by Bill Diggs
(Montclair, New Jersey)
A buck Of a Life Time
How many hunters can say they got the Buck of a Life time?
Well my story is a journey that spans a life time or seems like it anyway.
Thirty years ago at the age of 34 I decided to hunt deer. But my story begins many years before as a small boy.
My father and I hunted and fished nearly every weekend. From the time I could barely hold up a shotgun long enough to aim and shoot I was in the woods with my father hunting. Our primary game was rabbits, squirrels,
Many years later, after my father retired and as a means to supplement his retirement income he began hunting raccoons, coyotes and foxes. Obviously I joined in and found the hunting of larger more crafty game a real challenge.
These were some of the most memorable times in my life and when I think of my Dad I always think of all the time we spent together hunting and fishing.
In the fall of 1979 I talked to my Dad about deer hunting.
He indicated he had seen a lot of deer in the area and if I wanted to hunt deer he would take me over to one of the neighboring farms where there should be a lot of deer.
We talked to the neighbor and he was very gracious and said I could hunt on his property and pointed me to an area where he said, “If you pay close attention, you will get a deer”.
About a week before the season opened I surveyed the area where the neighbor indicated I should hunt and built a small tree stand in the middle of a ravine.
The night before opening day I drove out to my parent’s house and prepared myself for the first big day of Deer season.
The weather was clear but cold and I felt confident I would have a great first day.
When I awoke in the morning, I began to panic as I saw the sun in my eyes.
What happened did my alarm not go off, did I sleep through the alarm, where is my Mom and Dad, why didn’t someone wake me up.
Needless to say I jumped out of bed, got dressed and raced to my hunting spot.
Although I quietly made my way to my deer stand and felt at this point I destroyed my chances to get a deer. I sat patiently all day but never saw any deer.
Although discouraged and feeling I had ruined my chances to get a buck, I went to bed and made sure I was up and in my deer stand long before sunrise the next morning.
As the sun rose I heard a very loud and distinct noise in the side of the ravine.
For next 30 minutes I continued to hear sounds that I believed to be a deer.
Although this was my first hunt the sounds were loud and they continued to get closer.
As the sun rose and my vision became clearer I looked intensely up the side of the ravine. I did not see anything and began to wonder if all I heard was perhaps a noisy squirrel.
Then, out of nowhere I spotted two big eyes looking right at me.
I move slowly as I turned my gun in the direction of the eyes and stared intently to determine that one it is deer and two it was a buck.
Then I saw a large white chest and as I peered upward I saw the antlers, they looked big. The only shot I had was directly at the chest, obviously not the shot that would be recommended, especially for a first time deer hunter. I slowly lifted my recently acquired 30-06 and got the deer in my sites. I aimed for the middle of his chest and I heard a shot and the deer drop in his tracks.
Wow! My first shot and I can see my deer on the ground. I still have no idea how big the buck is but I am excited.
All the stories I have heard from different friends on how they have hunted for years and never have killed a deer and I have already got my first deer.
I waited in my tree stand just like the books and tapes I read indicated until I am sure the deer in dead.
Well finally I get out of my stand and made my way towards my deer. I can’t believe my eyes, he is big and a beautiful, totally symmetrical ten (10) point rack is on his head.
Although I have been hunting for many years I know that without a lot of luck, help from my dad and neighbor is what made this hunt end very happily.
You might think the story ends here, but no there is much more to tell.
The following year I was transferred to New Jersey in October 1980.
Just arriving at a new job about one month before deer season, I began inquiring about places to hunt. Again fortune came my way, one of the employees who worked at my new locations indicated his father in-law had just purchased a small Parcel of land in New York State and it adjoined 100 acres of land where he was allowed to hunt.
Luckily for me I was invited to join them the following weekend for opening day of deer season.
To set the stage; I had never been to upstate New York, never been to this property and I was arriving the night before in the dark to go deer hunting.
Obviously, I was apprehensive, but decided I would use the first day to scout and prepare for the next few days. We got up had a little breakfast and began the hike into the unknown woods.
After walking about 30 minutes, luckily for me I have a great sense of direction, my new friend indicated I should go to the left and he would be about a quarter mile to the right. I walk a little further and found a place to sit on the ground and awaited daylight.
The sun rose and as expected I found myself in the middle of a dense undergrowth, where my visibility was only a few yards. Once I was able to see I maneuvered myself into a better position and waited about two hours.
At this point still not having a clue as to where I was or about anything around me, except for a lot of very thick growth of rhododendrons that was hard to see through and to walk through as well. I decided to make my way through this thick undergrowth and continued to walk until about 10 am in the morning.
I came to an opening; it was a clearing with a nice stand of hardwood trees. I said to myself this would be a great place for a deer stand. I saw a tree that had fallen over where I could sit and watch for deer in this large opening.
I could not have sat down for more than five minutes when I heard a sound like a train that was coming right at me. I looked up and charging through the woods at full speed was a buck.
I do not know if he was headed for me or again I was just in the right spot at the right time. I swung my gun around took aimed and shot and the deer dropped no more than ten (10) yards from me.
It was again a clean hit and buck did not move, but from this short distance to my disbelief a large set of horns protruding from the ground. I waited only a short time and got up and went over to admire my deer.
I could not believe my eyes, another ten (10) point buck, only much bigger.
The rack was large and again very symmetrical and the body of the buck was enormous.
The amazing part of this tale is that not only did I get another “Buck of a Life Time” I got these two bucks on back to back hunting days, although two different hunting seasons.
Realizing, being the practical person that I am, that the first two deer I got would most likely be the best two I will ever get, unless I went to one those ranches where you pay to hunt big bucks.
For the next 27 years I have deer hunted in New Jersey, Penn and mainly New York and have gotten my fair share of bucks, but nothing can compare to either one of the first two I killed.
This year November 2009 the 30th anniversary of my journey I prepare as usually, spending a number of weekends up in New York State where I have hunted since I took my second 10 point buck.
Although a different property for the last ten where my success rate was very high, but mainly smaller bucks. Since me and sons are the only ones hunting on almost a 1,000 acres, we knew and have saw some very nice bucks on the property.
We pick three prime locations set up our tree stands and got ready for the hunt.
The first morning I was in my stand early and eager to spot some deer. It was a very cold morning and about 9:30 am I decided I needed to get down and walk around, which is not my usual MO, but I guess in my old age I am getting restless.
I was going to my next location that I thought would be fruitful, but along the way I decided to take a trail that I had never been on this year, down into the low swamp area. This a good two mile from where I had planned to hunt.
About one mile along the old logger road I hear deer get up from their bed and saw movement in the trees ahead. I prepare myself and my gun and took a couple of small steps. I looked to my left I saw a doe staring right at me. Then I looked to the right of the doe and saw a tree that had big antlers sticking out on both sides.
Oh my God, it is a monster.
I see the antlers begin to protrude out on the left side of the tree towards the doe. I knew if I got a shot it would only be for a second and most likely a very difficult one.
As the buck stuck his neck out to get a look at me, I raised my gun and aimed for this giant neck that now was visible. I took the shot and the deer dropped to the ground and huge set of antlers were still visible.
I only waited a few minutes and when I did not see any movement I ran over to the buck and to my total amazement another giant buck, with a rack that was gigantic in stature and had 13 points.
I originally call it a 12 pointer, but the New York State DEC came by to look at the buck and indicated one of the other three points was long enough to be counted and the buck had a 13 point rack.
This is now my official “Buck of a Life Time”. I guess it is never too late to get the “Buck of a Life Time” and who knows maybe I haven’t gotten mine yet.
But the one common factor in hunting big bucks besides, dedication, patients, preparation and good hunting habitat is a lot of luck.
Montclair, New Jersey
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