My Apprentice License hunting success story

By Chad D. Baus

Count me among the more than ten thousand Ohioans who took to the field for deer-gun season for the first time this year using an Ohio Apprentice Hunting License. And count me among those who are already planning to make many trips back in my life!

I didn't grow up hunting, or shooting. When I was introduced to shooting by my late father-in-law, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, he was already too ill to spend all day afield. I learned pistols, and have enjoyed the occasional time in front of a trap house, and up to now that has been as far as it went.

Two weeks ago, a friend of mine offered to take me out during the extra weekend that was added to deer-gun season this year. A shotgun I purchased several years ago came with a slug barrel, but I had never even put it on the gun. So the Saturday before the big day, we went out and put a few rounds through it while sighting in the scope, and then I went to buy my Apprentice license and deer tag, along with assorted other items like gloves and a hunter-orange hat.

Then it was time to wait. Fortunately I had a busy week to keep my mind off of it, but I will admit to having trouble sleeping the night before. I was awake an hour before my alarm went off, and got there so early I had to wait about 30 minutes for my buddy Wes to show up.

We got set up about a half-hour before the weekend season officially opened, on the edge of a woods behind a makeshift blind of camouflage burlap stretched across some brush. It was colder than the forecast had predicted, and a heavy mist had settled over the cornfield in front of us.

It was only about 8:00 when they appeared out of the mist - nine in all. At first we thought they were all does. The herd stopped while still out of range. It was impressive to see their breath in the cold morning air. I've seen plenty of deer from my car, but to be out in the open air with them was something altogether different. The herd didn't keep coming north toward us, but headed to the east. We had another hunting partner at that end of the field, so hoped that maybe they'd get close enough to him. Again, they stopped short, and doubled back. This time they were on a track to pass by us in range.

It was then that we saw them - two bucks moving together amidst the does.

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I was new to this whole thing and didn't have much to compare them to in terms of whether they were big or not - all I knew was my mind went from getting any one of the nine to getting one of the two. The herd stopped right in front of us, and I targeted the closest buck and fired.

Through the scope, I saw him lurch forward almost to his knees. I looked up, hoping to see him drop. Instead, he started running with the others. My guide kept saying "he's gonna drop, he's gonna drop"...but he didn't. We watched him stumble a time or two, but he ran about a mile into another woods. We began to question whether I had hit him, or whether he had just reacted to my shot. My guide knew that if we picked up a trail later in the day, we could get permission to search the woods, so he advised that since it was so early that we stay put and see what else came around.

Two other packs of does came through the field, but never close enough to get a shot. About 10:00 a.m. or so a lone buck came running from my right, in the neighbor's field. He ran into our field, in front of me, and at first I thought he might stop, giving me an opportunity to take a shot, but instead the buck, which would prove to be the biggest we'd seen all day, ran to where our partner was located. Our partner didn't have the long-distance view we did, and coming fast, it took him by surprise. He took two shots, but missed. The lucky buck then ran out, across a road and through another field, and entered the same woods where "my" buck had gone earlier.

After that, things settled down. By now it was 11:30 and we would go have a look for a blood trail from "my" buck. There was nothing. Not a drop, no where. Not where the buck stood, not on the way to the road, and not on the road. Our hunting partner had to call it a day, so we decided to take him home, grab a bite to eat, and then come back to try again.

When we got back, there were three does in the field in front of our original spot. We had no time to get to them, but noticed that, as they had been doing all morning, the does crossed the field and entered the woods closer to where our partner had been stationed, but out of his range. We decided to set up at the spot where they were going in, foregoing a long-distance view on the hopes that if anything else crossed that field, it would walk right into us.

Our strategy paid off. Less than five minutes after we had settled in, two bucks appeared on the hill about 150 yards out. They were headed straight for us, and ever so slightly to our right. When I knew they were in range, I kept whispering "should I take a shot?", but my guide was silent. Then almost at the same time we both said "that's your/my buck!" We had both spotted an entry wound high and forward on the shoulder. There was no blood, and although he was limping slightly, he seemed little worse for wear. At that point I knew I had a shot - perfectly broadside - and he stood still. I fired.

This time there was no running. The 8-point buck dropped where he stood, and we watched his pal stop at the edge of the woods for one last look before disappearing into the brush. Wes & I started slapping high-fives, and I found I couldn't wait to go out and take a look at what was now definitely MY buck.

There was indeed a fresh entry and exit wound on the two shoulders from my morning shot - but literally no blood - just a small amount of some other whitish bodily fluid. We discovered another possible excuse for the limps and stumbles too. At some point in the past, my buck had stepped on a small PVC O-ring, and gotten it lodged in between the two parts of one of his front hooves. The skin had begun to grow around it, and it looked like it would have been quite painful.

After learning how to field dress a deer, and promising the hide to the owner of the property for the pre-school class she teaches there (one of my boys is a graduate, one a student now), we drove by my house to show my boys before hanging it. When my six- and four-year-olds started asking "when can we go too?", I got all the more excited. A family tradition has begun.

Anyways, I'm now anxiously awaiting processing of my buck so we can fill our freezer, and have already found myself watching every woods I drive by for another glimpse. I can't wait for next year.

I plan to take the hunter education course and obtain a regular license, then get some more experience so that when the time comes in a few more years, I can buy apprentice hunting licenses for my boys.

None of this would have been possible had it not been for the USSA's Families Afield program, and the Ohio General Assembly's passage of HB296, the Apprentice Hunting License bill, which was sponsored by my state representative and state Senator-elect Steve Buehrer.

More than 10,000 Apprentices took to the field this deer-gun season, and there was not a single incident involving one of them. Now THAT is the real Apprentice License hunting success story of 2006!

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