I got a smallish public land muzzleloader 8pt last Wednesday (day before Thanksgiving). Legal size is 12-inch inside spread and this one only goes 13-inches so he's not nearly as nice as those pics that TnHunter posted but the hunt was interesting to me, thought I'd share it.
We had two solid days of cold, cold rain Monday and Tuesday that broke up late Tuesday afternoon/night. I don't generally hunt in the rain anymore, I seem to get sick every time I do. So Wednesday was the first hunt since the weekend. That morning turned out cold (just below freezing) and windy... it was too windy to haul gravel! At 5am, the wind was making it really cold and pretty much impossible to hear anything.
I was hunting a cut lane that's over half a mile long that is almost straight north/south. From where we park the truck, it's about a 300yds walk through swamp forest, pretty much all willow trees with cockleburs underneat, then it opens up into an area that is about another 300yds or so across that's basically all scrub brush, mostly cockleburs, then another 300yds or so of willow swamp again where it makes a curve. About 100yds from the curve, there's an actual drainage ditch that almost always has water in it that crosses underneath the cut lane. At curve, the cut lane makes a west turn about 60 degrees (not a full 90 degree turn) and goes another 500yds or so through the willows to where it Ts with a real levee around a real lake/swamp. The cut lane is slightly raised compared to the land around it but it isn't a real levee... more like an access road to the levee. No motor vehicles (other than game wardens) are allowed down it. There are ditches on either side of this lane that are actually lower than the surrounding area. They run the full length of the initial straight run mentioned above. Last year, all this area was dry as a bone. This year there's standing water in the ditches and mud most everywhere.
Deer come out all over that thing. There's no real way to predict where they will come out but some areas seem better than others. I was sitting in the place I normally sit, basically cross the first wooded area, cross the open area, then just inside the next wooded area. Because of the smallish trees, etc. we generally bring folding chairs and sit on the ground. There are a few trees down there that would hold a tree stand but none really around there.
This particular morning, the wind was blowing right down that lane at full bore... north to south... it made my ears hurt so I had my hood up. It was so loud, I couldn't hear anything but was hoping that any deer crossing the water would make enough noise to hear. Normally, I sit on the west side of the lane facing east in this one spot because there's some brush there that I can sit in and kind of hide in. The wind was so bad that I turned my chair facing mostly south until it warmed up some. I was hoping the wind was blowing so hard that it would disperse my scent quickly, too. I had my shooting stick (an actual willow limb that I had broken off a couple days before and left there) and I was ready.
Periodically, I'd look north but that was a stretch since my chair was turned mostly south but mostly I just looked south. One time around 6:40am I looked north, I saw a white T down about 2/3 the way to the edge of the woods to the north (in the open area) on the east side of the lane. I knew it was a deer instantly (the white T being the white of the neck and the whites of the ears facing me like radar dishes) but also knew it was too far to shoot. Still... on a day when I didn't expect to see anything, this was nice. I eased around with my shooting stick to prop my rifle, turned the scope up to 9X (max magnification) and saw it was a doe. She eventually crossed so I held steady just to see if anything else would cross behind her. After a few minutes not seeing anything else, I put my rifle down, turned the scope back to 6X, and dropped my shooting stick into the crook of my left arm, resting the top of it on my shoulder. Then I turned back facing south to get my face out of the wind...
And immediately saw this buck standing about 15 yards from me looking dead at me on the east side of the lane, just having crossed the ditch. I froze... I had never heard him cross the water. So there I was... having a staring contest with this 8pt at 15yds. I knew I had to have been busted at this point and was already feeling disappointment as I could see he was a legal buck and figured he was about to make a couple lunges and be out of sight without my even being able to lift my rifle. But I sat still looking at him. After what seemed to be a couple years (actually, probably 15 seconds or so), he took a couple steps into the middle of the lane *towards me* and directly down-wind from me, then then turned to look directly away from me, due south. I thought to myself "oh ho!" and started lifting my gun to get ready to shoot.
Remember that shooting stick? The way I was sitting, the shooting stick was tangling my left arm because the top of the stick was against my shoulder and the bottom of the stick was on the other side of the arm of the chair I was sitting in. I couldn't move my left arm forward to grip the forearm of my rifle! I obviously couldn't do much about that without fear of scaring the buck, either... I'd make too much movement/noise! So, I lifted my rifle with my right arm and cocked the hammer. I got the scope on him and right on his front shoulder. The buck turned his head back forward and started to trot the last few steps across the lane and I knew that this was it... he wasn't going to stop. Holding the butt of the rifle to my shoulder with my right hand only and aiming through my scope, I put the crosshairs right behind his shoulder and fired at him about 12yds away. He immediately bucked and ran straight away from me south, right down the middle of the lane for about 40yds. He then went back towards the east side of the lane and right before he got to the ditch, he cartwheeled right into the water. The splash he made was probably 20 feet high. But... I didn't hear any other splashing around.
I got up and walked down to where he splashed. I saw his eye was open and his nose underwater so I knew he had to be dead. I didn't even have to step into the water to be able to grab his antler and pull him up on dry land. I then walked back to my chair and reloaded and saw the time was 7:00am.
Not a big deer by any measure... 13 inch inside spread, 17 inch beams, 3 inch bases. He field dressed out to 130lbs and 104lbs without the hide, head, hooves, etc (hanging at the processor's). He's the first one I've shot one-handed with a muzzleloader, though. Some might say he's a 7pt... one of the points on the right beam is pretty small, but I call it "close enough"
I had gotten a doe over the weekend, too... I usually hunt for meat Thanksgiving week and then for antlers over Christmas when the rut is going but an opportunity is an opportunity.