I don`t remember exactly how long it took......but it was a while.
I started hunting white-deer in earnest in 1982. Deer in Indiana weren`t plentiful then, but they were beginning to make their presence known, and guys were getting excited about them. I got drawn for a military installation hunt, and was excited. I went with my Winchester 1200, with a smooth bore slug barrel, and actually got a shot at a deer, but missed. My buddy, Joe Kattau, killed a small doe that morning, and it was cool as anything.
I hunted as hard as I knew how to after that. Places to hunt that held white-tails were hard to come by, and I had nearly zero knowledge about my prey, but I had become addicted to cheasing them.
I soon learned about a spot in the Hoosier National Forest that was heavily hunted, but reportedly held lots of white-tails. I began making the 2 1/2 hour drive back and forth daily on the weekends. I had become somewhat familar with the area when Joe and I used to camp there and hunt grey squirrels, and we had seen deer often.
I spent several seasons driving to the Hoosier every weekend day, hunting hard, but had no luck. I had no idea how to pinpoint an area in the huge tract of forest land that seemed to all look the same, that white-tails might prefer. I was becoming frustrated, and tired too, as all the driving was wearing me out.
On the last day of deer season, in 1995, I had planned on driving yet again to the Hoosier National Forest to log my last deer hunt of the season. I over slept that morning, and nearly didn`t go, but I jumped out of bed, stuffed my gear into the vehicle for the last time that deer season, and headed south to the Hoosier. I got to the area I parked much later than usual, and it was already beginning to show color in the sky when I parked. I hurridely grabbed all my gear, and started to head into the timber, when I realized I hadn`t accounted for my hunting license yet, and I dejectedly headed back to the car to look for it. I assumed I had left it at home, and figured I`d be driving back home this morning. I frantically dug thru my vehicle, and incredibly, I found my deer tag.
I hiked back the neary 2 miles into the forest I`d decided I`d hunt that last morning. There was an old cemetery back in the forest, that had not only a ton of grey squirrels, but lots of deer activity. I`d seen deer there on occasion, so into the brightening woods I sped.
I didn`t know about climbing stands in those days, so I hunted exclusively from the ground. I got to the back side of the cemetery, picked a hickory tree to lean against, kicked the leaves awawy from the base, and slid down to the ground. I was disappointed, and let down, not expecting any action coming into the woods so late.
I`d been sitting 45 minutes, and it was nearly full daylight now, when I heard footsteps in the leaves. I sighed as I readied myself to stand and show myself to the approaching hunter, as I`d done so many times over the past few years in the huge forest. I had laid my shotgun in the leaves and had started to push myself up when I caught a pacth of brown moving towards me.
Immediately, my heart was in my throat, and my breathing was strained. A 4-point buck was walking in my direction, and I was shaking badly.
The noise he made was astounding, as I`d always assumed that deer always traveled quietly, but I could only think that because he thought he was alone, he wasn`t concerned with stealth. He dropped into a ravine only 40 yards in fron of me, and when his head dropped out of sight, I shouldered the 1200. He seemed to dawdle in that draw, and I could hear him rooting around, but it seemed like forever that he stayed in that bottom.
Finally, he emerged, and began a slow, casual walk, quartering sightly away from me, less that 30 yeards away, oblivious to my presence. I put the open sight behind his shoulder, and touched off, what would be, a life changing, round. At the report, the buck dropped where he stood, and lay still.
I was trembling so badly, I had to lay the shotgun down and lean against the tree for support. It wasn`t lost on me-the significance of what I`d just done.
I drug that buck the 2 miles back to my car-it took better than 3 hours to drag him across the rough terrain and I was absolutely spent by the time I reached my car.
I was so proud of that buck-I took him absolutely on my own. I picked the Hoosier National to hunt-I picked the particular spot to hunt by the cemetery. I hunted, alone 90% of the time, rain, snow, easy, hard, tired, pumped or fed up. And finally, I had my buck in the freezer.
It was in the top four of the most life-changing events to occur in my life.