Deer diary: Another season in the books

Laura Dies

Larry Woody, left, and Clarence Dies with an early-season buck.

It's hard to believe it's already over.

After all those months of anticipation, planning and preparation, all the hours of scouting, checking gear, sighting-in rifles -- then, in a blink, another deer season has come and gone.

Hunters in my age bracket can't help but wonder if that last one might be our, well, last one.

That's what makes each passing season so special.

It also makes you dizzy to contemplate how fast the planet is spinning. Wasn't it just yesterday that a skinny 16-year-old kid shot his first buck?

A faded old Polaroid shows the kid with his deer. The date on the photo is February, 1963 but that's the date it was printed. The deer was killed in November of 1962.

It seems like yesterday:

I was walking down an ancient logging road around 9 a.m. with two hunting buddies, trying to get some feeling back in our frozen feet after a frigid morning on our stands. A buck suddenly appeared from a red-brush thicket. It whirled and bounded away and I dropped him with a lucky shot from my brand-new Winchester 30-30.

That's the first entry in my deer diary:

Nov. 1962: Crossville, 9 a.m., 4-point buck, 30-30 (running shot).

I've chronicled 143 more deer since then: date, location, time of day, type of rifle (muzzleloader or 30-30) and a note or two about the hunt.

This past season's entries:

Nov. 9: Giles County, opening day of muzzleloader season. After sitting on a stand from pre-dawn until 10 a.m. and seeing nothing but turkeys and squirrels, I decided to still-hunt. As I eased over a ridge, 40 yards away in a hollow stood two does. I shot off-hand and they bounded off. The biggest one dropped as it crested a rise.

Nov. 15: Wilson County, hunting with friend Clarence Dies. We split up before dawn, Clarence going to one field on his farm and me to another. At 6:40 a.m. a seven-point buck sidled out of the woods and began feeding on acorns in the corner of the field, 50 yards away. I took another off-hand shot. The muzzleloader roared and I ducked under the cloud of powder smoke to see the buck on the ground.

Nov. 18: Giles County, 7:15 a.m. A doe saunters across an open field. I take a rest on the tree I'm standing behind, steady the cross-hairs, and squeeze the trigger. Deer No. 144 was down.

Turn back the page to the biggest deer I've killed:

Dec. 7, 2006: Hardin County, 3:15 p.m., mild and windy. A giant buck chases a doe within a few feet of the tree under which I'm sitting.

It leaps over a creek, bounds up a ridge, and begins raking saplings with its massive antlers. I shoot, again, using a muzzleloader, and the deer dashes off through the dense woods. A moment later I hear it crash to the ground.

Today the antlers hang on my den wall. I don't know what they score because I've never scored any of the dozen sizable racks I've been lucky enough to bring home.

I say "lucky" because I don't hunt for trophies. I take the first legal deer that comes through, be it big buck or small doe.

To me every deer is special -- just as every season is special.

We never know when the next one could be the last one.

Larry Woody is The Democrat's outdoors writer. Email him at larrywoody@gmail.com.

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