Not sure how many of you have ever experienced this but had a strange experience Wednesday morning. That morning, my little 6 year old was out of school so I was going to take her down to her Aunts for the day to spend with her cousins. As with every morning during hunting season, I got up and set on the deck to see what was running around out on our property. We had a serious EHD die off in our whitetails this year in combo with Blue Tongue. From what we are now seeing, looks like around a 75% kill off overall but the really sad news is that we had around a 90% die off on mature bucks this summer.
Last fall at the end of hunting season and through early winter, I had seen 8 different 3 year old bucks, four 4 year old bucks and one 5 year old that had made it through the hunting season. I had HIGH hopes for the 2013 whitetail hunting season. Then the die off of 2013 started this summer and from early July until September, I only saw one buck on the place. A nice 4x5, 4 year old but with the die off, my only goal was to hopefully see him live through the season.
As hunting season started and we got into November with some cold spells, we did start to see a decent number of young bucks, those being two year olds or younger. No mature bucks though(4 year old or older). Still, it was good to see that we would have a 2-3 year wait to get some mature bucks back instead of 4-5 year drought. It had also been over 2 months since I had seen the mature 4x5 so I feared he had met the same fate as most of the other mature bucks in our area.
I had pretty much reserved myself to eating my deer tag unless I happened to run into a good mature buck somewhere else. This brings us back to Wednesday morning. We are currently right in the middle of the whitetail rut. As I was sitting watching our horse pasture and prairie grass flat beyond that where the whitetails often run does during the rut, there were 5-6 does and fawns milling around. As the sun broke the horizon, I decided I better get in and get my little one ready to go to see her cousins. I did and just as we were getting ready to head out the door, I looked out saw three deer running across the flat. Now, this time of year, that usually means one thing, a doe being chased by bucks. Grabbed the binos and sure enough, there was a mature doe being chased by a nice 5x5 3 year old and a 3x3 two year old. The 5x5 was a very solid but young buck, in a couple years he will be a hell of a shooter. This alone made me very happy to see!!!
I got on the spotter to check him out a bit better and after looking him over well, I swung the spotter to the right edge of our property to a large clump of buck brush where the deer like to hang around as a wind break. To my surprise, there stood a heavy, dark horned buck. He was simply beautiful with the dark buck brush backgrounding him showing off his white antler tips. He was 2 inches out side of his ears. Great mainbeam mass and his tines also carried his mass very high. My first impression was that he was at least a 5 year old buck. As I watched him, he turned broadside and it was clear this was a mature deer, easily over 4 year old and likely 5 as I had thought. I figured his rack was at least in the mid 140s. For this area, that's a damn fine buck. Still, I never even thought about getting on a rifle to shoot him, I was just tickled pink to see a mature 5x5 deer running on the property again!!
I watched him and finally he broke out onto the flat. Was thinking he was going to lay the hammer on the younger bucks chasing that hot doe and that was certainly his intention. Still, when he got up close to the 3 year old, he was easily 4" shorter at the shoulder then the young buck. Almost could not believe what I was seeing. He did run these two younger bucks off quite easily but it was obvious this was an extremely small buck as far as body size. When he got up to the doe, she was larger then this old buck. Not dramatically larger but it was clear she was bigger bodied. As they ran around on the flat, they came across two of this years fawns. It was odd to see a buck with this kind of antler mass and body structure look so small compared to fawns. This is when I started to wonder if this was a buck that I wanted in the gene pool around our property. He was obviously a mature buck and that is my standard for choosing a buck to shoot. They have to be at least 4 years old, the older the better. Antler score is great but its not the determining factor for me to shoot a buck. I am a sucker for antler mass and this buck had that.
I then realized if I wanted to take this buck I better stop watching and start doing!!! Ran down and grabbed my old green rifle which is now a 300 Allen Xpress having replaced the 7mm AM barrel that it had so long worn.
Got set up and ranged the buck at 415 yards. The hold over for this range was only 0.25 mil. The buck turned broad side, there was no wind on this 14 degree morning. At the bark of the 300, the 200 gr Accubond tripping along at 3450 fps clearly punched the buck through the chest and kicked up dust 30 yards past the buck. He dropped his head and ran flat out for 50-60 yards and then took a tumble.
For expecting to eat my deer tag this year, I was very happy with the morning!!! My little girl was even more excited. Her first comment was, "You got him Daddy!! Now lets go TRACK him down!!" That involved getting her bundled up and driving out to him in the truck!!!
To her though, a real adventure for sure.
We had to do some meandering to get around a few irrigation ditches but made our way out to the buck. I was very happy when we saw his antler hanging up in the air. We got out and when we walked to the buck, it was clear that my impression of the buck was dead on. He was very small in body size. It was clear that the bucks antlers would not score a lot but that was not important. He was a very mature deer. Looking at his lower teeth, he was easily 5 years old. Good shot, had my little girl with me to experience the second buck taken off our place since we bought it and was able to take a great mature buck out of the gene pool which was clearly needed. Especially this year when very few bucks would be breeding the remaining does that made it through the die off.
The buck was simply about 2/3 scale of our normal deer of this age. You can see in the above picture that my rifle is longer then this buck is from nose to tail and this rifle only has a 26" barrel length on it. Most of our 5 year old whitetails will be around or slightly over 200 lbs live weight. Some will be WELL over this but most are around 200 lbs at this age and older. This buck, was lucky to be 130-140 lbs. The buck I harvested last year, we called him Bobtail, was a solid 200 lb buck. Again, this was what I would call a dwarf deer and was glad to have taken him out of the gene pool.
The antlers were right on par with the body size of this animal for a 5 year old buck. Base measurements were both right at 4 6/8", very respectable. His second and third circumference measurements were all between 4 0/8" and 4 2/8" so very good mass for this scaled down buck. His main beams, even though they reached out to the tip of his nose, a good standard for a mature buck, measured only 18" and 19" respectively!!! Our local whitetails will usually have an ear tip spread of around 16-17". This bucks ear tip spread was around 13.5"!!!! Again, everything was just about 2/3 scale on this buck.
Overall score was only 131" B&C but again, that's an unimportant number in my opinion. Still compared to his body size, his antler score is actually pretty impressive in my opinion. Had I seen this deer all by himself I would have guessed him at 142 to 145" on the hoof. Had I shot in in that situation, I really would have been surprised when I walked up to him. Luckily I was able to really compare him to other deer before shooting him and knew what he was before I took the shot. Because of this, I was not surprised at all when I got to him and can definitely say I was in NO WAY disappointed with him. In this very strange year, he was a great buck to harvest out of the gene pool and a very solid, mature buck on top of that, just a compact little tank!!!
I have seen one other of these "Dwarf" bucks that I took back in 2002. Rattled him in some very thick river bottom timber and took a quick shot at him after seeing heavy bases and long eyeguards. Turned out to be the same thing but I was very surpised that time. This time no surpises and very happy with the season, especially for not expecting to harvest anything. The 300 Allen Xpress picked up where my old reliable 7mm Allen Magnum let off. This builds the talley to 31 for big game animals taken with this rifle at ranges over 400 yards. Bullet performance could not have been better. The Accubond made a 1.5" exit wound on the offside of the rib cage after clipping a rim on entrance. Took out both lungs and ended things very quickly. All in all, very lucky to have taken the buck and very happy. Just very odd seeing a buck of this age being such a small stature buck. Will look good on the all though and a great conversation piece. Best of all, my best little friend was able to be with me. That truly made it a great morning!!!
Hope everyone else had a great Thanksgiving day and good safe hunting season with family and friends, not time to get back in the shop and hit things hard until next year. Lots of over due rifles to get out to you very patient friends!!!