Maryland's early three-day muzzleloader season—which fell on Oct. 21-23 this year—is always a marquee attraction for my hunting crew. The combination of pre pre-rut activity, the late autumn chill in the air, beautiful foliage and the acorns falling at a record pace gives this long weekend of hunting a special allure.
Oh, and it just so happens to be the season in which I've knocked down most of the bucks I've harvested. That helps too.
This season everything came together perfectly. The acorns covered the ground like Mother Nature had just busted an oak tree pinata, we had a 55-degree high, several smaller bucks were spotted locking antlers and there was a nice fresh scrape about every 20 yards.
But it wasn't until Saturday morning that I got my chance to let the smoke pole loose.
I had moved my climber to the edge of a holly thicket that was lined with white oaks. With the full moon in effect and a steady wind during the day, we weren't seeing any deer in our once well-traveled soybean plots. Those sneaky bastards had moved almost exclusively into the heavy cover where food and bedding were just a few yards apart.
When the sun attached itself to the treetops above I immediately spotted a small six-point and four does in the thicket about 20 yards in front of my setup. All five deer seemed content to wander around under the oaks with their heads down, munching away.
Around 8:30 a.m., my attention was captured by what looked like a big buck's chocolate antlers bouncing along in the thicket to my left. Sure enough, I soon found him with the help of my Nikon Monarch 2.5-10x42.
He lumbered out of the pine-clad thicket and into the open timber. I hesitated for a moment, remembering the Boone & Crockett-caliber bucks we had been seeing on our 145-acre lease property.
But he was a mature buck with what looked to be an impressive set atop his skull, so I lined him up and squeezed the trigger.
The result is below. I sunk a Powerbelt copper 295 gr. Aero Tip into the base of his spine—he didn't take another step. The Thompson/Center Triumph Bone Collector in .50 cal. had no trouble pulling it off.
He is a good, mature deer. He was 16 3/4 inches wide, 17 inches tall and had a broken left main beam. He was 141 pounds field dressed.