I have to admit that this was a new one, even for me. Starting a bit late, I headed out to some public ground to deer hunt at about 3 pm. After e-scouting a large property, I had marked three locations that would likely hold a buck. The first two were transition zones or potential staging areas that bordered farm fields and private land. The third location was a swampy area about a mile back. I had the best feeling about the swamp and the wind was right for that spot, so I hiked back. By about 4 pm I was up in my tree sitting in my hunting saddle.
The weather was not what you would call great whitetail weather. It was about fifty-two degrees and sunny. There wasn’t much of a wind. Though the conditions weren’t ideal, I was hoping to catch some late rutting activity still on this property. I was set up in a tree bordering a two-track. Beyond the makeshift road was the swamp which was surrounded by thick cover. Since it was still firearm season, I decided to hang back a bit and use the opportunity to glass a bit while waiting for any deer in the swamp to start moving. After an hour of nothing happening, I heard the unmistakable sound of leaves crunching at about 5 pm. Two does came out from the cover and crossed the easement road into the timber on the other side. I knew there was still one deer inside the cover that hadn’t crossed yet.
After about two minutes, the last deer walked into the trail. It was a decent 6 point buck. I would have passed on him on private land, but for public, I thought he was a decent deer. I raised my rifle and waited for him to finish stepping into the clearing. As he moved out of the cover, he stopped giving me a perfect broadside shot at about forty yards. Sighting through the scope, I put the crosshair on his shoulder and pulled the trigger. To my horror, the rifle made the unmistakable click sound of a dry fire. The buck, now a little unnerved, moved into the cover.
I slowly opened my bolt to see if a round was chambered and saw that one had been. As quietly as possible, I ejected it and loaded another. The buck was now moving between some pretty thick timber. I managed to get my crosshair back on him, but the shot was a bit obstructed and I was having trouble getting a good look. I increased my zoom and tried to sight him in again. Breathing heavy, I managed to fog up my scope. At this point, I decided to take some deep breaths and let that buck go. I knew it was possible that a larger buck could come out of the swamp next so I focused back in that direction.
While the last twenty minutes of shooting light came and went without any more buck sightings, I was in pretty good spirits about the whole thing. I did everything right in this situation. I made a good decision using a map. Hiking back, I set up in a good spot that ended up putting me on deer. Also, when a buck came into my shooting lane, I was ready and put myself in a position to make a good ethical shot. In this situation, luck intervened (on the deer’s behalf) and it was not meant to be. Perhaps God had a more important purpose for that deer. Maybe another hunter shot him that night. Whatever the case, I hunted well and I did not get the deer because of elements outside of my control. The ammo was new, the gun was working properly. The only thing I can surmise is that the Winchester 350 legend cartridge must have had a bad primer. I have heard of it happening but never experienced it myself.
All in all, it was a good hunt, with an unexpectedly poor outcome. At least I learned a little more about this property. Next time I’ll set up in the same spot, but maybe use different ammo.