ROA photos by Mac Arnold
Snow made for easy an drag Dec. 20.
Despite not knocking down any horned beasts, two fatties in the freezer definitely turned my 2013 deer season around.
The last being a doe right at dark with an 80-yard shot from the Knight .45-caliber muzzleloader.
Can I just say, I love this gun? Yes, I can.
This same instrument of death brought down the best deer of my life, which was a 8-point with a 19-inch inside spread a few years back. Someday I hope to beat this with something better. Maybe next year?
Anyway, with the time dwindling and nowhere else to rip off a breech-clearing shot Friday, Dec. 20, I was either going let loose into a stump or a willing participant and lo and behold in the waning minutes of legal shooting time five customers came prancing down along the neighboring property DMZ line and into our Sanilac County, Mich., camp.
Was I dreaming? I couldn't believe this good fortune.
All I needed was about five more steps from the lead doe to clear a large tree trunk, and I would have an open shot.
Once the smoke dissipated, all I saw were scattering deer every which way.
Ut oh, I thought to myself, even with snow a lengthy nighttime tracking excursion seemed likely in my future.
Muzzleloaders don't always provide great blood trails, which is just the nature of the beast with this primitive weaponry.
But wait ... it seemed as if a heap that wasn't there a minute ago was now there between the two trees where I lined up the doe.
After a careful inspection with the binos, and still seeing a dark heap that I couldn't remember previously, I confidently decided it was time to check the blob out.
I unpiled from the blind gear in hand and down the ladder stand, then slogged through the wet 6 inches of snow over to where I marked the deer.
Wow. I dropped it right in its tracks with a shot through the front shoulder.
You can't beat that.
Zero tracking. Yee-haw.
This will apparently cap off the ending to the season although I'm not ruling out the annual New Year's Day hunt.
With me practically standing on the freezer to get the top to close, the only way I would take another white-tail is if it was nicely antlered one.
For those who accused me of being greedy or a meat hog, I always donate plenty to friends and any other takers.
But despite this great ending, Mac's best for 2013 is the early fall tom I took with a crossbow.
|This fall gobbler was Mac's best for 2013.|
Hands down, it is No. 1 for this season. A strong case could be made if I did take a nice buck with a crossbow with the remaining days left. It would complete a coveted "triple" -- one in archery (although some debate could be made if a crossbow is truly archery), one in shotgun/rifle and one in muzzleloader.
In some ways, this year's take could be viewed as a "hybrid" triple, since I did take a fall tom with the crossbow.
Talk about good fortune. I had just arrived late in the blind a half hour after sunrise and within 10 minutes of sitting down and making some raspy yelps -- to mock a jake -- I got a response. And then, suddenly three dark figures began winding their way to me in the still quite green and yellow woods.
I identified two of the birds as toms from their nice beards. The first one slipped past me without a shot but the second wasn't as lucky.
Thwapt!!! A flapping sound and then silence. But only two birds re-appeared from the brush out in front of me.
After waiting for the big hoss bird -- which I not only missed again this time but in spring as well -- to move off, I got down and found the other tom 10 yards from where I shot him.
I figured something was up when a wily bearded gobbler like that doesn't head for the hills after a weird encounter in the woods. He was waiting on his buddy to link back up.
To make matters worse, from a nearby field outside the woods this old boy was gobbling at me, which is uncommon during fall, as I walked off doing the triumphant-over-the-shoulder hoist and stroll back to the truck.
He may have had a good laugh that day but I hope we meet again next spring.
After the nice muzzleloader shot at No. 2, the fat doe I took Nov. 18 to erase the goose egg during early part of the deer season, registers at No. 3.
Once I dropped that plump girl, I was able to settle down and really concentrate on connecting with a buck, but nothing of consequence ever materialized. The only buck I had an opportunity to give a good look was a forkhorn and that is not allowed at the camp I hunt on.
Finally, at No. 4, comes the jake I took to end a two-year slump in spring. After missing the first two shots, one with a crossbow from a blind earlier in the morning and another in the woods with a shotgun, I was able to "salvage" some pride by hitting this bird on a run with the kid's youth gun off the opposite shoulder.
So the end tally is two turkeys and two does, not bad. Maybe next year I can hang up some decent antlers.