent property shot two doe just before dark. Yes, I said two! Can you believe that? They were both shot within 100 yards of Kelly’s stand. Comically, Kelly spotted two doe as we left the property. Unbelievable!
I’d imagine some of you have had an opening day like this? If not, just lie to me, it’s ok. Unfortunately, the next 4 days was a deer hunting parody of deer not following the text and weather issues. Yes, based on certain variables, such as moon phase, barometric pressures, and deer sign the text says deer should have been in our sights. In the end, deer can be very unpredictable and they were doing an amazing job of that. We hunted on various properties and the most action we got was a wandering coyote. My dad missed the shot, but the non-event killed the monotony of the hours of silence.
Without question, I was deeply concerned with my chances of harvesting a deer. It was Wednesday afternoon and the weather was pretty crappy. The rain and wind of 15+mph had shut down deer movement and I’m running out of time. The rain did stop at 3PM, but the probability of harvesting a deer was against me. How frustrating… I swear my 458 was mocking me. Do your hunting rifles talk to you too? My therapist said she has medication for that.
We all packed into our trucks, soaked, cold and a bit aggravated, but it was time to move forward to our next destination, J Bell’s Farm. Someone please tell me you can relate to my situation. At this point in time, we had never been to this farm, the weather is horrible, tomorrow is Thursday and my chances to harvest a deer at this point were slim, but not impossible. It felt like 2014 all over again. I’d harvested a nice 6pt at the Richard’s Farm the previous year on the last hour of the last day. It was a nail biter… Did you read the story I wrote about it? I would have never imagined pushing it this far again.
Bell’s farm was not far, just down a few country roads in the middle of nowhere. The property was good size and a river runs along the property line on the east side which borders a preserve. Our best guess was to find a few spots on Bells’ property butting against this protected area. We didn’t have much time to decide, so we took the only dirt road on the farm south as far as it would go into the property and set out by foot. To the east was the river and to the west were harvested corn fields. Let’s see… We’ve got shelter, water and a food source within 200 yards. I think we’ve got a winner here!
It’s now Thursday morning and we’re headed to Bell’s farm for what we hope is a day of deer movement and some venison for the freezer. It was in the low 30s which was a good start. The rain was gone, but the wind was still blustery. Forecasts called for 15mph winds with gusts of 20+. Not great news as high winds is another great excuse for the deer to bed down for the day. Sorry if I don’t sound too optimistic, but it’s been a long tough week and I haven’t seen a deer yet.
The first sighting of the day was a large congregation of turkeys which made a tremendous amount of noise as they left their roost just east of the river. They flew across the river on and landed in the corn field adjacent to the wood line I was hunting from. Have you ever heard turkeys do this? The sound of branches breaking everywhere around you and the thud they make as they land. It sounds like someone dropping bowling balls from the trees. During the day it’s a sight, but at night it’ll scare the crap out of you. It was fun to watch them for a while, but I’m here for deer, so BRING IT! The turkeys moved on after half hour or so and the woods grew silent. The day passed like molasses in the winter time.
It was Thursday afternoon and the day was coming to an end. I then heard the buzz of my iphone. It was a text from Kelly. He spotted a buck at the edge of the cornfield to my left. Kelly was hunting the center of the corn field, but the buck was out of range for his 44mag rifle. There were large mature trees surrounding the field which blocked my view and the buck was approximately 275 yards down wind. I had nothing to lose, so I grunted a few times with my trusty Nature’s Voice Timber Ghost Grunter. For the next 20 minutes or so, I listened attentively for anything unusual. There were only 35 minutes of daylight left and the shadows were starting to make it harder to see through the wooded area hugging the corn field. Then, it happened! I caught movement through the corner of my eye. Oh my gosh! It’s him! The buck Kelly spotted was walking straight towards me from the rear. What is it with deer coming from the rear? This also happened to me during bow season. I quickly found him in my range finder and hid my body behind the large tree I was on. Natural camo! He had no idea I was there.
I carefully raised my 458 SOCOM SBR and rested it on a gear hook holding my backpack. My heart started pounding with excitement and I took a few deep breathes to calm myself down. The buck kept walking towards me then stopped. I ranged him again and he was exactly 50 yards away. I paused and shouldered the rifle, easily finding the deer in my EOTech Optic. I wanted a closer shot if possible, but that wasn’t going to happen today. The buck slowly moved towards the corn field. I knew I’d lose him in the large trees flanking the plot, so tracked him as he walked keeping the red dot just behind his right shoulder. The deer paused for a fraction of a second…I squeezed the trigger…BOOM! The 458 SOCOM sounded like a canon went off. The bullet connected just behind the shoulder and the buck jumped, kicking up both legs. He then ran straight to the corn field and stopped suddenly in its center approximately 80 yards from where it had been shot. For a split second I thought that I’d missed. He then leaned back awkwardly and collapsed. The deer fell just 50 yards away from Kelly’s location.
I was in disbelief, yet beyond excited at what just took place. After 72 hours of sitting in the climber in wind, rain and cold it finally happened. Woohooo! A big bodied 5pt buck is in the books and plenty of meat for the freezer. The 458 SOCOM and SBR Ammunition 350g JSP did an amazing job. The buck’s lungs were turned to jelly. No tracking needed here!
Thursday evening was a celebration! I recall having a few beers that night. It was a tough week and to finally harvest a nice buck without any prior scouting was a testament of hitting the field hard every day and making choices based on experience. That experience, my trusty deer grunter and a high performance 458 SOCOM rifle system and SBR Ammunition made it happen. The final two days were spent on the same farm with good weather and a couple more opportunities. In the end, no additional venison for me, but I was content and thankful. What a great ending to the 2015 deer season!