A couple of old adages about hunting have certainly applied this year.
First: If you're going to hunt, Hunt! The deer don't have a schedule and nothing beats persistence and consistency. Yesterday I did the AM and PM hunts and was still exhausted at 4AM today when the alarm went off. I almost slept in based upon what happened yesterday, but today, the ebbing moon rose an hour later this morning (new moon on Christmas BTW) and there was a little more cloud cover which gave me the edge moving to the blind. Yesterday, all the deer were jumpy due to high winds. In the morning I had some of the 'local girls' show up, then a forked-horn I've come to think of as Decoy Boy would show up to chase them. The doe would run away and then come back, then Decoy Boy would come back. All through the morning hunt. They were even looping behind me and coming in from different directions. The old doe did not like my blind, and stomped and huffed a couple of times, but she was more concerned with Decoy Boy, and then it was as if she forgot about me. Afternoon session was much the same, only Decoy Boy came in first. Normally what has happened in the PM is his running-buddy, a marginally-legal, "barely-8" point (Eastern Count) would soon follow. Not last night. Last night Decoy Boy moved off quickly and was hanging in the bushes until the doe showed up, and then it was the AM session all over again, until it got too dark to shoot. I had to sit it out to keep from being busted until the Decoy Boy finally moved off. This AM was also projected to be colder and calmer, so I dragged myself out of bed, knowing full well adage number two still applied, but also knowing that the deer weren't going to parade past at midday either.
Second: They call it "hunting" and not "shooting" for a reason. It's a good thing I like the 'hunt' as much as, if not more than, the 'kill'. Because there is a whole lot of the former and little of the latter even if you are lucky AND you're doing it right. In my younger days, I tended to focus on the finish and would feel disappointed when it didn't 'happen'. This year (and the last season about three years ago), I could have and did get 'skunked' (i.e. struck out) and still felt the season was worthwhile, and worth remembering. I saw deer almost every session, knowing there was the right one (or three-four) cruising my Brother's ranch and surrounding area. This AM, before it was really light enough to count points on an antler, a big buck came in and didn't like my blind (my setup worked better for afternoon light. I think what he REALLY didn't like was the steam of my breath rising in the still air. I could see his breath coming out of him easier than I could see him. He was traveling with two other bucks, and he feinted into the clearing a couple of times, raised a false alarm flag but didn't spook. Those three bucks slinked through the brush on the other side of the clearing and I got one look at the big guy's head when he paused to check my way once. Perhaps longer, higher tines on his rack, but they were also lighter in color and weight.
I thought that the AM session was going to end early on that note, when 2 then 3 then 4 doe moved in front of me, coming from the same direction as the earlier bucks. They were only on the scene a short while with the old doe casting evil looks my way and being the most cautious about moving into the clearing, when out stepped.....
The Chocolate 8 Point.
With all the doe and this buck present I had to be painfully careful getting into firing position. I elected to only project my barrel out of the blind and scope the buck through the blind screen (still blew a small hole in the screen though ).
I dropped him in his tracks, but still don't understand how I could have missed my aimpoint as much as I did. I sighted in the new scope on this rifle with only 9 rounds, and the last 3 holes in my target you could cover with a nickel. Some of the error could be from having a live target and my excitement, but not all of it. I think it could be due to the fact I was using a shooting stick for the very first time (but not the last!) and I didn't secure my foregrip well enough. It would bother me a lot more if my poor aim had resulted in a prolonged death of the animal, but as the shot dropped him in place, I'm extremely pleased with the result.
BTW: I also learned that field dressing a deer is not the same as learning to ride a bike. If it has been more than 2 decades, you should probably have someone on your shoulder to knock the rust off.
Update 12/25/11: After reviewing game camera films, and a snapshot my Brother's neighbor took on Dec 7th, I've determined that this buck was the same one as in the first encounter that morning, and that he had just double-backed into the field of fire once his does came up and he thought the coast was clear. I'm always amazed at how different the deer appear in different light and backgrounds. I'm also convinced now that this is the same buck I watched for 20 minutes behind some brush back on the evening of the 8th and never gave me an opportunity to take a high percentage shot.
Later Note: made some typo and grammar corrections on 28Dec11.