Taking the Bionic Buck
Russ Chastain 11.16.17
I was hunting in the rain that morning, when I encountered a buck tougher than any I’d met before. He came home with me, but not without a struggle.
It had been a tough hunt, and I needed some meat. All I’d been seeing were small bucks; couldn’t even find a doe to fill the freezer. So I didn’t really know what to expect when I ventured forth into intermittent rain on the warmest morning so far on my hunt.
The closer to the stand I got, the harder the rain fell, but the stand had a roof and after a short soggy hike I was only being moistened by the raindrops that blew into the box blind. When the rain picked up around 8:00, things kinda sucked, but it still beat the best day of going to work!
I was hunting deer; therefore I found crows, turkeys, and squirrels.
Things Pick up
Peripheral movement over my shoulder. Turn my head, spot a buck with a nice rack. Then things went into autopilot mode; I raised my rifle into shooting position even as he veered to his left a bit and continued to move, quartering away from me. He was not in the mood to hang around.
To stop him, I said, “Maaaaa!” but he didn’t stop; I tried again and like the first time, he only hesitated for a split second. What I wanted was a better look at its antlers, but he was not interested in providing it.
The buck was heading for thick woods and would be there in seconds. I had to make my decision quickly, and opted to take him. When my scope’s crosshairs lined up with his front end, I fired the little Savage 308 bolt action rifle, and then he was gone.
Had I hit the buck? I had no idea. I sat there breathing heavily as adrenaline filled my veins and rain filled the air. I hadn’t had time to make a slow, steady shot, but the buck hadn’t been far and I have been shooting rifles at critters for a long time. I felt I had probably hit the deer.
Time to Get Wet(ter)
The steady rain meant I’d better get out there and start looking for the deer before any sign was washed away. I soon found myself where the buck had been at the time of the shot. I found his fresh tracks in the muddy field, but no sign of a hit. No blood, no hair, no nothing.
I followed the tracks to the edge of the field, where the deer and I both had to push through tall brush. I longed to see blood smudged onto some of these plants, but I did not.
I peered ahead into the woods, I prayed, and my brain churned away. I eased through the weeds and into the trees. My head was in a swivel and I looked ahead, to either side, and down at the ground before each move that I made. I soon found myself in a game trail, and scuffed leaves with muddy smears told me something had passed this way recently. I continued my slow scanning and movement.
And then I saw my buck.
Shot Number Two
Usually when you follow up a shot and find your deer, it’s a time of great relief and exhilaration. But this time was different.
My buck was lying there all right, but it was also very much alive. He was lying on the forest floor with his head upright. He quartered away from me and was looking almost straight away from me. Range was about 17 yards.
I hunkered; surely the deer hadn’t heard my approach through the sound of the rain in the sodden woods. Just as surely, I knew I had hit the deer, otherwise it never would have bedded down within 60 yards or so of where I’d fired my rifle at it 14 minutes before.
Time to Finish the Job
I took careful aim with the little rifle, and placed a 150-grain bullet through his boilerworks.
Imagine my surprise when that buck sprang up and ran!
What the heck? How tough could a whitetail be? Twice shot with a powerful rifle, it had hopped up and left the scene. My jaw hung open as I took it in. When I recovered and moved over to pick up the blood trail. He’d been lying there bleeding, right? And I’d shot him again, right? But there was. No. Blood.
Okay, slow down, brain. But at the same time, hurry up and figure this out!
There was nothing for it but to go the same direction the buck had gone, looking for tracks/blood/hair/carcass as I went. But it didn’t take long before I lost track of his tracks on the forest floor, and could find no other sign.
I eased ahead, scanning the woods. Through the sound of the wind and rain, I thought I detected an odd sound. It was if I’d heard it peripherally, but it seemed almost like a wheeze coming from the direction of a downed tree. Looking that direction revealed no sign of any deer.
I prayed: “Lord, please lead me.” The instant reply: “I am; didn’t you hear that?”
I eased on ahead, still scanning the woods as I went. As I reached a small clearing, I looked carefully all over and spotted the buck, dead as a doornail, lying next to the downed tree.
It was 9:45, 27 minutes after I’d fired the first shot.
My first shot had been a bit forward of ideal, landing mainly in the brisket. It had passed near the heart, but clearly hadn’t done it much damage (if any).
Shot number two had clobbered the vitals after entering the left ribcage. It passed through diagonally and smashed the right shoulder. The buck should never had been able to get up and run, but it did.
Hence the name: The Bionic Buck.