A New Hampshire Deer Hunt Memory by Ed Hale

I am all alone but in reality I am really not alone at  all. I am with myself, hunting for deer with my trusty 58 Caliber muzzle loader, on opening day of the  New Hampshire Muzzle Loader deer season many years back perhaps in my mid 30’s. I hunted alone (with myself) often because I like hunting solo. Me, the woods, and the deer!

My soul senses a joy, like a kid opening his first Christmas present, as I ease into the pitch black forest. It is 4:30 AM, I can hear my breathing strong and clear through my nose. My mind momentarily conjures up a predator with teeth standing before me as I approach. A vestige of my childhood fear of the dark.  I forge ahead through that air space with narry a scratch.  Take that!  You toothless imagination. Be gone!  I chuckle to myself. DSC_0002

The fall oak leaves beneath my feet crunch with each step.  I slow down my pace. It is dark. The woods are still… Every step seems to shout as I attempt to become one with the forest rhythm. The air has the pungent smell of oak acorns and leaves, Douglas fir and dew soaked moss covered earth. A sweet but pungent oak flavor with a twist of fir and earth! Thank God for noses to smell, I think. It was so delicious that I could eat it if only it were edible.  Daylight arrives by each passing minute as I work my way toward where, just a week ago, I saw good deer sign of tracks, rubs and scrapes. Finally the leaves on the trees are visible with yellow and orange and deep red colors. The yellow comes from beech trees and orange and red from sugar maples.

As shafts of light arrive, the yellow leaves in front of me fall but just one at a time, a leaf falls hear and a leaf falls there. At my side is my knife, a “Buck” knife, with a Bowie style blade that is keenly sharp. The sheath and handle have been camo’d and are invisible against my camo clothes (I wore an orange camo vest and orange camo hat).  Around my neck is a buck grunt-call and a small pair of rattling antlers. As I approach the area I saw good deer sign. Shooting light finally arrived. The wind was nearly still.  I could not figure which way it was blowing, but I was as clean as I could possibly be with newly washed clothes. And I showered with scent free soap a dash of baking soda under my arms. Seeing a scrape on the ground,  I stood in an area that allowed my observation of two directions and began to grunt softly with the call sparingly…

Suddenly, a deer appeared as it hopped in front of me, a doe at 30 yards. My adrenaline kicked  in like starting ether to a gasoline starved lawnmower.  Heart hammering; I raised my muzzle loader and she was now facing me directly. In one movement she turned, hopped once and walked away occasionally looking at me over her back and I eased the  muzzle loader down. A buck with a rack is what I am after. She was a beautiful sight as she melted away. I took out the grunt call and tried to create a “tending grunt” call with several soft calls as if another buck was walking with her. Then tickled the tines of my small antlers. Minutes passed.

Woah! What was that to my right? An eight point buck was walking fast and straight at me at 25 yards. My heart was now fully soaked in adrenaline hammering as if to leave my chest. I swung the muzzle loader up and cocked the hammer. The shot angle was wrong but for this fighting mad buck to get to me, he had to walk around a thick sapling in his path. Never breaking stride he cleared that sapling at 20 yards and gave me a forward angled shoulder to shoot at. Ka Boom! I shot and the deer jumped left.  The belch of muzzle loader smoke hid the buck from sight. So I got on my knees and looked below the smoke. I was having no luck seeing the buck. Ok!  “Stay put”, I thought,  and mark the spot in my mind  where the deer was when I shot. Soon the smoke dissipated and I walked to the spot where I thought I shot. The nearest tree behind the buck was 4 feet away and covered in rich red blood at its base.

I reloaded, but knew that the buck could not have gotten far. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins. It was just an amazing feeling to be alive. The blood trail was enormous and 30 yards away lay the buck facing away from me. The exit wound was on the far side of the buck just forward of the rear ham. The bullet having skewered the buck from shoulder to its exit hole, about the size of a silver dollar.

I took the cap off the muzzle loader and reached for my deer tag. I gutted the deer, not having any rubber gloves, I proceeded to get messy up to my elbows. The bullet having pierced the gut left the acrid smell of the open gut wafted over me.  I began to get light headed. It was brief, but between the adrenaline and the acrid gut I turned and vomited momentarily. Wiping my face on my sleeve, I turned to the 8 point buck laying before me remembering he wanted a fight and said. Gotcha! Didn’t I !

I found a small branch and attached my drag rope to pull the buck out of the woods. I talked to my buck each time I got exhausted pulling and told him how fine a buck he was!  I would always remember this hunt. Today I share it with you! Memories are fantastic aren’t they! We can  relive them over and over! Good Hunting! © 2015

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About Ed Hale

I am an avid hunter with rifle and Bow and have been hunting for more than 50 years. I have taken big game such as whitetail deer, red deer, elk, Moose and African Plains game
such as Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, and Impala and wrote an ebook entitled African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow on how to prepare for a first safari. Ed is a serious cartridge reloader and ballistics student. He has earned two degrees in science and has written hundreds of outdoor article on hunting with both bow and rifle.