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Wet Whitetail Hunt
January 2020
Gerhard Schroeder

For weeks prior there had been no rain. Then, the day Steve and I had planned to get to our deer camp, we did get enough of it to make things muddy. That Wednesday afternoon, in between showers, I rushed to reposition and improve on my natural blind. Would sitting in ambush at ‘my’ waterhole even make sense with this rain coming down? Waterholes had worked well for Steve, Ron and me two years before for this same November hunt.

Thursday was a time for waiting in camp, to let any disturbances at our waterholes become forgotten by the deer, hopefully. Ron arrived late, plus he had invited Rob to try the longer distance glassing hunt method. Rob has higher-power big binos supported by tripod for serious glassing.

Despite that rain and standing water in several places I did decide to try sitting at my waterhole on opening day. Due to a busy schedule, mainly a trip to Germany and thereafter an elk hunt, I would not be choosy in the antler department. The first legal buck would be destined for my freezer. I arrived at 0-dark-30 and settled in.

It would be a boring day. Aside from some finches and the occasional jay, absolutely nothing stirred. Hearing shots elsewhere is a further challenge, making sitting in such spot a bit of a test. OK, I did carefully stand up at times, but my mind longed for more entertainment. That changed abruptly when after about 10 hours, right before 4PM, a single deer approached!

Initially I could only see the legs. Then the entire body. No antlers, but this deer behaved like a macho buck. Of course I had it in the scope. Set at 4.5X, still no obvious antlers. Then again, this critter acted nervous. Must have been due to the shifting wind all day. Plus I was looking into the direction of the sun, and that deer was moving in the shadows. And then, maybe after getting some of me in his nose, it departed. Darn, because at one moment it sort of looked as if on his left side he did have a tiny antler, one. Hmm – oh wait, the deer came back. I cranked the scope up some.

That whitetail now marched straight to the water’s edge to take the drink he apparently so desired. He was almost facing me. Man, looked to me like there was one tiny antler on his left side only. Crosshairs settled on the front of his shoulder. I sent the 150 grain MagTip.

Don’t know if there was the almost expected Kugelschlag – still love that suppressor! Instead what I heard was a big splash. When I looked up I saw my deer floating in the drink. Apparently it was some kind of death leap, because the body was almost submerged and most certainly out of reach, and after a little thrashing dead still. Now what?

Truth be told, doubts came up. Was it really a buck? Still could not tell from my blind as his head was submerged. And darn it! -- right where he jumped in there were TWO came cameras hanging from trees. OK, first I needed something to fish him out. Getting wet feet and legs would be my last option. Then I did not want to be easily identified. Ah, I happened to have a head net in one of the jacket pockets. So I left my blind, found, trimmed out and cut off a large lower branch from a juniper tree, such that it featured a hook at one end. Thus equipped and disguised I approached my deer. The branch was barely long enough for retrieval. It was indeed a legal buck. I relaxed, smiled, thanked God.

I drug him away from the water and did the red work away from those cameras. The rest was routine: got all my stuff and went to the 4Runner. Drove as close as the terrain allowed. Then dragged that deer. Of course its hide was dripping wet, made a mess out of my right pant leg. But, I had him in camp, hanging and skinned before dark.

Steve had seen nothing at his waterhole. Rob and Ron had seen very nice bucks, but Ron, using Rob’s rifle, had missed a very long shot.

Saturday morning was butcher time. Midday I heard shots. Ron again? My deer, nicely cooled out overnight, was in the ice chest before noon. Soon after Ron and Rob returned. He had taken a very nice whitetail. Meanwhile nothing had come to Steve’s waterhole.

Sunday, with Ron butchering his buck in camp, we tried spotting a deer for Steve. Nada. Rob left for home that evening.

Steve had his day Monday. In the afternoon a small buck came to water, and he made his shot. But that buck ran into the bushes. Steve called us in camp. We drove over, found and followed the blood trail. Steve’s buck had run no more than 50 yards. We helped with field dressing and loading. Steve’s buck also was hanging in camp before dark. I forgot to take a picture, my mind set on getting home and butchering.

Just like two years prior we all tagged out. Guess what our first choice will be for 2020?


   
Here’s what my buck looks like – right side ‘antler’ (I use the term lightly) grew downward. There is certainly no harm that this guy is out of the gene pool now. That Wednesday, with deer done and in the freezer, I was on a plane to Germany.

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