It was Friday, October 21, 2011, the second afternoon hunt of Maryland's early muzzleloader deer season. On my home turf of Maryland's lower Eastern Shore, I went to my normal spot, where I've hunted for over five years. Much to my shock, there was somebody in "my" spot. I've never seen anyone in this area until this day.
I shook it off, and my hunting buddy and I backed out, and then circled around to hunt the other side of "my spot." Using my Lone Wolf Sit and Climb tree stand, I scaled a tree on the edge of a recent cutover without ever scouting it out before.
About a half hour before shooting time expired, I spotted some movement in the brush about 75 yards away. Quickly, I observed the biggest buck I'd ever seen, tearing up a tree and letting everyone know that he was King of this territory.
I was shaking so bad, I began whispering out loud "don't look at the horns...don't look at the horns..." After much waiting and anticipating, the monster meandered out of the brush into the clear cut less than 50 yards.
I couldn't get a shot because there were too many limbs in the way. Suddenly, the giant turned and moved in a direction that, if continued, would take him down wind of me. I started to panic. Then, I started to convince myself that it was over. But, as luck would have it, he turned back heading directly for me.
When he got within 25 yards of me, I trained my Thompson Center Arms Encore .50 caliber muzzleloader on the beast. Again, there was still too many limbs. However, I was able to get a tiny sight picture through my Leupold Rifleman scope. The trusted scope allowed me to pick the tight spot with confidence.
I looked through the scope and than with my naked eye down the barrel to make sure I was aligned properly and didn't hit a limb. Once comfortable, I slowly pulled the trigger, and the muzzleloader report filled the scene with smoke.
After a couple seconds, I looked to see which direction the beast ran. Unexpectantly, he dropped right where he was struck! I was shocked! I loaded another Thompson Center Mag Express 240 grain XTP and prepared to put another hole in him for insurance. But, it wasn't necessary. He was done.
After safely making my way down the tree, I met up with my hunting buddy who came over to inspect my results. I was pumping my fist in the air in excitement. I approached the fallen giant with my muzzleloader trained like I was on a SWAT mission. Alas, the buck was down and it was time for victory.
I began counting. It was 13 points. A main-frame 10 pointer with a kicker and double forked brow tines.
My taxidermist had it scored at 176 inches of dominant buck horn. It was, indeed, a deer of a lifetime.
-- Tim Gonzales