By Dan Infalt
It was a hot, Saturday evening in mid-July. All of my buddies were getting ready to go out. They asked me to go with them for a fun night of drinking and card playing. "Go with them?" I thought. "What a silly question!" This late in the summer and I still did not have a solid lead on a shooter buck. Partying would have to wait.
As the sun set on the summer sky, I sat with my back to a tree, glassing a river bottom for whitetails. Just before darkness, I noticed two deer emerge from the thick bedding cover. One showed himself right away. He was a 2 year old 8 pointer with a 12 inch wide rack. The other deer, however, had my full attention. I could tell by the difference in body size he was an older buck. It seemed like forever, but he finally lifted his head and showed off his great rack. He too, was an 8 point, but this 8 point was sporting 13 inch tines. I still have the image of that huge buck lifting his head burned into my memory.
I kept a distant watch, but I only saw him one more time just a few days before the opener in the same spot...right under a big willow tree with a nice natural platform to stand on.
I had dreams about sitting in that tree with "Big 8", as I had begun to call him, walking underneath me and the arrow flying true.
I hunted that stand opening day in the evening. I had stayed away until now, never once letting temptation make me wander over and look at the setup. That would have surely scented the area and relocated the buck before the season even began.
I slipped into the tree and quietly clipped a couple small branches. Then I just waited. About an hour before dark the 2 year old 8 pointer emerged and I prepared myself for Big 8 who would surley follow. Big 8 didn't show. I did not want to overhunt that stand and ruin it. I had seen the Big 8's tracks coming out of other bedding areas and some big rubs had showed on the other side of this bedding area, telling me that he might be staging on the other side for now. I certainly had plenty of options to keep my hunting spots from getting burned.
I hunted every day. I went out before work. I went out after work. Pretty soon the rut had arrived, and I had gone over a month without seeing Big 8.
This is when most hunters whack the little 8 point that keeps coming out under the same tree. Most hunters faced with a 1/2 empty glass either give into temptation, or they just give up. My glass was not half empty though... I keep mine half-full. Every time you choose a stand or ambush is like playing your next chess move. Once you have sat in most of the spots in the woods, you can narrow your selection.
One afternoon a heavy rain began to fall. I had narrowed it down through tracks and stand sitting that Big 8 had to be bedding in the thicket behind the willow. This rain would allow me to get in close, undetected and not leave any scent! Don't you just love windy thunderstorms?
I decided to try the backside of the thicket where I had seen the rubs. I sat in that rain, wind, and thunder until last light. By the time I got home, I was feeling ill. I started developing a cold. My wife asked me if I was insane when the alarm went off at 3am and between coughs I got ready to go back out in the storm.
The wind had grown to gusts of more than 40 mile per hour and the rain continued to pour down, but my glass was half-full! It had stopped thundering, and I was going to be able to sit the willow tree without leaving scent. Indeed, life was good! Halfway to my hunting destination I had to make a quick stop at the 24 hour gas station as my "cold" turned into a full fledged flu. I walked quickly past the attendant and straight into the restroom.
I made it to my tree but was completely exhausted. As I stood in the tree waiting for light, getting hammered by horizontal rain, I did not dream of Big 8, or fantasize about him walking under the stand. My only thought was getting home and calling in sick for work. I'm never too sick to hunt.
It finally started to crack daylight but the storm pounded on. I was having a hard time watching for Big 8 because it meant staring into the wind and rain. Finally, I glimpsed up and saw him walking by. The wind and rain made it impossible to hear him coming and by the time I noticed him he was passing by at 10 yards. The bow was raised, drawn, and fired just before he entered his secure bedding area. Big 8 bolted into cover.
Dan Infalt with big 8 point whitetail buck
I always keep my glass half-full when hunting slob bucks.
I went home and laid down for about an hour before returning to search for my obsessive addiction. I was worried because there would be no blood to trail, and I was unsure of where he was hit. But Big 8 lay only 50 yards into the cover from the willow tree. He dressed out at 207 pounds. Time to find another sickness.