Samantha Bender, who as this is being written was finishing up nursing school, hunted the 2009 Nebraska rifle opener with her father-in law, Jack. Early in the morning a little buck walked by them.
“Wanna shoot him?” Jack whispered.
“No,” said Sam, “I’m holding out for a bigger one.”
Jack appreciated Sam’s moxie, though he had his doubts.
They watched the small buck awhile. It was rutting hard, flitting around with its nose to the ground. After a few minutes the young buck pitched off into a draw and out blasted a doe with a huge buck on her heels! Jack thought fast: He bleated loud. The big boy slammed on the brakes.
But Sam was shaking too hard to shoot. The buck took off again. Jack bleated again and the tall-racked deer stopped one last time. Sam was ready then. She raised her .270 Weatherby Vanguard and fired and a 130-grain Barnes Triple-Shock bullet dropped the buck.
Get this: It was a 175-yard shot, off-hand—that’s shooting! But you know, many guides and seasoned hunters out West say that the ladies are, as a rule, better game shots than their male clients. My experience has led me to conclude they’re right. Sam and Jack hustled over to the 10-point. The buck had stickers and junk all over its rack, giving it an impressive look. It scored 1734⁄8.
Sam called her husband, Adam, who was hunting nearby with his mom, Traci. They rushed over and everybody hugged, laughed and cried. It was an awesome celebration of the hunting lifestyle on the plains of western Nebraska.
Lessons Learned -You can’t shoot a 173-inch deer like Sam’s if you kill the first little buck you see. Big-buck hunting takes patience and scouting.
-When an immature buck high on testosterone prowls and pokes along for does in the rut, watch and wait. Sometimes the buck will cause a big buck locked down with a doe to move and show himself.
-If you are shaking too much, or if a shot just doesn’t feel right, don’t rush it. Take a second to calm down. Sometimes a buck will get away, but that is better than taking a wild shot and risking wounding a deer. There’s a good chance the buck will stop one last time at a second or a third loud bleat or grunt—shoot then if you’re ready.