November 29, 2007

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

My wife is called the Closer. My father-in-law is the Master, and me, well they just call me Glutton for Punishment, or Glutton for short.

If the shoe fits, wear it. Why else would I have traveled out to Quillin Firearms on Friday after Thanksgiving and had Rob give me a crash course in loading a muzzleloader. I won a Knight 209 a few years ago at the National Turkey Federation banquet, but it had only held a spot in the gun safe up until this year.

Normally I am relieved when the regular firearm portion of deer season comes to a close. I can put the rifle up and get caught up on some sleep. After the Closer scored opening weekend and then the Master followed her up with another big buck during the week, I admit I was ready to toss in the towel.

Especially after I heard the Masterís tale. A short break while waiting for a grain truck had provided him all the window of time he needed to score once again.

The story goes that he had to drag out his old rifle, and he was only able to find four rusty, aged shells for the firearm that had not been sighted in since the Civil War.

He was sitting on a pond dam, watching a pair of high traveled paths when the clouds parted and the sun, not only brightened this hunterís day, but also reflected off the big buckís rack as he tried to sneak past the hunter through an adjoining patch of CRP. Most mortals would not even have attempted a shot at such a distance, but the Master was undaunted by the challenge. His first shot missed by far enough that the deer was not even alarmed. The second and third shots also fell outside off the target area. But the fourth and final bullet found its mark and the rest is history, or legend if you believe the 400+ yard distance being used when the story is retold.

Well, old Glutton took this all in stride. He did not let the success stories of his fellow hunters deter his efforts to find his own trophy.

On the second Saturday of firearms season, Glutton walked to his stand early in the afternoon. I was seated for only moments when a nice buck crashed through the weeds and ran by the wifeís stand (I get to sit in it now that she is done.) More ruckus erupted on my right and saw tails and horns moving through the brushy draw. With an opening of about 75-yards at the end of the ditch, I knew that was where my chance would come. So I stood, readied the gun and waited for the deer to depart the cover.

Two does were first to charge into the opening. They were followed by a nice 10-point buck. The problem was the buck really was no better than the one I already have mounted on the wall (which by the way I got plenty of letters to the editor last week saying it is closer to a 120-class deer than the 140-class deer I professed in my previous editorial).

I watched the buck for several minutes before he finally charged on to follow the girls into the next draw.

I tried to resume my precarious perch on the little fold out chair I use in the tree stand. The seat is a bit rickety, so I normally get a good grip on the tree as I lower myself into the seat. I had my caboose about halfway to the station when I heard the rustling of leaves to my left followed by a grunt. I hit the brakes, standing in an awkward half crouch as I took a peek over my left shoulder.

I suspect it was all that giant buck could do to keep from laughing as he stared up at me stuck in my half crouch. My legs began to cramp up as I froze in the squat, holding the tree with both hands while my rifle leaned harmlessly against the tree. My only hope was the doe in front of the buck. He had followed her to the spot just 30 yards from the stand. Now if she would regain his attention for a moment, I might be able to grab the gun and get into position. If nothing else I could at least finish sitting down and relieve the growing pain in my legs.

But the sun disappeared from the sky. The clouds rolled in and the stare down continued. Finally the buck did a 180 and sprinted into the draw. I fully expected a bolt of lightning to put me out of my leg-cramp misery, but instead I was simply left to wonder what if?

Glutton was back in a tree stand on Thanksgiving night, enjoying a most beautiful snowfall as I returned to archery season. Being the day before muzzleloader season started, you knew I would have a nice buck just outside of bow range.

So $60 later I have all the ammo and am armed with the knowledge of how to work my Knight. Lucky for me, after I get shutout this weekend with it, I can still get my bow out for a little while longer.

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