Several of us Whitetail Journal staffers recently hosted a whitetail hunt on the tribal grounds of South Dakota. We were joined by representatives from Scent Lok clothing, New Archery Products, Knight & Hale game calls, Code Blue and Summit Treestands. In addition, some of us were joined by family. In my case I was joined by my 78-year-old father and 12-year-old son, making for some rich camaraderie and tradition. I’ll cherish this experience for a lifetime — and here’s one of the highlights.

south dakota buckFrom atop a cedar-lined ridge nearly three-quarters of a mile away, my son and I glassed across the hayfield below. Earlier in the day we had watched two bucks leave this field and enter the timber, perhaps to bed down for the day. Wondering if they might reenter the field to feed for the evening, we decided to make our way down the steep ridge toward the far field edge. The temperature was nearly 90 degrees, and for the last two nights the deer had been coming out of the timber just before dark — so our hopes for seeing the bucks before legal shooting hours ended were not very high.

We found a large fallen tree at the field edge that would make an ideal natural blind. While we were taking gear out of our packs, setting up the shooting sticks and clearing brush for a shooting lane, three does stepped into the field. From a kneeling position Will practiced placing the crosshairs of the scope on the does and got ready to shoot in case a buck entered the field. No more than 10 minutes had passed when I glanced to my left and saw a buck approaching the does. I told Will to get ready; a buck was on his way into the field. From his kneeling position with his muzzleloader resting securely on the shooting sticks, Will prepared for the shot. I ranged the distance to the buck at 127 yards. At the report of the muzzleloader and the thwack of the bullet finding its mark, the buck whirled and ran. Through the binoculars I could see the shot was perfectly placed behind the shoulder, and within a short distance the buck became wobbly-legged and fell over as we watched. “He’s down, Dad! I just shot my first buck, and we watched him fall!” Will exclaimed. We hugged, high-fived and gave thanks for the blessing of Will’s first buck.