Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Velveteen Buck

"Did it have a nutsack?"
Not understanding, I answered his question with one of my own, "What was that?"
"Your deer, did it have a nutsack?"
Thus began the solving of the mystery behind this morning's harvest.
My hunt seriously started last week when I saw a buck following his five does (Click here for that account). At the time, I thought they were the members of his harem, and I guess they could have been, but that appears to be less likely now.
Yesterday was the first opportunity that I had to hunt. My plan was to hunt hard for the entire week, as I had access to awesome hunting land and the office is shut down for the holiday break. I set my alarm for Monday morning at 4:15. Unfortunately, I wasn't careful about setting the AM or PM designation properly, so I slept until about 6:15, when I awoke on my own. Since this was about the time I wanted to get into the blind, I decided to sleep in a little more. My hunt would have to wait until the afternoon.
I finally got into the blind about 2:00pm. Legal shooting hours go from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. This meant I could shoot until 5:53pm.
Other than an unidentified animal that ran along the tree line in front of me about 175 yards away, I saw little. Through my peripheral vision, I thought I noticed through the trees, two puffy white tails bounding on my right, but they were gone so quick I was never really certain. At about 5:40am, I heard the first of a couple of deer come into the wooded area on my left. It had gotten sufficiently dark by then, so I couldn't make them out...I never knew how many (certainly more than one) and what sex. I waited for them to leave until after six, but my bladder would no longer wait. I decided to spook them with my flashlight and shined the beam towards them. They bounded away with crashes through the timber. I was safe to depart, walk to my car, and relieve my bladder.
I had spent another wonderful afternoon spent in the woods watching crazy squirrels and listening to the sounds of nature.
Since I slept in yesterday, I was eager to get going today. So eager, in fact, that I woke on my own at about 3:15am. You think that getting up early would result in me getting to the blind on time, but it didn't. I got to the property about 6:30, and was almost to the blind when I heard the feeder go off. It is set for 7:00am, a good six minutes after legal shooting time.
As I was late to the blind and didn't want to spook anything close by, I got situated as quietly as possible. I was probably good to go at about 7:15am, and within five minutes I heard movement to my left. It was still a little dark in this wooded area, but I could make out the shape of a deer. I remained motionless as I tried to control my breathing. The deer were very cautious, but I could make out two, and then another, and another. Ultimately, it was clear that I was watching the five does from a week ago. I hoped that the buck was with them, but I couldn't see him. At the thought, my breathing became even more difficult to control. My heart was racing to match.
They funneled into the wash in front and below me. My pop-up blind is situated on the top of the bank to one of the property's tanks. The deer were about ten yards in front of me about about 10-20 feet below. I watched in silence as the single filed past me. Two mature does, a juvenile, another mature doe and another juvie. They were followed by my buck. This was the same group from last weekend. At this point, I could have tried for a shot, but decided to be patient. They were too close, my gun was not yet raised and I wasn't in position to shoot.
They continued left to right in front of me, and I soon started to think I made a mistake by waiting. They looked like they were going to continue to the right. However, the lead doe turned left and started up the rise. They were to the right of the feeder as they approached it. I thought I again was going to be denied as they now looked to be going to the right at the top of the rise, which would have put them behind another tree line. However, the lead doe turned left and went to the feeder. All of the other deer did the same.
At this point, they were far enough away from me that if I was very careful, I could arrange myself in the blind. I sat forward in my chair. It squeaked. A cautious doe looked up at me for a couple of moments, but then continued to eat. They all looked relatively relaxed. This wasn't a surprise since the feeder and the blind had been up for a week. I quietly raised my rifle and placed it on my shooting sticks. I had a very stable shot and was watching my buck through the scope as he ate. He turned broadside and was clear of the does. I couldn't control my breathing and breathed very hard through my mouth to calm down. I released the safety, exhaled halfway, held my breath and squeezed. He dropped immediately as the does scattered.
I chambered another round instantly. I've been burned by not watching and be ready to shoot again. He never moved.
I sat for a while as I regained my breathing. Unbelievably, the does returned (albeit about 50-yards away). I looked at all of them closely to make sure there wasn't a slick buck with them and they eventually went off to the right. I exited the blind and immediately went to tag the buck.
As I reached him, I noticed he was in velvet. Velvet is the soft tissue that covers their antlers when they come in. Eventually, the velvet is scraped off, shed, and the antler hardens. This should had already occurred, but on this buck it had not.
After some help from Angie's cousins who live close to where I was hunting, we removed and field dressed the deer. They were also surprised by the velvet, as was the game processor's son. However, the processor (who is an older man and has probably seen 1000's of deer) immediately knew what was up. My buck had no testicles. I didn't notice that when we were field dressing it, as Angie's cousin Russell did most of the knife work on the deer. I called him to verify and he replied that he hadn't noticed, but now that I was asking he didn't remember seeing said "nutsack". The processor went on the tell me that he's seen a couple of deer like this in his years, all of them missing their testicles. He surmised that at some point the deer likely had some kind of trauma and lost his balls. The effect of this is a little bit smaller body, a smaller rack, and velvet that wouldn't shed. Otherwise, he was healthy and a good buck. He estimated his age at 3.5-4 years old. And, in the opinion of the processor, "Real good eatin'!"
I was going to do an antler mount as a trophy, but the processor suggested a skull mount instead. He claimed I would never see another buck like this ever again...so I ordered the skull mount.
I'll never forget the story of my once in a life time buck.


The Impulsive Texan said...

Nice buck Scott! And just in the nick of time. But you do still have time for a spike.

My wife and I are headed to Decatur this weekend for the last hunt. We may go back for the extended hunt weekend in January, but that depends on how this weekend goes.

Good job!

Scott Lessard said...

Thanks, Impulsive. We can hunt whitetails through Jan 1, and I plan to. But, today I bring my 9 year old to the blind with me. She's planning to put the smackdown on some squirrels for her first ever hunt.

I'm more excited about this than bagging a spike!

Good luck with your hunt.