The Shafer Buck
Cayuga County Stalk Hunt

By Mark Shafer

On 11/10/2017 we encountered our first blustery cold winter weather of the season. The ground was frozen and fresh snow was blanketing the ground. Mother Nature blessed us with a temperature of 19  degrees, 17 mph sustained winds and 30 mph gusts. I got out of work at 7:50 and decided that this was the PERFECT weather to try my hand a stalking!

I was hunting with my Barnett Quad Edge 340 and NAP Killzones, as these conditions were not suitable for my bow. The land that I hunt is the land that my late Uncle Joe taught me to hunt on when I was a young boy, and my cousin who now owns the property is gracious enough to still let me hunt it. I know every nook and cranny of this property and knew precisely where the landscape would provide a wind break to allow me a shot if one presented itself.

When I first entered the woods at around 8:45 I sat on the back side of a hill over looking a small valley of extremely dense woods where deer often bed in poor weather. I sat there and scoured the ground with binoculars until about 9:30. Once convinced that there were no deer laying within the range of my binoculars I began to still hunt, moving cautiously with precise footsteps. I was not concerned about being heard nor my odor detected because of the high winds, I was concerned mostly with my movements being seen.

I moved to a gully where I know the deer move down into and lay along the fell trees in high wind situations. At about 9:45 I noticed what were possibly the tracks of something in the snow emerging from the gully. I really couldn’t tell at first if they were tracks or not, as my own footprints were filling in almost immediately from the wind driven snow.

I followed what I thought were tracks for about twenty yards before I saw more consistency in the pattern and became convinced they were fresh deer tracks. After pursuing the tracks for about another 20 yards I was able to make out the body of a deer moving through the woods about 150 yards to my west. I carefully continued to pursue the deer, unsure of what it was. I remained downwind of the deer during my pursuit. As the deer emerged from the thick area of trees and started up a small hill into large thick area of briers I could make out his tines above the thorn bushes. He continued to travel west, cross the south wind. I headed southwest and skirted around the briers knowing that I would either catch a glimpse of him emerging from the other side or I wouldn’t, knowing he settled in there for a winters nap.

Once I made it around to the west side of the briers I found a large stump to post up on. Within a couple minutes he emerged 60 yards to my north. I patiently watched him meander, with no set course of direction as he nibbled on this and that. As he faced away from me I advanced on him about 10 yards to another tree stump, which seemed like 1000 miles away and an eternities time travel. I knelt behind the stump undetected as he walked about slowly in an indecisive pattern.

Now about 50 yards away, I could see him nicely through my scope and could tell he had a nice big body and an 8 point branch raker. Still 30 yards outside of my range with the weather conditions, I asked Uncle Joe for a little help. The buck turned and headed to me and stopped and turned broadside behind a large tree. I needed him to take one step forward, but he would not. He turned and showed me his tail. He munched a bit more before he turned around 180 degrees and walked another 10 yards directly at me. As we are now face to face at 20 yards, he sees me. Only worse case scenario is if he were to be facing completely the other way! He lowers his head, identifying me. I’m thinking that if I am going to take a shot, my aim, my breath, my squeeze and the wind has to be perfect. He lifts his head and as quickly lowers it again, looking right at me. I am ready. 

I am waiting for a break in the wind gust. He lifts his head. The wind breaks and I deliver the most perfect shot I ever placed, including indoor 5 dot. I placed the bolt dead center between his shoulders and and percisley in the middle of his brisket  delivering a once in my lifetime heart, double lung, liver shot. Thanks for being there with me uncle Joe and thanks for continuing to provide me the opportunity, Mick! 

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