I’d spent almost every single minute of daylight shooting out to the limit of the range on my property. I’d gotten tons of solid data on new loads, zeroed some scopes, broke in a new .300 Win. Mag., and even got to shoot my new SSK-50 pistol out to half a mile. The weather was perfect, and the lack of cell reception made it even better. A great day done, the sun touched the horizon and I headed to the house.
Driving up the hill of our dirt road driveway, I looked out to our south facing field hoping to see a familiar doe and her fawn hanging out around the live oaks. They’d become a fixture over the fall. The field was empty and motionless, save for one short oak with some bare branches swaying in the wind.
I’m not sure if I’m dumb, but I know for certain I’m not too quick, because it took my mind a bit to unwind what I’d just seen. I’d been shooting all day. There was no wind. End branches grow outward, not straight upward. Those weren’t branches at all. Those were antlers. Very big antlers.
I drove on another 50 yards or so before I stopped the truck and snuck back to have a look. Doing his best to intimidate a rival, or maybe impress the doe I’d been hoping to see, a whitetail buck was sparring with the oak. His neck swollen from the rut, he thrashed at the branches while he stomped and scraped the ground bare. He was big by any standard, but on this Texas Hill Country property, with no high fence and no feeder at all, he stood a titan.
An alarm on my watch buzzed. I had 10 minutes of legal shooting light left. As quietly as I could, I ran to the road and back to the truck.
Coming back from the range, you’d think I’d be ready to shoot. Indeed, I had several spectacular rifles, all freshly dialed in, stowed away in their cases and boxes, buried under a mountain of gear. There was no way I was getting them out in time and without drawing his attention. But there in the passenger seat was the one gun I didn’t have cased, because I didn’t have a case for it yet. The SSK-50 pistol, chambered in .309 JDJ. With no time left, I grabbed the gun along with two rounds and hurried back to the field.
As I came up to the field again, I no longer saw him under the tree. Instead, he was actually closer, in the wide open and looking right at me. I hadn’t been as quiet as I’d hoped. I crouched behind a fallen branch and brought up the pistol.
He raised his head high with his tongue curled in the air and gave me a good look at his bony crown. This was, without a doubt, the biggest truly wild deer I’d ever seen around here.
The mad monarch snorted, but didn’t flee. Instead, almost impossibly, he stomped the ground and walked toward me not realizing I was a human. At 60 yards, I pulled the trigger.
I had barely ejected one round and chambered the other before he fell, crashing into a dead cedar. My watch buzzed again as I stared across the void at him lying motionless; the end of legal light.
For the first time in the last 10 minutes, I took a breath. He didn’t take any at all.
The biggest deer of my life was the luckiest hunt of my life, and I hope they’re all just like that.