Big Tennessee Whitetail:
Standing outside our break area, a huntin' buddy and I watched as the cool
northern wind pushed the American flag straight out from it's post. The forecast
called for wind and rain and for once it looked as if the weatherman was
actually going to be right.
This nightly break was hunting talk about 99 percent of the time and the two of
us fully knew that tonight would be no different. I immediately began to talk.
"Any wind but an east wind" I said as a light drizzle began to fall. I then
smiled and began going into passionate detail; painting my fellow hunter a
promising picture of how the deer was bedding to my west, how he would approach
and how the wind would actually work to my favor. I described to him every trail
and ridge within 500 yards of where I was hunting; the whole time him nodding
his head as if he knew exactly where I was talking about, but in reality he
didn't have a clue. With his hands on his hips, he grimaced and began to shake
his head. "I don't know Ward, I don't think you should hunt him in the mornin'"
he said. " With that wind and all, I just don't know." "Maybe your right David"
as I looked back up at the flag. "I'll probably give it a shot though".....
Working 2nd shift really screws a man's sleeping habits up. I normally get off
around midnight but this particular night, I stuck around until about 2 am.
After getting home, having a snack and catching the tail end of ESPN's
Sportscenter there would only be about an hour wait before it would be time to
get back up and go hunting. So, like I had done many times before, I just stayed
Stepping out onto the front porch, the wind continued to blow from the north.
The rain had tapered to a steady drizzle and had now provided me with a nice,
silent cushion to walk on in route to my stand. 30 minutes earlier than normal,
I walked off the porch, thru the yard and into the dark woods behind my house.
Walking very slow and deliberately, I took my own precious time. The stand was
close to 1/2 mile but even at this snails pace, I would easily arrive a good 30
minutes before daylight. Finally there, I tightly tied my gun to dangling line
and began my climb up the 16 foot ladder.
This particular stand is tightly nestled into a group of three trees. The
biggest tree which serves as a backrest is a huge elm. Two smaller popular trees
provide a nice safe, triangular pattern completely around me with just enough
room for my shooting bar to be extended. Several small nails have been driven
into the popular tree to my left to serve as a hanger, where I hang various
items such as grunt calls, binoculars, flashlights etc.
Slowly, the woods finally began to come to life. The chirping birds fluttered
from they're hidden nests and squirrels hopped along the forest floor in search
of friends and food. The rain continued to fall as I sat watching the woods for
the slightest hint of movement. The area I was hunting was kind of like a bowl.
One huge ridge up behind me, one huge ridge in front of me and one ridge on both
my left and right. The particular location of my stand was between a huge cedar
thicket and an open hardwood. The area was tore up with huge scrapes and rubs on
trees the size of softballs. From where I sat, I could smell the odor emitting
from the bucks scrapes. My visibility was limited to about 100 yards max but the
set-up was ideal to catch deer moving from the thicket into the bigger woods.
About 7 a.m. I had not seen any deer and decided to give a few short grunts. I
was watching an area of really thick cedars where I expected him to come from
but suddenly, I caught movement out of my right eye. I cut my eyes, not moving
my head, and seen this monster standing about 20 yards away. Cutting my eyes
even further, I can see another deer almost BEHIND me at about 5 to 10 yards and
the big buck is looking thru me at this other deer. My wind was right but now I
have a deer behind me which is BAD.... About the time I started worrying about
the deer behind me, the big one took off walking right across in front of me. I
still had not moved a muscle at this point but I had to make a decision fast. If
I move, will the deer behind me see me move ? Watching the deer slowly walk
across in front of me, he approached an old dead tree that would separate the
two of us. I told myself, "when he walks behind that tree, I'm pulling my gun
up". He reached the dead tree and when he went behind it, I pulled my gun up,
steadied it on my rest aiming right on the other side of the tree where he was
to walk out. Believe it or not, he didn't STOP like most bucks do and walked
right in to my crosshairs at 50 yards. BOOM......... TKO The deer was dead
before he ever hit the ground and as soon as he fell, I looked up into the sky,
pointing up... I said " thank you Lord and thank you daddy..." For my dad, had
just died 3 months before.
I look back on this hunt and it brings back all of the many things that my
father taught me about hunting. How he took me by the hand as a child, leading
me thru the woods, pointing out different things about the weather, the land and
animals. I think about how he taught me to be patient and enjoy the woods, not
to be afraid of them. He taught me how to make spur of the moment decisions;
more often than not, the correct ones. Memories.......... they'll last a
The deer was a 9 point that scored 147 B&C and weighed 168 lbs. field dressed.
Anthony Ward - Author