Went on my third hunt this past weekend and just like the previous hunts, it didn’t quite go as planned. But that’s part of the adventure. Some times one comes home empty handed and other times one comes home with less harvest than intended. This time I came home with something other than what I was hunting.
About a month ago, I wrote about getting prepared to go on a hog hunt. In that post, I covered gear, ammo, and firearms I was planning on taking in addition to my first hog hunt expectations (or lack there of). Most of the preparations paid off as I ended up with a successful harvest, but it was not anything I expected.
The hunt was a day lease which I thought was very reasonably priced. However, I was planning on sticking to hogs as they had the lowest kill fees and I was attempting to keep the hunting cost down. I also had been craving some wild hog jalapeño sausage. So hogs made sense and that was the plan – at least until I arrived on the hunting property. When I arrived the host informed me that he would not assist with cleaning and quartering the hogs because they were heavily diseased. This information got me thinking that perhaps processing and consuming hog meat from this location was probably a bad idea and frankly I didn’t want to pay for game that I couldn’t harvest. Bummer. Not even an hour into the weekend and I was beginning to think this hunt was over. But then I remember that Axis does were also reasonably priced and there were no seasonal restrictions as they are regulated as exotic game.
The hog hunt was now officially a deer hunt.
Still, my expectations were low as my first deer hunt yielded a harvest of a single small white-tailed buck and my second yielded nothing whatsoever.
Day 1 Evening Hunt
After talking with the host and getting a quick tour of the property, I got some lunch with my hunting buddies and planned out the evening hunt. Given my low expectations, I picked a location I thought would be good after my hunting buddies picked out their spots. We then headed back to the hunting property and set out for the evening hunt.
As soon as I got into my hunting blind and not yet quite settled in, I heard the feeder drop corn. I looked over and I see a beautiful large Axis buck pop it’s head out of the brush next to the feeder, walk over to the corn and start eating. A buck wasn’t in my plan, but the buck fever immediately set in. I quietly picked up my Vortex Fury HD binoculars as quickly as I could and took a range reading with the built in range finder. The reading was 93 yards. My heart raced. I grabbed my Daniel Defense DD5V1 and shouldered it.
The blind was constructed out of cedar branches and twigs held together by some metal wire. It was sturdy, but didn’t immediately give any obvious locations to improvise a support for my rifle. I couldn’t get a clear shot from while seated in the chair as my line of sight was obstructed by the blind. So I stood up and decided I would take a standing shot.
I looked through my Trijicon AccuPoint scope and attempted to place the reticle over the buck’s vital zone. I was shaking with excitement. My heart felt like it was about to jump out of my chest. All of which caused the reticle to move in and out of the vital zone. I took a few slow deep breaths and watched the reticle movement decrease until I was confident to press the trigger. The trigger press was followed by a click.
A click! Not a bang!
That’s right. This guy was so excited and caught up in the moment that happened as soon as I arrived at the blind that I had forgotten to chamber a round.
I’m fairly certain the buck either heard the click from the hammer striking the firing pin on an empty chamber or my heart pounding like jackhammer. The buck was staring straight at me. So I held still while using my inner voice to berate myself with thousands of expletives for letting something as important as chambering a round. A few seconds later, which felt like an eternity, the buck went back to the corn.
I slowly pulled the charging handle back and slowly rode it forward. I felt the bolt pick up a round from the magazine and start chambering it. As expected, the bolt stopped short of going into battery as the charging handle proceeded slowly all the way forward. I placed my thumb over the forward assist ready to finish pushing the the bolt into battery quietly. I gently pressed the forward assist which was immediately followed by a loud slam of the bolt as it was just enough for the remaining buffer spring tension to finish the job. Not at all what I intended. But you know that guy Murphy and his darn laws.
The buck looked at me again. I was expecting the buck to run. But it must have been really hungry because it decided to get back to the corn.
With the reticle over the vitals again, I took a few more deep breaths and on a natural breathing pause I pressed the trigger. Bang!
I’m not sure if the buck broke it’s antler during it’s short 15 yard sprint into more brush after taking the clean vital zone hit or if I didn’t notice the missing antler while blinded with buck fever. Pretty certain it was the former but either way, it was a beautiful buck that yielded about 70 lbs of meat which will be consumed by my family (and maybe some friends).
Day 2 Morning Hunt
Summer days are long. While my day 1 evening hunt was over in minutes, my buddies hunted until sun down with nothing in hand. Needless to say, we slept a handful of hours before heading out to hunt before sun up the next morning. My buddies changed their hunting locations but neither wanted the spot I was at the prior evening. So I went back again.
It was a beautiful morning. There were dozens of jackrabbits hanging around. I had plenty of time to settle in. So much time, that I had time to set up the GoPro and take a time lapse video of this hunt.
About 2 hours into this hunt, I saw a very nice Axis doe.
This time around I had time to take a closer look at the blind and find a couple of branches that could be used to support my rifle. I made use of one of those support branches. The process was very much the same as it was before. I got a range reading of 121 yards. Shouldered my rifle and placed the reticle of the scope over the vitals. Took a few deep breaths and waited for a good shot. The doe wasn’t quite as still as the buck had been. She turned from complete broad side presentation to a partial and back again. This went on for a couple of minutes until my breathing and her presentation lined up to where I was confident in taking a clean shot. I pressed the trigger. Bang!
Another successful hunt. Not at all what I had planned.
The 308 Winchester 150 grain Federal Fusion MSR didn’t go through and through this time and we were able to retrieve the projectile while quartering her. The expansion on the projectile was much more than I expected.
Day 2 Evening Hunt
We took a break for lunch and rehashed hunting locations. One of my hunting buddies decided to try his luck at the location I had been using. The other went back to the location he used the prior evening. I was happy to give up my spot. After all, my weekend had already exceeded every expectation.
This hunt didn’t yield anything for anyone. I did get to see some neat things. Like a very well hidden white-tailed doe.
Only reason I found her was because I heard her calling others to her.
I also got to see a beautiful sunset.
Unfortunately for my hunting buddies, their evening hunt was similar to mine.
Day 3 Morning Hunt
The next morning was another bust for everyone.
I love hunting. I know it’s not for everyone. But here are a few reasons why I love it:
- Hunting doesn’t always go as planned. In my case, it’s yet to go as planned. To me that’s part of the adventure, adapting to the situation and making the best of if.
- It’s a great bonding experience to share with friends and family.
- It’s definitely not an inexpensive source of food, but the food is delicious and there is something special about seeing friends and family partake in food you sourced yourself.
Remember to take your time and only harvest legally and ethically. It is very easy to get caught up in the moment. So slow down, take a breath, and make sure the target is in season and the right age for harvesting. Be certain the target isn’t pregnant or nurturing younger game. Remember you are responsible for every projectile that leaves your firearm – so don’t forget about the rules of gun safety:
- Assume the firearm is loaded and treat it as such
- Keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
- You’re only ready to shoot when your target is in your sights and you know what lies behind your target
Preparation is key.