“More Bang for Your Buck”

It was November and the week before Thanksgiving so the timing was right for grunting & rattling in a buck, as it was pre-rut in our area with rut just at the doorstep. I had staked out a place where I knew that the bucks would be coming through, hopefully the next morning. I spent some time that afternoon clearing the spot I had chosen of leaves & sticks and made a makeshift ground blind out of roll out camo material and branches for the next morning. I checked for shooting lanes out from behind the blind and did what minimal trimming was necessary. It was a perfect location 12 yards from a trail which was along a rub line. It was between a bedding area and the field below the ridge was a prime feeding area. There were also some major scrapes within 100 yards of this spot on trails leading into it. The area was what I would describe as a funnel; partially secluded by large trees yet on the inside edge of a tree line in an area that did not have dense undergrowth. The outside edge of this tree line was a known staging area for bucks. Through the years I had heard bucks up fighting on this ridge. The trail I would be off of ran up against and along a ridge, giving my silhouette a prefect way to be hidden in the shadows and out away from the north wind.

The next morning in darkness I carefully sneaked into my spot from the backside of the ridge and made myself as comfortable as possible, as I waited for first light. The weather had everything covered in frost and the air was cold and damp. I could see my breath and tell that the wind was blowing my sent in a direction that would not be detected, as the ridge created somewhat of a barrier from the northwest wind. I remained as still as possible until the sun began to rise. I then strapped on my release, got my bow and arrow ready and began my first attempt to see what handsome buck in the neighborhood might be curious enough to come into my call. I did 3 doe bleats each about a minute apart and then stopped for 10 minutes. Then I did a couple soft, non-threatening buck grunts. I waited another 10 minutes and decided to do a different type of buck grunt, using 2 different grunt calls and both with a louder tone. I was planning to start rattling next if that got no action, but no sooner than that thought entered my head than it went right out the window, as I was in for a surprise. From nowhere it seemed, 2 huge mature bucks were instantly in front of me where there had just been nothing but air, trees and low brush a second ago. I did not even see them coming nor hear the slightest twig snap.

These two giants (each no less than a 10 point or 5x5 what ever you prefer to say) rushed straight in at each other, directly in front of me as I knelt there on both knees inside my blind. They were about 2-3 yards (6-9 feet) away from me and I had no time to react or do anything. The fight was intense and about equally matched. I would guess the age of each of them to have been about 5 ½ or 6 ½ year olds based on their body mass. The buck that came in from my left hit the one that came in from the right first, and with such force that it created a tail spin on the buck he hit. In their violent struggle each of them began to whip their bodies (like a bass does on a hook when you are trying to pull it out of the water) as they were locked together. The buck that began dominating the fight pushed the other one into a dense up growth of briars and ground him into it. Then he got him down and began to push his head and neck into the ground with his upper body at his mercy, with the similar sentiment we have when smashing a pop can with our foot. The other buck did not give up though, struggling with his back legs to regain himself. They lost their horn lock in this struggle, but when the other one managed to get up they went at it again. This time the one I thought was weaker, gouged the other in the neck and head with his horns and pushed the other one into a tree. Then they hit and locked horns again, this time one pushing the other back almost into me. Now I had a full rear end view of one of them within 2 feet of the end of my arm if I had it stretched out. UP to this point this was the only clear shot that ever presented itself. I guess if I would have brought some brass with me I would have reached out and poked him in the rear just to see his reaction, but I left my brass home that day. They struggled and twisted that close to me for what seemed like more than a minute. One more step backward or lost footing would mean I was going to get stomped or rolled on. The whole time I was terrified that one or both of them could end up on top of me and I had no where to go to get out of their way. Then their bodies turned again simultaneously, almost in a midair rolling motion. Now one of them decided he had enough and started to pull away from the other, running backwards in full reverse trying to get away, as he whipped his head to pull his horns out. One free he turned and ran to my left, with the winner in pursuit. The fight seemed to be over having lasted I would guess no more than 3-4 minutes.  

Even if I could there was no way to get my bow up to take aim at anything during the fight, as the only shot that ever presented itself for more than a few seconds was the rear end shot. But with a bow there was no way I could have pulled it back without almost touching the buck’s rear end with the end of my broadhead.  This reminds me of a saying from an old western “Never bring a knife to a gun fight”. In this case it would have been better to have had a gun, as I could have placed a shot in the head of one of the bucks, but then again how ethical is that really considering “Fair Chase” if both bucks were locked together?

As the victor was chasing the other buck off I now had a chance to get my bow and was trying to knock an arrow, not sure of what would happen next. I heard him as he made an unusual grunting sound, which made me look up in that direction. When I did I saw the buck as he came rushing straight back toward me from about 20-25 yards away. I lost focus at knocking my arrow, as I think my heart stopped beating at that moment. He had sensed that I was there during the fight maybe, or had heard me as I was picking up my bow and came back to decide if I was a threat or not. Within a fraction of a second he was in front of me, and stop just short of about 3 feet. He stood there almost panting and I could smell his steamy breath from that distance. The only reaction I had time for was to put my bow in front of me and not make eye contact, as he stood only for a few terrifying seconds studying me and then he quickly vanished. This was one experience I will never forget. Did I ever get more bang for my buck that day! I learned many lessons from this that day; that I needed to consider a way out in the future for my own safety, that the sequence I used with my calling was perfect and that the length of the fight does not have to last long to be effective when trying to imitate a fight with rattling horns. The other thing I was able to confirm, which is my constant prayer, is that God was along side me in the woods that day.


© February 2008