John's Journal...


First Drive Secret

EDITOR’S NOTE: I could see the drivers 100 yards below my stand and to my left moving through the clearcut like beagles working thick cover to roust out a rabbit. A thrush squawked as it flew out of the blackberry thick to my right. From the sounds the bird made, I knew it had been frightened. I turned my head quickly and looked in the direction from which the bird had come. I could see a crown of ivory above the brambles. With my .243 at the ready, I dropped my cheek to the stock of the rifle and spotted antlers in my riflescope. Before the buck reached the edge of the clearcut, he had to step into a small opening. Moving my rifle to focus on the opening, I concentrated on that spot by looking through my scope. First I saw a nose. Then eyes, ears and a head full of antlers appeared in my scope. After moving the crosshairs to just behind the front shoulder of the buck, I pushed off the safety. While gently resting my finger on the trigger, my gun reported. The buck went Click to enlargedown. After dragging my trophy from the briars, I sat on a stump admiring my fine 10-point buck. While I waited for my friends, who were acting as drivers, to come to my stand and help me drag my buck out of the woods, I remembered when I went on my first deer drive.

Frost glistened on the blackberry bushes on this very cold morning in Alabama. My cotton longjohns didn’t hold in much body heat. I put my head inside my shirt and blew warn air on my chest. “I never should have sat on the edge of this cotton field,” I told myself. “If a deer comes from the swamp, it won’t run across this open ground. Instead it will go deeper into the swamp or to the hardwoods on the other side of the deep, briar thicket through which my dad says the drivers will come, A trophy buck certainly won’t run through this cotton field in broad daylight with this many hunters in the woods.”

Just as many runners begin their races with excuses about why they can’t win, on my first deer drive, I automatically thought of reasons why a deer wouldn’t pass by my stand and assumed that probably I had drawn the worst stand on the hunt. However, because I had to sit on the stand until the completion of the drive, I looked at every bird, each blade of grass and every tree to entertain myself. After scanning the woods in front of me from left to right, I retraced the path my eyes had taken moments earlier. When I glance at a Click to enlargescaley-barked hickory tree 40 yards from my stand, I saw what looked like a white limb move. I watched the limb, and it moved again. “That’s an antler tip,” I told myself. “A buck must be behind that tree.” As my index finger rested on the safety, less than 50-yards away I heard the words sung out, ‘Yodee, yodee, yodee.” That crazy brother of mine, Archie, will spook that buck, and I won’t get a shot,” I thought. “If Archie runs off that deer, we’ll have a fist fight to rival the Hatfields and the McCoys,”

Amazingly enough, the buck didn’t flee. Instead I watched as the buck’s head appeared from behind the hickory, looking in the direction my brother walked. Because I didn’t have a clear shot at the deer’s vitals, I froze. The buck wouldn’t move, and I couldn’t move. The “yodee, yodee, yodee” kept getting closer and closer. As Archie drew parallel to the deer, I decided I’d have to take a running shot at the buck when Archie spooked him. But, the deer let Archie pass. Once my brother reached a point about 75 yards in front of the deer, the 9 point stuck his neck out from behind the tree and went down the path heading for the cotton field. Because the wind blew in my favor, the buck never saw or smelled me. I held my shot until the deer was 15-yards away. I then fired my 12 gauge. Although this first shot brought the deer down, before the report of the shell had diminished, I Click to enlargefired a follow-up shot. When you’re 16-years old, you can’t withhold the excitement and the joy you feel when you take your first buck on a deer drive. I immediately screamed as loud as I could, “I got him! I got him! I got him! Come here, Archie! Look at this buck.” On that morning, I learned one of the most-critical ingredients to bagging big deer on a man drive. Big bucks often move behind drivers rather than in front of them.


Check back each day this week for more about SECRET MAN-DRIVE TACTICS FOR TROPHY BUCKS

Day 1: First Drive Secret
Day 2: Southern Rabbit Hunts for Trophy Bucks
Day 3: Tactics for Northern Drives
Day 4: Techniques for Western Drives
Day 5: One Day, Five Bucks, Five Drivers



Entry 331, Day 1