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Remembering deer hunts of days gone by

On the way to work one morning, a doe with two fawns dashed across the highway in front of the car ahead of me. His brake lights flashing brightly told me of problems ahead.

I slowed rapidly in time to see the family of deer make it safely to the other side. I glanced to my left and saw a nice buck standing on the opposite side of the road, apparently in hot pursuit. I thought it is too early in the year for the bucks to start becoming amorous, but it certainly appeared as though we are entering into that season.

All the rest of the way to work I could think of nothing but bow hunting deer. I thought back to some of the deer I have hunted.

The one I called the Gray Ghost is the deer I most remember. I hunted him for three years in a row. He has surely died of old age by now, because in spite of having a terrific time hunting him, I never got a shot.

He lived on the South place. Routinely he moved from the heavy hardwood timber to the cedar-covered pasture. If I was at the top of the hill, a doe would emerge from the timber near the creek at the bottom of the hill followed by a big eight-point buck. A few seconds later, the Gray Ghost would jump the fence into the clearing. They were just far enough away I could not get a shot with my bow but close enough I could get a good look at the massive set of antlers proudly carried on his well muscled body. The group would move across the pasture, through the creek, and make their way up the hill on the opposite side.

On some evenings, I went on stand near the creek where they always came out of the woods. Those evenings, the entourage jumped the fence at the point I had been the day before. It was uncanny. I knew they did not know I was there or they would not have come out into the open at all.

I decided big old bucks get to be big old bucks by not only being smart but also lucky. There is no reason, with all the hunts I put on him, we should not have dummied into each other just out of pure chance. He lived to a ripe old age and I am sure is the ancestor of many of the great deer we currently have.

Another deer I have fond memories was Broken Antler. This is a memorable deer not because of the challenge he presented but because of the determination he showed. I first saw Broken Antler on the trail camera. The camera was set up over a scrape and this young deer with one antler broken off near the base would come check the area each day. He was a young healthy deer, but looked like he had come out on the short end of several fights. Along with the one antler gone, he had a puncture wound on his left shoulder and a couple long scrapes down his back. He looked like the deer that would not miss a fight whether he could win or not.

I was hunting his part of the farm during the rut one day. I clashed my rattling antlers together and gave a grunt on my call. Broken Antler came running toward me from wherever he was bedded. He was ready for a fight. He spent the better part of 10 minutes looking around for somebody to beat up or get beaten by. He finally wandered away. I waited several minutes and called again. Apparently he had not wandered out of hearing range because he came tearing back ready to again defend his territory or get beat up trying. A person has to love an animal with so much determination. I am not sure if I saw Broken Antler the next year or not because he would have been larger, smarter and would not have lost as many fights.

The best memories hunters have are not necessarily of successes but of great hunts and great animals.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.