Rack Magazine

Under the Cover of Snowness

Under the Cover of Snowness

By Darren Warner

Mother Nature Photoshopped this Michigan hunter’s “doe.”

Jeff Toy of Dowagiac, Mich., sat motionless on a red bucket near the edge of a cut cornfield. Snow blew across the field from left to right, not quite a whiteout, but far from snow-globe calm.

Spindrift pelted his face, while white powder collected on his snow camouflage jacket. An Alberta clipper was assaulting the Great Lakes region, bringing a sudden cold front and unexpected storm. The snow started dropping in the late morning, giving everyone a taste of the brutal winter that would soon grip much of the country.

Jeff was shivering, aware that he ought to be seeking warm quarters, but deer hunting from a bucket was more fun than watching weather reports on television.

This is all part of it, he kept reminding himself. Any moment, something amazing could happen.

Truthfully, he would’ve settled for less than amazing.

He’d already traded precious work time for hunting time. Since Michigan’s firearms deer season opened on Nov. 15, he’d been afield every morning and afternoon, hoping to collect venison for his freezer. And now it was the 25th, almost Thanksgiving.

On that day, his father, Ed, called to say he was taking the afternoon off to go hunting. That was all the impetus Jeff needed to call his 14-year-old cousin, Baily Adams, to see if he wanted to make it a threesome.

Jeff’s 200-acre lease grants him and his family hunting rights to another 120 acres in Cass County, most of it one large agricultural field, except for a small patch of woods in one corner. Deer frequently cross the field to reach the cover.

It’s impossible to access the four blinds on the property without being spotted, so the family is careful to not overhunt the area. Yet that afternoon, Jeff’s dad caused a ruckus by moving a tower blind, which made the others wonder if they were wasting their time.

Ed chose to hunt from an elevated box blind in the southwest corner, while Baily crouched down in a concrete irrigation pivot in the middle of the field. Rather than hunt comfortably from another box blind, Jeff opted for a bucket hunt beside the field’s edge.

“We had seen deer traveling in that area, so we thought it was a decent spot,” Ed explained.

Under the Cover of SnownessBecause he was in a hurry, Jeff forgot his binos and rangefinder. He left his trusty muzzleloader in the gun safe and took an old, unscoped 12 gauge. By 4 p.m., everyone was in place.

The falling snow prevented Jeff from seeing the others, and he felt like he was the only hunter on the face of the Earth until shortly after 5:00, when his dad and cousin fired their guns. The shots made Jeff consider ending his own hunt early.

“I thought about getting my truck and helping each of them get their deer,” he said. “But there wasn’t much daylight left, so I decided to just sit and wait.”

Moments later, a lone deer suddenly appeared. Swirling snow prevented Jeff from judging its rack — or even seeing a rack — from 200 yards. The deer was headed for the woods.

I don’t blame him, Jeff thought.

The deer was large in body, and that was good enough for Jeff.

“The whole body fit in the rear (ghost-ring) sight,” he said. “When I shot, I saw the deer jump and do a lunge-kick. It then spun back in the direction it had come from, ran in a big arc, and fell over. I couldn’t believe I’d made such a good shot!”

The hunter took his eyes off the fallen deer and called his wife, telling her he’d be late for dinner. Jeff wasn’t excited. He just assumed the deer he’d harvested was a doe. He grabbed his bucket, swung his shotgun over his shoulder, and headed for the truck.

A few minutes later, Jeff tasted dread. Staring at a sea of corn stubble, he saw no sign of the deer. He drove his truck back and forth across the field, searching for the whitetail, but found nothing.

Like the accumulating snow, the unknown swirled around him. 

Jeff eventually got out of his truck and started searching on foot. A few moments later, he found a large round spot of bright red blood where the deer had fallen. Thirty yards away, he found another large spot. Just a few yards from there was the doe that turned out to be the buck of his dreams.

Under the Cover of Snowness“I took a picture with my camera phone and sent it to my hunting buddy and wife,” he said. “I had no idea I’d shot a trophy buck until I walked up to it.”

A few minutes later, Ed arrived with his Bobcat to load the deer into his son’s truck. Like his son, he didn’t comprehend that the deer on the ground was no ordinary trophy.

“It was getting dark, and both of us were more concerned with getting the buck loaded in the truck,” Ed added.

“You can buy expensive hunting equipment and do everything you can to reduce your scent, but, in the end, hunting comes down to being at the right place at the right time,” Jeff said.

Hunter: Jeff Toy
BTR Score: 182 5/8”
Shotgun
Semi-Irregular

– Photos by Darren Warner

This article was published in the Winter 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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