Thursday, December 5, 2013

ol' gnarly

If you follow me on Instagram, then you might remember a certain photo I posted on Thanksgiving night. Now, I have never had very good luck deer hunting when it comes to big bucks. I have seen plenty of moderately-sized bucks, but never really had one stop me and make me say "wow." Ya know what I mean? I know there aren't too many really big bucks around the Lowcountry, so it doesn't surprise me all that much. But after so many years of deer hunting? Come on!

Well... As it turns out, John's dad (and about 10 others) had been watching this guy on the trail cams for a while now, affectionately naming him "Ol' Gnarly."

Not so much "gnarly," per se, since that's still a pretty rack, but more abnormal. But that is a fun name, isn't it? This guy had a normal rack with 4 points on his left side, while the right side had only a brow tine and a main beam that jutted straight up towards the sky, rather than out and forward. Now, I know there are all sorts of hot discussions (read: arguments) about culling bucks, and under exactly what circumstances a buck should be deemed a "cull buck." Exactly what causes the rack to develop as such? Genetics? Injury? Will the genetics of it have an impact on the antlers of those bucks born to the herd? These are all fantastic questions, and ones to which I don't know the answers. But, what I can tell you, is that we have a younger buck on camera with literally this exact same rack, only smaller. I have read plenty of times that most antler traits are quite heritable, so are we seeing his son? I think we all would agree that the likelihood of that being pure coincidence is pretty small. I'd say it would be OK to take this guy out, or else we might be seeing more lopsided bucks around.

Wait, wait, wait. I am getting off track. Did you notice I kept using the past tense when referring to this big guy? That's because...

Holy moly! I got in the stand not expecting to see very much, hoping that I wouldn't fall asleep after eating our Thanksgiving Day meal. We had talked about this buck earlier in the day, and I was under the instructions to shoot him if I saw him. Well isn't that usually the kiss of death? It never fails that when I talk about hunting success, I get skunked. So, that's what I was anticipating! Off with church clothes, on with the camo...

 I parked the 4-wheeler, and strolled to the stand, passing the scene of the crime on my way. :)

Isn't it great? Then it was on to the stand, where I sat. And sat. And heard squirrels. And sat.

Oh, hi. With an open field in front of me, and thick woods behind me, I knew my best chance of seeing/shooting something was out front. After a while, two does came out to my left and started feeding, meandering around the field and giving me something at least a little more exciting to watch. With one doe in the freezer already, I really didn't want to shoot just anything. Just in case.

As it turns out, my patients paid off. After watching the does scamper back into the woods where the came from, I turned to face forward again and HOLY MOLY WHAT IS THAT? That was my thought process as I got a eye-full of deer and antler looking out from across the field. Something in my brain knew it was Ol' Gnarly before I even got my rifle up to look through the scope. I just knew it. He must have been watching the two does like I was, but I have no idea how long he had been standing there. Needless to say, I didn't waste time. Rifle - up. Scope - focused. Safety - off. Click. Booooom. He dropped where he was standing. Because he was essentially facing directly towards me, I knew my margin of error had to be small - I'd either smoke him, or miss him completely. I guess I don't need to sight my rifle in, huh?

John heard me shoot, and after about 5 minutes couldn't stand it anymore, so he raced over to where I had been sitting. I was apparently doing a little dance on the trail in - not excited at all. Hah!

Neck shots bleed a lot, by the way. A whole lot. This guy, despite his mismatched antlers, measured 19.5" inside, and weighed in at just over 170 lbs. Yowzas! Not sure what he would have offically scored, but I'll take it. Definitely the best buck I have seen or killed in my time deer hunting. 

 Ps - my lion's mane of hair is covering at least one tine in at least half of my pictures. Humid in November, much, South Carolina?

Can you imagine what he'd look like if that right side matched the left? Ouch.

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