Daylight arrives quickly in Florida, or at least it seems that way, so Dane Walker’s comment didn’t come as a surprise early Saturday morning.
By Alan Clemons, Managing Editor
“We should have left 30 minutes earlier,” Walker said as we scrunched along the sandy road after dropping off Deer & Deer Hunting publisher Brad Rucks and Whitetail Destinations videographer Brad Sullivan at their stand. We’re in Florida for the Zone A season-opener, the first legal deer season in the United States.
By the time we arrived at the pull-in to walk to my stand, there was no need for a penlight. It was daylight. Read a newspaper daylight. Shoulda been in the stand 30 minutes earlier daylight. We started through the pine, palmetto and live oaks toward a shallow, dry upper Everglades pond and stand beside a food plot.
I couldn’t say “whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa” fast enough as Walker simultaneously spied the solitary buck standing in the pond 60 yards or so away. Dude was locked in on us hard, too. Dangit! Opening morning, a buck in the field and here we are walking in too late. We might as well have been wearing costumes from “The Electric Cowboy” or “Tron” with Lil’Wayne blaring on a boom box.
Just my luck, I thought. Always happens this way.
But for once, it didn’t happen “that way.”
The buck didn’t move and we took one step into the shadows of a monster live oak tree. The buck didn’t move as we slipped about 10-15 yards and kneeled. He stood there and then started coming toward us, too curious for his own good. We just sat there, not moving or making a sound.
“That’s a good buck, a good shooter,”Walker said. “Can you take him if he comes in?”
Now, this is where you can roll your eyes. My bow release was in my backpack, not on my wrist. We were walking to the stand! So there I knelt, feeling like a complete idiot. That buck could have come within five feet and all I could do would be club it with my old trusty Pearson Diamondback VX bow.
(Yes, that bow is old. I liken it to a Ford Taurus compared to some of today’s Ferrari zoom-zoomers. But it works and I like it. I have a new Ferrari on the way, though. More on that in a few weeks.)
Now, get this. Not only did that 8-point run away and come back, it ran away a second time and returned again. Curiosity killed the cat and ultimately resulted in the demise of a whitetail buck on opening day.
The closer he came, the more I reminded myself that it was just another shot. That wasn’t a live deer, it was my backyard Block target. All I had to do was shoot the “o” in the Block and I was imagining that “o” right behind its shoulder. Just another shot, muscle memory, smooth draw, release.
My shot wasn’t perfect. I was heart-pounding excited and, most likely, yanked my head up off the follow-through. But Walker and I heard the “thump” and saw blood when the buck wheeled at 25ish yards to bolt from the field. The blood trail wasn’t heavy but was consistent. The trusty ol’ Muzzy broadheads did their job.
He was piled up about 150 yards away, dead as a hammer. It’s not a Midwest Monster. Rucks estimated maybe 75 or 80 B&C, but I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t care. I’m not into scores or “you shoulda shot at least an X-score buck” scenarios, although I honor those requests when I’m a guest on someone’s land.
All I know is, the monkey’s off my back. Opening morning was a success.