"Grab your shoes and coat," my husband, Kent, yelled as he came running into the house. "You've got to see this buck!"
So there I was, in my shoes, coat and pajamas, looking at a magnificent animal through a pair of binoculars. About half a dozen brief encounters like that, during the rut, are all we can expect. By the time rifle season rolls around, the big ones seem to disappear.
Little did I know that within the month, I'd be watching that buck again, only through my rifle’s scope.
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Kent and I and my two children, Torey and Katie, live in rural Marion County, Kan. He ranches and shoes horses, and I teach preschool in the mornings and work at my folks' lumber yard in the afternoons. I won't profess to be any type of deer hunting expert, but I have been fortunate to learn how to hunt from some very patient mentors.
During my first deer hunt in 1982, I took a small 8-pointer. And I've pretty much looked forward to and hunted every season since. In 1986, I hunted while I was pregnant with my son. And this year, I was going to get to repeat that experience.
Believe me: You haven't truly been challenged until you try to hunt in overalls that won't zip up, coats that barely close and boots you can't reach. Plus, you have to adapt to a new form of walking called waddling. I'm sure that to another hunter, or even the deer for that matter, it's a real sight!
With deer season '97 fast approaching, I borrowed my dad's Remington in hopes that maybe this would be the year I'd get a buck nice enough to hang on the wall.
Sunday, Dec. 7, began with a forecast of freezing rain turning to snow. By noon, however, it hadn't come to pass. Kent and his hunting buddy, Jeff Riffel, stopped at the house for a quick lunch. The guys rehashed their morning hunt and eventually came to the conclusion that it was time I got out to do a little hunting, too.
We came up with a plan that had me blocking a spot back behind our house, while the guys walked out a small wooded creek area. If there was anything in there, we figured it would go one of two directions: along the field or behind the dam of our pond. Either way, the trails converge past a spot where I would be waiting with a .270.
Since we hadn't heard of many deer being taken yet, Kent's last words were to "shoot anything decent if it comes out." Little did I know!
I crossed the pond dam, picked a spot where I would have a clear shot of the two trails, and the hunt began.
I'll admit that about then I was feeling the pressure because I knew these guys were doing this strictly for my gain, and I didn't want to let them down. Minutes after their walk began, I spotted a couple of does and a small buck pop out of the trees to my right. They were about 400 yards out across a field and just as my senses were going on full alert, they disappeared back into the trees.
Almost as quickly as they went in, two or three more bucks came out. I spun sideways, shouldered my rifle and began deciding which one I was going to keep my eye on. No sooner had I lowered the rifle, HE stepped out from the trees. I remember thinking, "Who needs a scope to know this is the one?"
It looked like a giant rack floating my way, and I almost panicked. I hoped I’d chosen the right place to be because he was about 300 yards north of me and there were a lot of paths – too many – he might take.
As the deer fled back into the safety of the trees, I was worried that I'd lose sight of him. But it didn't take long for me to realize that, even in the dense brush, I could easily focus on that massive rack!
I had my scope on him and continued to keep turning with him as he worked his way south. Somewhere near 100 yards, he chose to take the "high road" out along the edge of the field, while the rest of the herd took the "low road" that would eventually lead them behind the pond.
He continued on the course he'd set and soon crossed underneath our old abandoned treestand. Finally, he was where I wanted him, but I was shaking so much that the crosshairs were moving from one end of that buck to the other. With each pounding heartbeat, my scope bounced from his back to his belly.
I knew that would be my one chance of a lifetime, and it was time to get a grip. I put the crosshairs just behind his front leg and slowly squeezed the trigger.
As the shot rang out, the buck wheeled around, but then crumpled to the ground. I hurried over to him as quickly as I could, but getting high centered on a barbed wire fence tends to slow one down considerably.
When I reached the buck and allowed myself to finally focus on that huge rack, my legs started shaking and my heart started pounding all over again. Actually, I don't think they quit for about three days afterward!
My shot hit him in the neck – in front of his leg instead of behind – but I was proud of the fact that I’d waited patiently for the right opportunity and had brought him down with one clean shot.
As I was standing there admiring the 34-point monster, I heard a commotion in the trees below me. Six bucks were passing by, single file, starting with a really nice 10-pointer and working down to a little 4-pointer. It was odd, but I felt like I was watching them as they paid a final tribute to their fallen leader.
I turned around and does were milling around only a few yards from where I stood. Perhaps only a woman might admit this, but in that mixed-up scene, I even started feeling a little guilty for causing such a disruption to their way of life. Eventually, they moved on and the spell was broken.
I didn’t know whether to scream, dance or play it cool.
Just to be ornery to my compadres in the creek, I decided to play it cool and act as if I didn't have one down. When I saw their orange clothing finally coming through the trees, I wanted to walk ahead to meet them, but I kept imagining that it would be my luck to come back and the buck would be gone!
I finally tore myself far enough away to where I could keep an eye on the buck, but they wouldn't see him right away. When the guys got closer, I said, "I'm sure I hit one, but he turned and headed back down the creek."
I had to turn my head away from them to hide the grin. They immediately began looking for signs to trail him. I can only imagine what they were thinking at that moment, but it took them only a few more steps forward to realize they'd been had.
Since the popular song came out, my kids have been teasing me each year to get "Da Turdy-Point Buck." All I wanted to do was get hold of the kids and say, "Guess what I got, guys?"