We all strive to "buck out" in our respective states. It is a dream come true in our minds, but when it happens... it is a strange feeling.
Deer hunting. There isn't anything quite like it. We like it, and if you are like me, quite frankly, you love it. I know I do; just ask my wife, who sometimes can't understand my obsession. Cool, crisp mornings, waking up before the world, only to see it come alive before you. Sights and sounds that can only be heard from a tree. It's hard to explain.
As a hunter who to loves chase mature deer, your goal every year is to buck out. But when it finally happens... it is bittersweet and full of mixed emotions.
Mature deer are not easy to harvest, so harvesting two mature deer in a year can sometimes seem more like a dream than an actual goal. Deer hunting is much more than just a hobby to me. It is a passion that I can share with family and friends and it dominates our conversations. To be honest, it can be quite ridiculous at times. I mean, it's just a deer, right? But it's much more than that.
It consumes our minds all year. From finding sheds, to planting food plots, running trail cams, and scouting ground. It doesn't come easy. Growing up, I loved sports. I loved to work hard, compete, and try to outsmart my opponents. Eventually, those days become the past, and I think the passion for that has just filtered itself into hunting.
It is the closest thing to a chess match of competition and strategy I can find now, and I live for it.
Which leads me to this 2016 hunting season. My best one yet, by far.
In October, smack dab in the middle of the so called "October Lull" I decided to head deep in the hard woods and hunt acorns. On October 16th, it all panned out, as I was able to arrow my first buck of the season. A mature 270-pound brute of an 8-pointer that I had history with. Multiple trail cam pictures from previous years and passing him at 40 yards the year before, a deer I had named "Ugly" was dead.
At the end of a short blood trail, the best kind, I was able to recover the buck with my father, a moment I will forever remember and a great start to the Illinois season. One buck down and one to go.
The next few weeks went by, and sweet, sweet November had made its entrance. I hunted any chance I could get, in hopes of finally bucking out. With multiple encounters and passing some beautiful 140 class deer that I wouldn't have passed in the past, I was beginning to wonder if I was messing up.
Illinois gun season rolled around, and on the evening of November 19th, I headed out to hunt with one of my best friends who I have shared many hunting memories with. God blessed me with an amazing encounter with an incredible deer, and with a good shot from 90 yards, I had cemented one more great memory with that friend.
The buck trotted 40 yards and dropped within my view. The adrenaline ran through my body, pumping my fist and uncontrollably shaking because I had just dropped the biggest deer of my hunting career. A 168 " 12-point that I had a shed off of from last year.
And then, these strange feelings overcame me in the moment. I just bucked out! Wait, I just bucked out?
No longer this year could I put effort on a good deer and try to trick him at his own game? No longer could I sit in a tree and hope a monster would walk by? I would have to wait another 11 months before getting to try and chase a mature deer again. It is a strange feeling, and one I had never felt before. Now, don't get me wrong, I am tickled to death about this season, and I am on cloud nine now. But it was an emotion that I never expected to feel.
Now, I will enjoy the rest of the season hoping to get to see friends and family experience the same feelings and share those with them. Looking forward to hearing their stories, blood trailing their deer, and hunting for a few does myself.
Over 307 total of inches of antlers down for me on the year, something that I might not experience many more times in my hunting career. And not with just any deer, but deer I had history with.
So when people say it's just deer hunting, it may be to them, but for many others it's not. To me it is family traditions, memories with friends, preparation and hard work, ups and downs, and my favorite time of year.
I'm bucked out, and it feels oh so good. It feels... just right.