It was mid-winter. Hunting seasons were winding down and there could be little doubt that today would be a tough hunt. Even with a good rifle and dialed in scope, taking a mature buck would present a challenge.
In spite of all that, there were some encouraging signs. Although the freshest snow had only been on the ground for two days, woodland trailways were already showing heavy use by what appeared to be a good number of animals. The best sign was occurring along two major trails — more like wildlife freeways — leading from the thickest underbrush, across a narrow strip of prairie grasses, and into a harvested cornfield.
I had taken a stand inside a large deadfall located at the edge of the treeline where I had a good view of the best trail. With the late afternoon sun already dipping toward the horizon, I expected the action to begin soon. Currently engrossed in the activities of a nearby pair of jays, my attentions were suddenly averted to a movement within the underbrush. Although thick cover prevented an unobstructed view, it was clear that game was beginning to move – heading straight down the trail toward food.
Easing into position, I brushed away the snow and studied the rifle atop one of the deadfall’s heaviest branches. The branch was nearly chest high and the rifle felt solid against its rest. My anticipation mounted as the animal continued along the trail leading directly to my location. I could feel my muscles beginning to tense. A few seconds more and the quarry suddenly came into full view. Wonder or wonders; it was a late season buck — and a good one at that. Continuing down the trail, the animal moved ever closer. My vantage point couldn’t have been better and things appeared to be really shaping up – this buck was as good as in the bag. I could already imagine the aroma and flavor of the fresh backstrap I would be enjoying tonight.
Arriving at woodland’s edge, the buck emerged into the wide open. Elegant in form and fluid in movement, he was simply spectacular and I scarcely dared breathe for fear of being detected. The buck paused, and I slowly lowered my cheek to the stock.
Remember that old movie line, “Aim small, miss small”? Well, that’s exactly what I did. Looking through the scope, I placed the crosshairs on the exact hair I wanted the bullet to strike.
I squeezed the trigger and the rifle cracked. The buck responded by instantly leaping straight into the air. Touching down again, he made a stumbling sideways attempt at escape before falling headlong to the snow. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. The dream was fulfilled. There would be fresh cottontail in the skillet tonight.