One of my favorite things about West Virginia’s gun season is getting together with familiar faces and putting together an old-school style of hunting camp.
Starting on Tuesday of the 1st week, about a dozen of us get together to cut up, laugh, and push deer to one another with hopes of filling as many tags as we can. In all honesty, it isn’t the best way of killing a big buck, which is what I typically try to do, but it is so much fun that I don’t even mind it.
I would not even think about missing yearly get-togethers, simply because I look forward to it throughout the season. As mentioned before, using large groups of people to drive deer typically is not the most effective way to consistently kill big bucks, but now and again it works out.
Our group met this year at 8 on Tuesday, which is pretty standard. After exchanging stories from opening day, we divided up into drivers and standers and went our separate ways. If you are unfamiliar with how deer drives work, the group of drivers line up, and walk through bedding cover to hopefully push deer away from them, and toward the standers, who are standing on the other end of the bedding, hoping to intercept deer that are trying to escape the drivers. It is a very effective tactic if you are simply trying to fill deer tags, and people have been doing it for hundreds of years dating back to Native Americans who used to push animals to one another with frequency.
Since I killed a buck on the 1st day, I volunteered to drive, which is what I typically like to do anyway, simply because I like to be active, and it is fun to walk through the woods without worrying about being quiet, especially after a couple of months of bow season, when I was trying to be as quiet as humanly possible.
The place we set out to drive was a long, rocky ridge, which had just been clear cut a few years ago. The ridge was full of new thorns and saplings, making it extremely thick and tough to walk through. Because of this, all of us drivers made sure to come equipped with brush pants or bibs, because it simply would not be bearable without them. After walking about 500 yards to get to the top of the ridge, we drivers began to drop down in single file line. I stayed at the top to be the “high man,” while the other 4 drivers descended the hill, dropping 1 off about every 100 yards. Once the last guy had reached the bottom, he let out a loud whoop, and the drive began.
It was brutal, the brush in the clear cut had grown much larger since last year, and it was nearly impossible to get through it in some places, especially with a gun. Because of how thick the brush was, the drivers had a hard time staying in line with each other, which is exceptionally important. If someone gets too far ahead, the deer will run out the sides, instead of running to the standers. If someone gets too far behind, the deer will oftentimes cut back. Staying in line is important to keep the deer going in the direction of the standers. To keep from getting too far out of line during this particular drive, each driver would have to stand and wait here and there, while the others were fighting through the brush. Once we were lined up again, we would start walking.
We got a small finger ridge that juts off of the main ridge, and as we crested it, I noticed a doe cut back between me and the driver below me. Keeping alert, I scanned around looking to see if there were any more deer following it. Sure enough, the driver below me yelled “deer!”, and I instantly saw a large buck following right where the doe had gone. My instincts kicked in and I instantly threw my gun up with hopes of finding an opening to get a shot through. Once the buck cleared the other drivers, and I knew I had a safe shot, I picked an opening, and squeezed the trigger as the buck’s chest moved into it. I led the buck roughly three feet, as he was running full bore, and when the gun cracked, he rolled, kicked for a second, then laid still. Watching for a few minutes to make sure he was not going to move, I marked the location and the drive began again.
We were roughly halfway through the drive, and as we neared the end, I heard a bunch of brush rattling in front of me. Thinking it was more deer taking off, I stood on a log to look down into the thicket. I immediately noticed an odd black spot on the other side of the thicket and thought that it looked strange. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, the black spot began moving and I knew then that it was a bear. Having a bear tag, I threw my gun off of my shoulder and readied it in case the bear ran into an opening, which didn’t end up happening, but it was still cool.
Once we finished the drive, myself and 1 of the other drivers who had seen the buck fall took a 4-wheeler back to where I had shot from. Luckily, the deer had died right next to one of the old logging roads, and we were able to get right to it with the 4-wheeler. I have been hunting with that group since I was 10 years old, and I think this is the first 10-pointer that I can remember us killing. It had nothing to do with skill, and I just so happened to be the lucky one that the buck ran by.
We hunted the remainder of the week as a group and were able to kill a few more bucks and fill a few doe tags. We shared laughs, picked on each other, and told stories about the good ole days. In all reality, killing a nice buck is just icing on the cake, as the memories shared with the guys will be what I cherish. o