Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Biggest Hog Ever (for me)

Hunting hogs is relaxing after the intensity of a deer hunting season.  Playing the whitetail games considering all the variables of the rut, weather, moon phase, cold fronts, etc. and staying focused on determining the antlers of bucks in the near darkness when they appear, in order to determine if they are new or ones I had seen before, walking around with eyes in the back of my head, starting late and staying until absolute last light, trying to determine if the buck in front of me at the time is the biggest I'll see this season begins to 'wear' on me (if you can call this stress - haha).

But this day after the season had closed,  I was hog hunting - totally relaxed, leaning into it but feeling no pressure, in the spirit of win/win - if I did not shoot one, I would have time to do my 'chores' the things that are always demanding attention on a ranch, and if I did shoot one - I'd get a pig!

...As the sun began to act like it was about to start to come up, I could make out a single pig among the deer.  It was a small pig and I was uninterested so early in the hunt.  I chose to bide my time and observe.  The pig began to move off as the sun lightened the field ever so slightly and I reconsidered again - should I take it?  "No" I thought - it was too early in the hunt and anything could happen.  This was not a big pig and I would wait.

After an hour had passed, I still had animals in front of me but none were pigs.  Then, from the left, the pig that had walked off, reentered.  "This is my sign" I thought.  I knew the end of the morning hunt was near as the light grew brighter, so I trained my scope on the pig, waiting for a clear shot between the deer.  He turned to face an area deer had trotted away from, was clear, and perfectly broadside.  I know that he could decide to leave in a hurry for a reason that only pigs understand and decided to take him.  I willed the rifle to shoot and as I was absorbing the recoil and subconsciously working the bolt, the biggest pig I had ever seen was running across the meadow in front of me - at least 100 miles an hour.  As I the rifle came back down and the bolt closed on a second cartridge, I placed the crosshairs on his chest as I swung the rifle and waited for him to clear a group of trees.  As he came out from the trees, I squeezed the trigger maintaining my swing, worked the bolt and began looking for a second opportunity at him.  He passed into the brush but seemed to be moving slower than he should have been.  The shot felt good. 
I knew I had taken a risky shot.  "Where did he come from?" I thought, as he did not come into view until I shot the first pig.  Familiarity with my rifle and confidence in the .35 caliber enabled me to take the shot.  I hoped I would not regret it.  I knew this could become a dangerous situation if he was poorly hit.  I was hunting alone and had to track him through some thick brush.  The big tusks had gotten my attention and the sheer size of him was a little intimidating.  I purposely stalled, deciding instead to replay the shot many times in my head, and determine where exactly he entered the brush while I finished my thermos of coffee, giving the bullet plenty of time to do its work. 
Too soon, the coffee was gone and there was nothing to do but go after him.  I validated the smaller pig had expired and began looking along the brush line where I thought he ran...nope nothing here.  "Hmmm, I really feel like I hit him" ran through my mind.  I slowed my pace, and started over, looking down several trails in the vicinity.  Finally, 30 minutes later I found a drop of blood atop a rock diluted with dew that looked like cherry koolaid - proof positive the bullet had hit him.    Carefully, with a renew focus, I searched the vicinity - another 3 or 4 feet down the trail, some grass blades has been brushed with blood 5 inches up from the ground.  I tracked his trail, painstakingly another 45 minutes for about as many yards and the trail led to an oak motte, in the middle of which was a crimson drop of blood on the oak leaves in a spot central to 3 exit trails out of the brush.  I brushed aside the cedar and crept into the oak motte, a little concerned about my posture and proximity to the hog.  I knew I would be unable to react swiftly crouched down and I knew I would be very close - too close in event he was wounded and mad and decided he wanted revenge.
I took the first trail to the left, looking for sign - nothing.  I quickly decided it would be better to get out of the brush and look around the edges for signs he exited the dense underbrush.  I check the center exit trail and the right-most exit trail - nothing.  It was as if he crawled up a tree. 

I crouched down and studied the dense brush for sign.  I entered partway, pushing back branches to open new views beneath the understory.  Nothing.  I entered the brush in an area I could stand almost straight up - nothing.  Perplexed, I turned around and at my feet he lay.  Was I ever glad he was dead.  He was huge.

My Biggest Hog at the Time

Pig hunting is fun - the field is wide limits, no rules, no worries, no pressure.   A game animal that tastes good, keeps hunting skills in top form, requires some planning and thought, and demands marksmanship. 

I had laboriously spread 25 pounds of apple-scented shelled corn across a meadow the night I pulled in to the ranch.  The next morning I got up at 4:45, wolfed down my standard oatmeal breakfast and filled my coffee thermos.  I grabbed my backpack filled with another 25 pounds of corn and headed to my spot in the predawn darkness.  As I spread the corn as quietly as I could, I noticed the corn from the night before was gone and a mist was moving in, both good signs for pig hunting.  I kept the corn within 100 yards of the blind in event the mist turned into a thick fog. 

As I sat in the blind sipping my coffee, I contemplated the possibility of a thick fog, having seen this before, sometimes lasting until 10 or 11 in the morning.  Animals were moving around - dark shadows at this point.  I closed my eyes and savored the coffee.   Few things compare with having a full day ahead to hunt, a thermos full of strong, black coffee and strong prospects for success. 

I was startled from the peacefulness by hooves pounding the earth in the quietness of the early morning.  The sun was trying to shine through the fog with little success, as the day was growing almost imperceptibly lighter.  I lifted my binoculars and saw a calico hog with tusks curling out the side of this mouth...he was very much in the open, but shrouded - almost invisible, in the thick fog at this distance.  I eased my rifle up, knowing that any sound would end the hunt - hogs this large are unusually wary, and never second-guess any suspicion but simply vacate immediately - sometimes they leave 'pronto' for no reason - so I knew enough to know the time was now.  I trained the crosshairs on its shoulder, waiting for him to turn slightly as he seemed almost a mirage in the fog.  It came together quickly and the gun jumped as it barked.  As I recovered from the recoil, the fog enveloped his absence and it was as if I was shooting a ghost.  I tried hard to mentally mark where the hog was, but the fog played havoc with my depth perception. 

Another 20 minutes passed and animals began coming in again as it grew lighter as the fog had not lifted and I decided to stay put, enjoying the hunt, a little uneasy at not knowing exactly where my hog was.  Some deer milled around when suddenly, their heads all came up at the same time, focused on something approaching.  Glancing over, I noticed three hogs coming in - all about the same size and coloration - small calico pigs.  Having already shot a pig, (or at least at a much bigger pig) I relished in the prospect of having a bonus shot this morning.  I set my rifle up for a shot and watched the pigs push the deer around as they continually trotted back and forth.  Finally they settled a bit and I waited for two of them to align their shoulders broadside.  As two pigs walked towards each other, I timed their steps so the bullet would be on its way when they passed, putting the point of aim slightly behind the ribs on the nearside pig so the bullet would penetrate it, and pass into the far pig.  At the shot, there was immediately squealing and the each pig ran the way it faced - 180 degrees away from each other, one off to the right and one off to the left.  As I worked the bolt, I stayed on the pig that was on the far side and running towards the left - just as I was to shoot again, the pig fell over.  As I glanced towards the other pig, it had run into the brush and I could not see it.  "Hmmmm", I thought, "could be quite a day in store from a cleanup perspective".

I walked over to pig in plain sight and confirmed it had expired. 

Eager to find the larger pig shot in the fog, I walked to where I thought he was, looking for sign...I immediately saw lots of blood and a trail in the direction he ran - the same direction as the other pig I had taken with the 'double' shot. Following this trail was easy, as it resembled someone had spilled a bucket of red paint along the way.  It led directly to the other small pig, still as stone.

 Ok, the two easiest down, I had the big one to go. Tracking back to point of origin, walking down various paths, looking for hoofprints, blood spots, any sign, I found exactly nothing.  Again and again.  Forty-five minutes later, the sun was starting to warm the air and I felt an urgency to get the meat off the pigs before it warmed more.  Reluctantly, I took a break in locating the larger pig and began the chore of harvesting the pork from the two pigs.

As I finished up the last pig, I began replaying the shot I made in the fog - I was sort of in a trance trying to remember the details, walking without being aware of where I was stepping - when I walked directly into the large hog, as he blended perfectly with the patch of rocks and grass of where he had fallen - not more than 50 yards from where I shot him.  "Wow" I thought "what great luck". 

I tried to backtrack him, and found no mark on the ground indicating he had passed - the bullet did not penetrate and, even though it was a .35 caliber, I could find no sign that blood exited the entry hole.  Hogs can carry away some lead.  What a lucky day.

A New Year's Hunt

Sometimes surprises are good.  As I was catching up on some ranch chores and trying to track down a hog to shoot, I decided to relax my hunting style.  No more trying to be super-quiet, I allowed my self to run the chainsaw, clank the dishes at camp, move the truck around, etc.  Early in the morning I had taken a small hog with my .44 pistol, butchered it where it laid, taken the meat up to the cabin tand put it in the ice chest.  I had a relaxing cup of coffee, enjoying the view and reliving the hunt.  It had been a good hunt.  I had taken the hog at 16 steps using an iron-sighted M29 with a clean shot, as the sun grew in its intensity, signaling the near end of the morning hunt. 
Now it was time to retrieve the carcass and move it to another location before it attracted scavengers and  smelled up my hunting site.  As I drove the truck towards the pig, I was thinking about my planned activities for the day: chainsawing some cedar bushes to clear an area, moving a feeder and setting up a new blind.  I always carry a loaded rifle with me in the truck and I was listening to some bluegrass medley as I was pulling into the hunting area.  Always expecting animals to be around, I spotted a herd of sheep under the feeder and another herd near a salt block.  Now, these aren't the type of docile sheep that you walk up to and pet - but sheep that are on full alert after a hunting season of hunters shooting into them.  Quietly, I took my rifle and slipped towards the sheep, scanning the bodies for a large set of horns...many animals were behind tree limbs where I could only see parts of the animals. Others had their heads down, while every now and then one would raise their head...lots of ewes a couple of small rams, probably 20 or so total.  I really didn't expect to see anything worth shooting, but was fully focused on the possibility.  Just then, a large set of horns came up and looked directly at me and put panic in the herd as it raced away.  I had friends who had taken silver- and bronze-class trophies and this one was bigger then both of those.  My scope followed the large ram and struggled to get a clear shot, as it was surrounded by sheep - all running.  As it began to outdistance the herd and was only a few yards from the treeline, my trigger finger engaged, threading the bullet between its back rear leg and it rearmost rib, channeling a path towards its front left shoulder, as it was quartering to the right.  It slowed and the herd caught up to it, keeping me from putting the a second bullet into it.  As I watched and ran towards it, it quickly grew sick fell on its side.  By the time I approached it, it had expired.  I could not take my eyes off it, caressing the horns, admiring the regal presence it has, unable to break my stare.

A Fine Texas Dall ram.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Opening Day

A number of years ago, I received a call prior to the season opener inviting me up for a hunt in San Saba county.  It was a place I knew and admired - around 700 acres, numerous deer, hogs, wild goats, turkeys and varmints with a tank full of catfish.  I'm not sure I've ever hunted a better place.  As there was another section of land available much more open with less brush, everyone else on the lease elected to hunt there opening morning which gave me this whole place for myself.  Wow.  With no one else on the property, I decided to still hunt through the cedars and live oaks.  I made my way through the gate before daylight and parked the truck up on the ridge just inside  I grabbed my binoculars and rifle, chambered a cartridge, and began hunting towards the tank. 

Opening morning brings a freshness of energy, a newness to life, anticipation of opportunities and a freedom from the trappings of modern-day living.  It's you and the earth...and the prey.  This day I wanted to simply enjoy the experience of watching the sun rise as I became one with the environment, watching the animals move about as if I were one of them.  Through an opening in the brush, I watched the ducks dapple on the pond in the distance.  Within a few yards a cottontail busily chewed some grass, watching me with curiosity, unafraid.  I donned my bandanna to hide the whiteness of my face, pulled on my chocolate-brown cotton gloves to cover my hands and began slipping through the brush, standing still and looking around for 5 minutes for every 45 seconds I spent moving towards the tank. As the sun rose, it peaked over my shoulder and I stayed close to cedar limbs to break my outline.  Twenty yards ahead a doe stepped into an opening quartering to the right away from me, completely unaware.  She looked hard right and I froze, then she looked left and began heading directly away from me.  I quickly dropped to a knee, bringing my rifle up as antlers began coming behind the top of the cedar bush the doe had stepped out from.  The buck's stopped with his head and neck extending beyond and his body covered by the cedar bush as my heart began drumming in my ears.  The buck looked to my right and then straight at me...I didn't move.  He looked away, took one step and looked back at me.  That one step put his vitals in the open and I took the shot.  At the recoil, he ran where he was looking - towards me.  I stood as I worked the bolt and shot him from the hip less than 3 yards away, which slammed him to the ground, dead on his feet.  Then I got the shakes...

I don't believe he was charging me, but simply running in the direction he was facing as his body instinctively responded to the impact.  He was an 8-pointer with long times and a 15 1/2 inch spread.  It all happened in less than two minutes from when I saw the doe step out.  And  all I was really looking for was an early morning walk.  I field-dressed the buck, all the time fully appreciating taking an animal of this caliber without doing any scouting or field work ahead of time - this buck was better than average for the area.  As I made my way to the truck feeling blessed and relaxed,  I stumbled onto another buck of the same caliber.  Not wanting to tag out both my bucks on opening morning, I decided to save this one for another day...I never saw him or a buck as big as this one again during that season, but it gave me something to look forward to throughout the season.

Starting off the New Year Right

A previous year,  New Year's day fell on a Wednesday.  Hmmm, what to do with only one day off in the middle of the week?

The wheels began turning in my head.  I had been hunting a better-than-average buck in the hill country 2 1/2 hours away.  Let's see - I could get there around 8 pm Tuesday night, get up at the break of dawn, hunt until dark, and be home around 9 was a no-brainer, I went after him.   The buck I pursued was special...he was big-bodied, with dark antlers, 'the boss' of his world and more elusive than the others...I had seen him only once before - in the rain across a raging creek that was impassable, as he raked a bush with his antlers.  It was all I could do to not shoot him - as he was in range and unaware I was around; and I knew from experience I may never see him in the scope again.  At that point, I decided it was him or nothing.  A hunt for a specific animal is a very different kind of hunt than for any representative animal.  It's personal.

New Year's Eve I arrived at the cabin in the dark on a cold night, quickly laid out my gear for the next day, checked my rifle and equipment and was soon on the bed in my sleeping bag.  It was so cold, I laid the bag over my head, creating a small breathing hole through the covers.  Sometime, deep in the night, I heard scratching on the wood floor, then felt a weight on the bed until it moved up on top of my head.  A Rat! I ripped off the covers, slamming the rat against a wall, heard the thud against the floor and it scurrying away into the darkness.  The things you gotta do to kill a deer!

I was up before dawn fixing my coffee and oatmeal, turning over the options in my head for the day's hunt, trying to decide the best place to be, considering the wind and angle of the rising sun on the landscape. This would be my last opportunity to hunt him for the season.  My plan that morning allowed several opportunities for nice hill country bucks, but my buck was a no-show.

That evening, I decided to hunt from a new spot from within a thin brushline near a dry creek bed, with different views of the property.  I setup in some agarita brush with my folding camo chair and created an opening I could move my rifle freely within.  I settled down after a few position-checks, where I shouldered the rifle in various directions and created rests in event a shot presented itself.  I reaffirmed to myself that I would holdout for this one buck, as I had a long drive before having to go to work the following day, and no other deer would be worth the effort, at this point.

The evening was beautiful, partly cloudy, cool with a slight wind and the deer came out to enjoy the weather.  Several smaller bucks and lots of does moved back and forth through openings in the brush and the exposed pasture, not uncommon in Mason county, where sightings of  40-50 deer during one hunt are common.  I felt great and began to accept that the big one got away again for another year, yet reveled in my last deer hunt of the season, taking in the orangish sunset, the smell of the country air, the feeling of the coolness beginning to cover the ground and hoping I could contain these memories until next fall's deer season.  I came out of my trance when some deer appeared at the top of the ridge running.  There was almost no daylight left.  I scoped the deer and found my buck chasing a doe and began swinging the rifle to the right trying to gauge the speed and distance.  Suddenly, the scope had brush encroaching on the right side of the view and I squeezed the trigger.  The shot seemed horribly loud and foreign in the peaceful world of the sunset.  Muzzle glare stole my night vision momentarily.  I made a mental note of exactly where the buck was when I squeezed off the shot to keep from becoming disoriented in the darkness, as I would have to walk 300 yards to where he was.  I could see no movement on the hillside - it was too dark to see deer through the pockets of brush - then a flash of white caught my eye 40 yards to the right of where I was focusing.  I wondered what that could be.  I stood.  I closed my eyes and replayed the shot - memorizing the last image of the sight picture - it looked good.  Again, I took notice of the exact spot the buck was last seen on the ridge.  I hung a tissue on a bush about head high where I was for a marker, and began walking toward the ridge.  Quickly, I was where the buck was last seen when blood, nothing out of place.  Hmmm...I knew I had to to slow down, take my time and refocus on looking for sign.  I was becoming distracted by my work schedule and the pressing need to get back home.

It was cold and dark here.  I was alone.  Maybe I missed?  But no, the sight picture in my head said 'no, it was a good shot.'  I tagged the bush he had disappeared in with tissue and began walking in small circles around the bush, looking for anything out of place and especially looking for blood...and found nothing.  I walked in larger circles, becoming more desperate, and it was beginning to appear that I had missed. It was a long shot, the buck was running, the light was bad.  "Well, maybe the rifle is off", I thought to myself, making a note to check it at the range when I could.  Then I remembered the flash of white I had seen - it was a quick flash about 40 yards distant in the center of the brush.  I went back to the spot I had shot from,  and using my binoculars, I found the tissue on the bush where the buck was last seen.  Based on memory, I marked where I had seen the white flash and mentally noted an odd-shaped bush where the flash was.  Every 20 yards or so in the darkness, I would look through my binoculars to ensure I was heading in the right direction, finding the tissue marking where the buck was last and finding the odd-shaped bush near where the white flash appeared.  Finally I was at the odd-shaped bush and noted nothing unusual.  My flashlight was the only source of light now with its meager range, as the sun had fully set.

I marked the odd-shaped bush with a tissue and began walking circles around it.  Within 10 yards I found my buck - dead - gut shot. I field-dressed it on the spot and admired the heavy-bodied 8-pointer with a 16-inch spread. What a beauty!  I marked a bush by the buck, and headed to camp to get the truck.  I got the truck stuck in a small creek bed going to pick him up in the pasture but finally broke free, found my way to the deer, loaded it and hauled it to a processor.  What a great way to end the season!

I got lucky on this one in several ways, but persistence carried me to the place where luck took over.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Ideal Hog Rifle

This is something I have been working on for some time...hogs are always available for sport in night, with lights, using bait, anyway you want to kill a hog, you can, in Texas.  This is a golden opportunity - a world where you can hunt anytime, in anyway you would like, with no limits, no tags, no restrictions and knowing that when you take a shot, you will be improving the habitat as hogs are overpopulated and destructive.  Other benefits include them being the 'other white meat' as well as being challenging to hunt, with a hint of danger.  An unending supply of fun awaits.  My hunting experience usually finds me within 100 yards of hogs with them moving endlessly, in sub-optimum  light, before disappearing.  If you could pick your ideal hog gun, what would it be?

I've gone through several iterations and am in a happy place with my recent choice after a lot of field-testing.  I've learned you want a bullet with enough lethality (is that  a real word?) to drop a pig in its tracks when properly placed.  I knew that all along, but at one time I was carrying a .44 revolver with a scope - nothing wrong with the caliber, but a little difficult to place the bullet accurately time after time using a pistol. This lesson was reinforced on a summer night in South Texas, recently.  One night, shortly after dark, using a light, I shot a large hog.  It squealed and ran through the black brush.  This particular summer had brought alot of rain and the grass and black brush was incredibly thick and waist-high.  I decided to head back to the truck and drive to the last spot the hog was seen.  From there I retrieved a spotlight and a pistol without a scope to navigate through the brush.  I took my time and considered all the things that could happen while pursuing a wounded hog in the black Texas summer night.  I had been reading African hunting stories and imagined myself as a PH retrieving an injured animal and wondered how they did it.   It sounds adventurous, almost fun when reading about it, but to step in those boots puts it into a different light.  Dropping a hog in its tracks became much more important than before.  Cautiously, looking for snakes with each step, I followed the blood trail as it entered a tunnel within the black brush.  There was nothing to do but enter the tunnel on hands and knees, trying to keep the thorns from ripping my shirt while keeping alert for the hog.  Splashes of bright red clearly marked the hog's trail - right up to the monster rattler crossing the trail.  The snake's head had already passed and the body was crossing the trail much as a train crosses a road.  And it kept on going.  And it kept moving.  Finally, I decided to shoot the snake.  I held on the snake and squeezed the trigger...and several rattlers in this bush began rattling all around me.  I backed out of the tunnel after checking my backtrail closely and decided I could wait to retrieve this particular hog until a later time.

Next, I moved to a 30/06 with a Zeiss 3X9X50 as a way to improve accuracy and pick up the most light possible.  I began setting feeders to go off 30 minutes after dark and hunted only on moonlit nights.  When doing this, it's critical to know when the moon rises as if it does not come up until 2 AM, there is a lot of dark time until you have enough light to shoot with.  This was pretty successful, but I had some challenges with cloud cover dimming my light and seeing the precise 'cross' in the crosshairs.  I was shooting really large boars that could prove dangerous if you pursue them in the bush and I wanted toknow exactly where the bullet was going.

I progressed to a night light on my feeders so I could see crosshairs clearly on the hogs. This worked great when the hogs would come under the light but sometimes I had educated hogs who would not enter into the light under the feeder - they would skirt around it and never come into the light - all I could see were silhouettes, which absorbed the crosshairs and made it impossible to be precise.

Now I have a scope with an illuminated reticle - a Weaver Classic Extreme 3X9X50 with a 30mm tube.  A .35 Whelen makes a bigger hole than a 30/06, so I got a M700 CDL and had the barrel shortened for ease of use and quick handling.  This has proven to be the best hog rig I've had so far.  I call it 'Thumper' and it optimizes everything about hog hunting for me.  After alot of trial and error hunting hogs in many different circumstances, I think I will be using this rig for a long, long time.

I took this hog recently in the evening on a dark moon.  I climbed into my tree blind after scattering some corn on a hog trail and watched the sun drop beneath the tree tops.  As the sun was brightly in my eye when looking west, I was impressed by how fast it went from bright in my eye, to partially obscured to wholly gone, within seconds.  Then I heard the grunting of pigs.  I looked where I placed the the corn in the trail 50 yards distant but could see nothing with my naked eye.  I looked through my binoculars and a herd of hogs jumped out at me.  Amazing - they were right there, but in the darkness, were invisible to my naked eyes.  Since this hog was the largest, I put my scope on it, and the crosshairs disappeared.  I illuminated the reticle, which lights a small dot in the vortex of the crosshairs, and placed it on the point of the shoulder. The gun boomed as I squeezed the trigger and the hog lie motionless. 

When taking the shot, I did not know whether it was a sow or boar, whether it was big or small - only that it was the largest in the herd and was well within range. I could see only its darkness of form, and when it was broadside.  And that's all that 'Thumper' needs to add to its collection of successes.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Birthday Buck

Sometimes, things just work out.  My birthday is in December, during the week when you take finals if you're in college.  This year's birthday was different - it made up for the years of taking finals as my birthday present.  This year on my birthday, I  arose in the predawn to a fog - a fog so thick that wetness permeated everything and visibility was nil.  Based on the previous morning, the rising sun would thicken the fog even more.  I decided to hunt a place I had not hunted in  two years...a cedar thicket in a corner of the property that I rarely frequent. 

I set out that morning with low expectations but a heart of gratitude for being able to spend time outdoors on my birthday.  I took a small cup of corn and dribbled it in strategic places in hopes of slowing down any game animals that may come by.  As I settled into my position, I noticed tiny droplets accumulating on my binoculars and rifle and wondered how long it would be before I could see the area around me.  The wind fluctuated gently, sometimes bringing more moisture and other times, clearing the air around me for 50-75 yards distant.  Minutes dragged by slowly.  Eight o'clock and nothing.  Everything on me is dripping in moisture. I decide to wait until 8:30 before heading back to enjoy a hot cup of coffee.  Daylight is beginning to filter through the fog, with shadows of the treetops and limbs taking on odd shapes as dense fog is pushed by pockets of clear air.  All is deathly silent.  It seems magical. 

I look up and there are antlers heading my way. White antlers.  Not a trophy to most, but where I am, a trophy indeed.  He stops to taste the corn.  I move the rifle to my shoulder,  awkwardly raising my leg to lay the rifle on my knee and I scrape my boot against some brush.  He looks directly at me and decides something is not right and moves off through the brush.  I spot an opening he should cross and setup on that spot.  He never breaks a stride and I squeeze off as he moves through the opening.  At the shot, he lurches back and runs one step and is out of view.  I reflect on the shot - it felt good.  I wait a few moments and replay the shot again in my mind - same thoughts - he should be dead.  Quietly, I make my way toward where I last saw him.  As I begin moving towards where he ran, I see antlers on the ground and am rewarded with my buck.