An Old Savage, and a Young Buck

An Old Savage, and a Young Buck


I had shot a doe previously, but this was my first buck, and it would be a memorable one.      It was a late fall day and the weather was nice,  55 degrees but warm in the sun.    I didn’t set out to get a buck, actually, I would have been just as happy with a doe.  But it happened to be that a buck crossed my path first.   I was sitting out in the cedars, on my 18 acre farm that afternoon.        

Well, it isn’t a farm anymore, it was, but now its grown back up, gone back wild.   My folks bought it when I was a teenager.  And when the farmer that was leasing it for a small herd of cows decided to move his cows closer to his own home, we decided to let it grow up.   So the blackberry brambles started to take over, then the saplings.  Eastern Red Cedars, in the juniper family, grew like weeds.   As a kid, I didn’t know that one day they would be a feature that would hold the deer all year long.  Deer love the security that cedar thickets offer.  And deer, while they love eating acorns, particularly white oak acorns, get a large portion of their diet from browse.   Browse from leaves and bark and twigs from innumerable things, the kind of things that grow back when a field is left to its natural state.     Maple leaves, from both red and sugar maples, are a major attractant, and we have plenty of those too. Honesuckle, Eastern Redbud in the spring, and Flowering Dogwood are also things that deer love.  Most people dont know that redbuds, having the first fresh browse of the spring are a major attractant.  

So, it is here I sit in the cedars, holding my rifle, waiting on a deer.    The rifle is a Savage 110, chambered for the versatile and venerable 30-06 cartridge.   I had never taken game with the gun, but the gun had taken game before I came to own it.     I had traded for it several years prior, from the local gun store.    As a regular, they know me and often have some interesting news to tell when I go in.  They know what kind of guns I like, and often advise me of something that will pique my interest when I come in.   That day, I made my way to the  used gun counter, and spotted a beat up, but loved Savage bolt gun.   I asked to see it,    It had scars on the stock, but it was clean and seemed to be well loved, though used.   The gent behind the counter knew the story, and relayed it to me.   He said another regular, who happened to be an old man in a wheelchair, had brought it in and sold it because he was too crippled up to hunt anymore.    I ended up making a deal for the gun without the scope it was wearing.   I didn’t particularly want the Tasco scope as it was more of a target model.   The story intrigued me though, and I was looking forward to working up loads for a new to me gun.  

I was super excited to get the gun, and I promptly called my gun store running buddy.   We made a trip 25 miles the other direction to the next town over.   In one of the small gun shops there I found a vintage weaver K10 60B scope for a very reasonable price.   I put it on the gun and was quickly enjoying putting rounds on target.   I still felt the gun was over scoped for hunting, so I ended up getting a vintage Bushnell Sportview 4×28 fixed power scope, from the same era as my gun (about 1990).  Using vintage Weaver quick detachable rings, and acquiring an extended front base to get the scope farther back, I was in business.  

I bought 2 boxes of ammo as I wasn’t set up to load yet for 30-06.  I shot the first box of Winchester Power Point 150 grain cartridges to familiarize myself with the gun, and I hunted that year out the second box.    This of course wasn’t my first gun, or my first foray into bolt guns wearing basic glass, so i was comfortable with the rig right from the start.  At least for the short range shots to be expected in the Kentucky hills and brush where I live.   I had shot a doe previously with my Winchester 94 in 30-30, but that is for a different story.  

I got to my spot about 2:00 in the afternoon, which is just off the shooting range I keep cleared.   Its nothing more than a jeep trail that serves as a shooting lane through the cedars with a turnaround spot, that the deer just love.   They love the secluded grazing the spot offers and often dont pay me any mind.       I nestled into a couple cedar trees that I always sit in, with a clear view of the open turnaround spot about 40 yards away.    The sun warmed me as I was facing west.    I enjoyed hearing the birds as they get ready for evening, collecting a few seeds and juniper berries (the blue berries that form on cedars in the fall are actually cones).  Every little flutter made my heart race as I expected a deer to appear any minute.  Buck fever is real, and it happens for does too!    I sat there and enjoyed a peaceful afternoon in nature until about 4:00 then I heard a different rustling, an unmistakable rustling.  The sound of a deer coming down the trail.   

My heart skipped a beat as I witnessed a HUGE buck coming out of the brush.  In reality, he was a yearling 7 pointer, and not huge of course, but he sure seemed that way from where I was sitting.  Being a buck, he has his own ways.  He stopped at the edge of the opening to check things.  He looked right at me and I sat motionless.  When he put his head down I raised my gun from my lap, slowly,  as I was sitting indian style.  An easy shot for someone that’s in practice, I squoze off the shot.  A perfect broadside hit!  He kicked and ran in the direction he was facing and then, I didn’t hear anything.  I knew he had gone down quickly,  and not crashed along the trail very far.   

I sat there about 5 minutes, I couldn’t take the anticipation,  so I got up and walked quietly and slowly from my spot towards where the buck had stood when I had shot him.   From that point, i turned and looked toward where he had ran, and he lay not 20 yards away, just behind a blackberry thicket that had obscured my view from my spot in the cedars.    I carefully approached, and from the rear, poked his rump, then poked his eye, with the muzzle of my gun.  He was dead.    

I thought a few minutes about what had transpired.  I had not went on a $10,000 hunt to get this animal, nor had I scaled a mountain and endured a physical hardship for a successful hunt.  But it was rewarding to know I had used an old man’s gun for one more hunt, and that I had hunted from the ground and had been successful.      I knelt down beside the buck, and thanked God for this animal.     Then I headed back to the house.   It was only a short 3 minute walk. 

I collected the camera, and a few supplies, and the wife.   We went back to the deer, where my wife took a picture of me and the buck (I must note that my wife is not a huntress, so she gets props for helping me through this adventure). Then I began the process that can best be described as lumbering through field dressing.  I had done it once before, but it isn’t something I’m adept at yet.  I suppose it’s never pretty.   I used my trusty Buck 110.  

My wife had given me the knife several years previously for father’s day.       It worked well, especially since I keep a keen edge on it.   I have carried the knife most of the last 7 or 8 years.   From the moment I got it, until only a few years ago it never left my belt.  It has been partially supplanted now however with the addition of a Buck 192 and a Case 65 pattern Folding Hunter.   

Back at the house, I skinned the buck, and fleshed the hide, then stretched and salted it.  I cut a round off and had my wife fry some fresh steaks that evening.   Pretty soon I had roasts, steaks, and stew meat in the freezer.    As for the hide,  I still have it as a memento of that deer,     and my son, who is 3 now, still loves to play on it.   I hope he gets to take his first deer soon and add a hide to a growing pile.   

I had a spell of financial hardship a few years later and I had to sell the rifle, along with a few others.  But the hide is still there, as are the antlers, and the memories of a first buck that linger on.