Do you remember the wonderful scenes in the ‘Ice House/Palace’ in “Doctor Zhivago”? Well, back in January of 1989, on the last hunt of Catoosa for the season, I hunted a day in the woods there that was reminiscent of those scenes. The only difference was that instead of everything being covered in snow, which in reality was wax, everything that day was encapsulated in about ½ inch of ice!
I remember the prism like effect the ice had on the rising sunlight, refracting it into the full spectrum of colors, and making everything appear as if it was all part of a giant Christmas display - a kind of crystal forest. The light danced and sparkled off the ice that began to be too much for some branches to hold, and the normal quietness of the forest was periodically broken by the crack and crashing sound of some falling to the white floor of the woods.
It was January, the second week in January, a time that if it is going to snow at all in
I had also hunted the week of the snow, and was nearly caught in the
That day was not a total loss, because I had a 5-point buck walk within ten yards of my ground stand between two huge oak trees. Completely concealed behind the camo material I always used, and the branches of small scrub bushes, the buck walked slowly by without as much as a casual glance. I had him perfectly framed in my scope, through which he appeared close enough to poke with the tip of my rifle.
I scanned his small, non-typical rack counting its five points, and compared it in my mind to the 8-point rack that hung over our dining room table. I had become somewhat of a “trophy hunter” and was determined not to shoot anything of less value to me than the 8-pointer, so I watched him pass and bid him good health.
So, on the day of the ice storm, I sat in the exact spot mesmerized by the light display and thanking God for his wonders, when a tinkling sound came from about 100 yards away. I immediately dropped off my little stool onto one knee and pushed off my safety and peeped through the mesh of the fabric and around the tree to my left. More tinkling sounds came and grew louder, but now with the distinctive sounds of heavy feet breaking through the frozen snow covered leaves!
Suddenly, there appeared a deer, no a buck, and my heart began to pound as it always did. I slowly raised the rifle and lowered my head to the scope. It was the same 5-point buck I had allowed to pass a week or so earlier. “Damn,” I thought, “What shall I do?”
I surmised that if fate allowed this same buck to pass me again that I was bound to shoot him by some unwritten law of deer hunting! “Okay big boy, you had your chance!”
I waited until he passed the tree to my left, just 10 yards or less, and I squeezed off the 150 grain round. I was so close I actually saw the impact on his right shoulder and the resulting ripples that dissipated about 18 inches from where the bullet hit!
The buck charged forward into a ticket, making crashing sounds like you would imagine a “bull in a china shop” would make trying to find his way out, and then there was quiet again.
I sat there, breathing hard and listening to see if I could tell which way he was headed. However, I did not hear anything and grew afraid I would lose him in the dense under brush.
I ejected the .270 round casing and pushed it deep into my pocket, stopping to smell of it first, and then injected another round just in case I had to finish him off at some point.
I could wait no longer, so I stood up and began inching my way toward the narrow gap in the thicket, through which he had gone. Immediately I realized I would have no problems in tracking the buck. There on about every other bush was a frozen icicle of blood, like colorful ornaments on a holiday tree. I walked forward, following the bloody spike markers, until I cleared the thicket completely.
The 100 pound buck lay motionless in a small pool of icy water just feet from the edge of the thicket. I knew that wounded deer often seek water to soothe their wounds, but this was the first time I witnessed such an event. However, the deer had died just after lying down…my muzzle touch on his big brown eye confirmed it.
I have heard seasoned hunters say that it is important to take out the inferior genes from the deer herd and that they needed to be culled, so I suppose this was my contribution to the future of the Catoosa deer population. His rack was non-typical, uneven, and may not have improved with additional seasons or food, but one thing for sure; he never got to add to the gene pool, good or bad.
So after field dressing the buck I sat for about thirty minutes, with my hand on the buck’s head, feeling the remaining warmth, just listening to the forest crackle, watching the light show – just enjoying my own private crystal forest.