Occupying an entire shelf in my freezer are the spoils of my first whitetail, an 83-pound doe taken in Dallas County, Alabama.
For many readers of our websites and magazines that’s just a typical freezer during deer season, but for a kid that grew up playing baseball, it’s much more.
I’m new to the outdoors. In fact, other than a .22 and some cans during my college days, I’m new to all of this. However, what I’ve learned in the last couple of months is just how stinkin’ FUN hunting can be. Oh, and rewarding!
This past summer an intern here at Grand View Outdoors mentioned he organized a doe hunt every year on his family’s land in Selma, Alabama. This caught the attention of Mark Olis--of Predator Xtreme and AR Guns & Hunting fame. Selma is in Alabama’s fertile Black Belt region, and Mark loves to hunt does to fill his freezer.
Late January, as Mrs. Olis was about to turn the Olis clan from a party of three to a party of four, Mark heard from Wallace (the intern) and the hunt was on. For the record, thank you Mrs. Olis for allowing my guide one more adventure at such an important time for you.
It’s 3:45 a.m. Saturday morning on the last weekend of the season and I meet Mark for the 80-minute ride to Selma. How new am I to this? I own a pair of Rocky boots, one pair of camo pants, and two camo shirts (thanks Derrick). That’s how new.
The moon is still out as we arrive at camp after nearly smacking two does with Mark’s truck and destroying an owl with the roof. Seriously, an owl and the roof right above my head collided at 30 mph. We both jumped — don’t let Mark tell you otherwise.
We meet everyone, take a quick tour, get our hunting location from Wallace and then it’s off to hunt some bucks. Yes, bucks. We were given the green light to hunt bucks on the morning sit. This was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
Mark and I were dropped off at a shooting house that overlooks a power line right-of-way with food plots. We get situated just around dawn. Mark has his Ambush 6.8 SPC and I’m using his Browning .270, a gun I quickly grew to like.
I forgot to mention the rules. Only bucks scoring over 140 can be taken. Oh, and there’s a huge 7-point roaming the property — don’t shoot him, either. No sweat. Now, I have no clue what 140 looks like on the hoof, but Mark does. He’s pretty good. I’m not gonna lie.
We swivel in our chairs looking down the power line left and right. Dawn has barely broken and out come the does. Then out comes a buck, then more does, then another buck, then more does, then the don’t-shoot 7-point, then more does, then a huge buck 400 yards away, then nine turkeys marching as if to battle, then more does, then a huge buck that makes Mark hesitate on the shoot-or-don’t-shoot call, then that dang don’t-shoot 7-point returns. Many of the does have fed for 20 or more minutes without leaving the kill zone. My head is spinning, and as I would find out later, so was Mark’s.
It’s deer after deer after deer. This herd is calm. I’ve always heard whitetails were skittish. Not these guys. The does didn’t care the bucks were there, and the bucks didn’t care about anything either. Food was all that was on their mind.
For the better part of three hours I am in and out of the scope just waiting for Mark to say the word, or at least waiting for him to go to the bathroom so I can shoot a 130 buck and claim rookie ignorance on size. Alas, that doesn’t happen.
By the time Wallace returned to pick us up we had seen more than 30 deer, including eight racked bucks.
On the ride back to camp all I could think about was how fortunate I was to have had that many deer in the kill-zone. Granted, no 140 bucks showed up, but I’ve read enough stories about hunters who go months without seeing anything to know just how lucky I was. And if I hadn’t, when Mark spoke up and said he’d never seen that many in one sit, well, enough said.
After a two-hour nap we set out on our afternoon sit. Yes, the novice required sleep. As I approached the clearing where we would spend the rest of that January day’s sunshine, two deer bolted for the tree line. I thought to myself, here we go again.
A half bag of beef jerky and three hours later there wasn’t a whitetail to be found. I started to get a little bored and fought off the urge to be less humble about that morning. Then Mark spots a small buck and my spirits pick up. Nothing else comes out though and we’re hunting does, not smallish bucks.
Daylight is dwindling and we’ve even begun readying the gear to leave when a doe walks out into the back of the food plot. We’re almost 200 yards from her and we need another deer in the field to gauge the size better. I’m in the scope and ready to go. You bet my blood’s just a pumping. A second doe walks out and she’s much bigger. Now, we have our first bonafide target of the day.
My excellent guide informs me to remember what I’ve practiced and be patient. More are likely to come out. Multiple targets would be ideal. You know, one for each of us.
Off to my right a third deer makes its way into the kill zone. It was just shy of 100 yards, but I couldn’t line up a shot — flag on the play, tree interference. I’m way jacked up at this point. I’ve got targets everywhere, and the moment of truth is drawing near. In August I shot a hog, but this would be my first deer.
Crap! My doe crossed out from the tree, but she turned and walked away. I’m left with a Texas something-or-other shot…that I don’t take. I put the Browning on safe and attempt to calm my nerves. It’s not really going down like this, is it? I tell Mark I’m gonna shoot the buck with the busted rack that wandered in, since he stood broadside and was HUGE. Of course, I was kidding, knowing his sage advice would be ‘no’.
I got back in the scope and said “as soon as she turns, I’m taking the shot.” She had worked her way to 150-160 yards out. There were only 40 more yards to the tree line. I steadied my trembling arms as best I could and attempted to coax her broadside. “Come on, girl, turn.”
She did as told. My eyes got big, and the crosshairs went behind the front shoulder. No time to waste.
The Browning rang out and dinner was on the ground!
My first whitetail hunt was a success. I was bringing home dinner. That brings me to an earlier point about how rewarding this is.
Not only do I know I’ve brought home food, but my wife greets me in a very different manner when I return from a successful trip. I guess there is something about providing. That’s the feel her welcome-home hug and kiss have.
So, it’s not baseball. It’s not another stick and ball sport I spent 34 years around. Nope. It’s clearly on a different level.