'Buck down'


When I got up it was cloudy, and a light fog was hugging the ground. The wind was wrong for the stand that I wanted to hunt that morning, so I decided to sleep in and hunt another stand in the afternoon. I got dressed and ambled into the den, turned on the weather channel and stretched out on the couch. It seemed like I had just closed my eyes when my phone dinged.

It was Shannon at 7:17 a.m. asking on the group text, "Who all's hunting?" Then he texted "Or, who shot?" John Merkel answered immediately, "That was me. I missed." Shannon answered with a simple "OK," and my phone got quiet. But I had sat up by now and pulled on my boots.

After a few minutes, there was an unexpected text from John: "He was flailing around in circles, and so I couldn't walk around him to get another shot." It was now very evident that he had not missed! I got up, collected my keys and headed out the door. I texted back and asked, "What stand are you hunting, John." He answered "Guy Kirby." Then, "Buck down." I smiled a big, wide smile and answered, "Very good." He added, "The chufa patch one, not the swamp."

John was hunting one of Guy's stands on the powerline at the chufa patch. I got another text from him: "I have help." Attached was a picture of his 4-year-old son, Philip. "Gonna be a long drag out. I parked at the turnaround near your tripod." I answered, "I'm coming to help." Shannon also responded that he was coming to help.

The road that runs back to the powerline is in poor condition from all the rain we have had lately, but I knew it was passable. I texted him, "I can drive my truck to the stand." He answered, "It's pretty muddy, I can drag the deer as far as I need to." So, I answered, "I've got four-wheel drive, and Shannon has a four-wheeler."

Soon I was turning in on the road that leads back to the stand. When I turned the corner onto the powerline I could see John's son, Philip, standing beside the stand. John was walking up with a big smile on his face. A good buck was on the ground at the stand.

John told me that they had been running a little late, and by the time they got to the stand, it was already getting daylight. He and Philip climbed up and got settled in. Within minutes, John saw the buck walk out into the powerline to the east. The wind was coming down the powerline from that direction. The deer was about 125 yards away, and he was angling across toward the stand. John got his rifle up and found the buck in his scope. The deer stopped at the edge of the woods, and John took the shot. The deer disappeared, and he thought he had missed.

When he got down from the stand and walked down the powerline, he was surprised to see the deer flailing around on the ground. It was wet and swampy, and the buck was kicking up mud and water. He had to dodge the airborne mud and walk around the buck several times to get a clear finishing shot.

John hooked a strap to the buck and pulled him back to the stand. He would have pulled the deer all the way back to his truck but decided to wait for some help. Shannon drove up right behind me. We stood around and talked and listened to Philip tell about the hunt. His first hunt.

We loaded the buck onto my tailgate and took the muddy road back to John's truck. There we loaded the buck onto his truck. It was a good thing to share the experience, and eventually we reluctantly said our goodbyes. I left and headed home with the words "Buck down" on my mind.

Email Dan Geddings at cdgeddings@gmail.com.