By: Keith Kinyon.
For the 2021 muzzleloader season I headed north to Atlanta Michigan, just like I had for the previous two seasons, to hunt with Gary Morgan of Wild Game Dynasty. The 2019 season Gary acquired a new 40 acre piece of property to hunt and what a surprise that turned out to be for me! I shot a nice 9pt. that is the biggest buck I’ve taken during muzzleloader season. The 2020 season is a blur, not having had as much time to go up and hunt, I did not harvest a buck during that muzzleloader season in Atlanta, but did manage to shoot a 5pt. at home a week later.
The 2021 season started with texts back and forth between Gary and I verifying dates and making the typical plans required. I took a half day off work and drove up to Atlanta to meet Gary and put additional gear in the pop up blind that is situated on the side of a hill in a cedar swamp that is adjacent to the Thunder Bay River. I brought a small heater, seat cushions, and shooting sticks so that I would not have to drag those out the first morning of my hunt. Prior to my drive and arrival in Atlanta, I had spent weeks making lists of clothes, food, gear, and accessories needed for the hunt. At least part of the fun of the Atlanta adventure, for me, is the planning, the anticipation, the excitement of what could possibly turn out to be the best hunt ever. After that I drove back to Crooked Creek Lodge and unloaded my truck. I was excited to be there and met up with fellow hunter Jeff. We had shared the muzzleloader camp in previous years so it was like meeting up with an old friend as we talked about our hunting successes from the previous months.
Next morning we were up early; we ate, got dressed, and I drove to the 40 that I was hunting. The driveway is one that could require four wheel drive, if the weather is suspect, but the first morning it was not bad. I walked to my hub blind ready for a days sit. I wear a big, puffy, down-filled coat that has two pockets on each side, one on the inside of the coat and one on the outside. I pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, small milk, and two Diet Mt. Dews along with a protein bar. As I get in the tent, I unload all the drinks and set them on the ground. I got situated and got my gun up on my shooting sticks, put a primer in the slot on my gunust…all while being as still and quiet as possible. One thing about this spot is that deer can appear at any time, so it requires a degree of paying attention most of the day. First day I saw a doe and fawn in the evening. Next day, repeat the process. In the evening I saw multiple does and as it became quite dark and past legal shooting time, a buck came out and was bumping does around and grunting. Nothing I could do but remain still and try to wait until they left the area.
All day sits require the right mental attitude, for sure. I do not listen to music or anything like that and my cell reception there eliminates that option. Squirrels, birds, and Ravens, plus the white noise sound of the Thunder Bay River flowing are really all the company I need. Truthfully, I spend a great deal of the time in the blind ‘mentally planning’. Planning when to run the small heater that I bring. I allow myself only 30 minutes at a time and I try to plan those times right away in the morning as I sit in the dark so it gives me a goal, a point to get to before I move around enough to start the heater. Similarly, I mentally schedule times to take a drink from my Mt.Dew, eat a protein bar or eat my sandwich. I also think a lot about what I would do if deer pop out here or there and what the best course of action would be. This year I should have done this a little bit more!
Day three I headed to the blind with the knowledge that there was a buck in the vicinity and also that there was a fairly large cold front moving through later in the afternoon. I sat with my muzzleloader stock held up in my shoulder like I always do, with the fore end resting on my shooting sticks, hopeful that I might get a crack at the buck from the previous evening. Early morning came and went. Nothing. Around 10a.m. I can distinctly hear, way up and behind me to my left, the crunching of feet. I continued to hear the sound get closer, and then very close. I slowly and carefully stretch my body up and look out the left side of the blind window and I see him through the trees and pine boughs; nice rack, walking very quickly, angling toward my shooting lane. The first thought in my head was that if he did not stop in the shooting lane, he would be through so quickly that I would not get a shot. I have been hunting whitetail deer for 42 years. I have made virtually every hunting mistake known to man. On this particular morning, I would add one more to the long list. I slowly eased the hammer back on the muzzleloader, CLICK!!! I hear the buck take one or maybe two more steps. Then, nothing. Not a sound. No movement. I sat, at the ready, for what seemed an eternity, and I never heard or saw the buck again. I was so mad at myself. I have replayed that scenario over and over and wish I would have pulled the hammer back 15-20 seconds sooner. But, I did not. When I retold the story back at camp, I felt a degree of embarrassment that I had made such a simple mistake. I have always tried to make it a rule to try and never repeat mistakes that I’ve made while hunting. So, I’ll add this one to the long list.
Good news is that he is still there! I suspect he will be bigger and even more formidable next year! I vowed to myself to not repeat the same mistake and I just might have a crack at that buck next muzzleloader season. I cannot wait!