Not a Moderator
Really enjoyed this. For a guy just getting to be college age, keep that mindset. The college scene can and likely will give you plenty of opportunities to establish good habits and life choices, or bad ones. I really related to what you said about how you couldn’t imagine NOT hunting. Stay after it and don’t make the mistakes I did. If ya ever find yourself out here in the western region and wanna hit some game lands, holler at me.My season started out in archery, never had a chance at anything.
Opening day of muzzleloader I go out with my friend's dad(I'll just call him mentor from now on). As we are slowly walking to the knob of a finger ridge, we hear deer walking down the ridge towards us (We came from the top of the ridge, they somehow didn't spook as we walked through the brushy pipeline into the hardwoods). It was 7:14, just barely shooting light. We both had shots, but it was simply too dark in the thick hardwoods we were in. My excitement and inner half-redneck was telling me to shoot, but I knew I needed to follow what the more experienced hunter beside me did. We then split up and the rest of the morning was uneventful. This all happened on a Saturday.
Fast forward to the following Monday morning. My mentor had let me borrow a muzzleloader so I could continue hunting when he had work during the week. I got out on time, but in the pre-dawn darkness, I got confused and walked out on the wrong ridge. Luckily, I found sign on the ridge I ended up on and set up. After having does blow at me from downwind(I didn't expect them to be bedded where they were and also somehow didn't spook them while walking in), I decided to start heading back, as I was improperly dressed for the temps and was not having a good time with my numb hands. As I was walking in the clearcut that the access path peters out into I saw something (I don't remember what) that caught my eye and had me walk right over the skyline of a ridge and interrupt a small buck chasing a doe. As soon as I was skylined he saw me, but for whatever reason, he just stayed focused on feeding beside the doe who had not seen me. I immediately aimed, but could not for the life of me calm down. I was literally shaking in my boots. I knew I needed to be more stable, so I dropped into a prone position and started to crawl towards a a position where I had a shot. I got to that position, aimed, pulled back the hammer, waited for him to stop, and squeezed the trigger. Boom. As my ears are ringing, I jumped up and run out of the smoke cloud. The buck was still standing there. Completely unfazed. I get back down into the tall grasses and reload the muzzleloader, hoping that the buck decides to stay put. I crawl back into position. The buck has moved slightly, but I still have a shot. I do the whole process, boom. I walk out of the smoke to see two white butts prancing off. At this point I was feeling a combination of frustration, hopefulness, excitement, and overwhelming confusion. This did not go as planned. I had so many questions. Why was that deer so darn stupid? Did I hit him? Did I miss? I decided to sneak out of the area and just take a seat and wait. I knew that if I went in there and checked for blood I might bump him, and I did not want my first deer to be lost because of my stupidity. After a good hour, I headed exactly to where he was standing when I shot at him a second time. I searched for 30 minutes, and did not see a drop of blood, hair, or anything. I felt relieved and angry. I headed home, mentally wore out. My friends dad later took out the muzzleloader and shot it, trying to figure out what in the world was wrong. It was shooting something like 2 feet low.
The next Saturday my friend's dad shot a 4 point and I got to gut, help drag, help skin, and prepare a deer for cooking for the first time. Great learning experience.
Fast forward again to opening day of gun season. November 13th. We (mentor and I) head out in the morning. I am borrowing a Remington Model 783 in .243 using corelokts. We split up at the access path and I go to the ridge I was trying to go to on that Monday mentioned previously. I found a spot, sat down behind a fallen tree, and waited. After literally 15 minutes, I hear a deer come trotting down the side of the ridge below me, not 40 yards. I stand up, take aim, and fire. I don't wait for it to stop, I don't do the "mehhh" thing to make it stop, I just shoot. It was a total miss, I shot behind it. Stupid mistake in the heat of the moment that I won't make again. Luckily, all the commotion above the deer from me fumbling around to rack another round in the chamber with a gun I'm unfamiliar with makes it stop. It stayed long enough to give me another chance and I aim, squeeze the 30 pound trigger, and fire. From the way the deer acts I just know that it's hit good. I hear it crash in the drainage below me. I walk over to where I hit it, "blood trail" it, and walk up to it. I check that its dead, pull it out of the ditch, and start walking back to where I was set up. As I'm walking back up the ridge, I hear another deer! It walks not 30 yards from me, sees me, but by then it's too late. I see antlers. I want my first buck and there's a great opportunity right in front of me. I shoot, it runs off into some nasty thick stuff, I hear a massive crash, and I realize I'm out of bullets. I call my friends dad and ask him if he can walk over here so I have some sort of gun when I walk up on this thing. He gladly walks over and we find him. A nice 4 pointer. I discover that the massive crash I heard was him tripping and ramming head first into a fallen tree, knocking one off his antlers off of its pedicle. We gut and drag both of these deer out, get home and skin them, and let them sit over night. It was perfect weather for this and I had some school work to do that Saturday. I supplemented the freezer, and learned a ton.
About the performance of the bullets, both passed through both lungs and out the other side, one hit a shoulder and still passed through. Just thought this might be helpful to someone.
Now for the rest of the season. I saw some does, but it wasn't in season anymore on the gameland, only bucks. Found a ton of sign and good spots for the rut for next season. I discovered that there were bears on the tract of caswell gamelands that I was hunting a lot. Had my first frustrations with dog hunters, but only for selfish reasons. I still think it's really cool and would totally run dogs if I had the time and determination to take care of all those hounds and had buddies to hunt with. I also saw a guinea fowl just minding its own business a good mile and a half from the nearest house. I experienced a mid deer season prescribed burn, that was interesting. Made squirrel hunting pretty easy.
All in all, for my first season of hunting with more than just a crossbow, I would say this one has been very educational, memorable, and I might go as far as saying that its life changing. Now I can't even imagine myself not hunting. It just like... what I do now. When I see a calendar, I see different hunting seasons. When I look at a college, I catch me asking myself, "Yeah sure its a great school, but is there public ground nearby?" It's an addiction with no bad side effects, except maybe a hurting wallet. This was a long read if you got this far, and it's probably not typed too well, but I think it is beneficial for me to organize these things anyway.
TLDR(Too long didn't read): I got a buck and a doe and learned some things. Pretty cool.