Moving On

31 Mar

By guest writer Brent Gargasz

Spring of 2013, this was the first time I laid eyes on the deer that would encompass my mind and become a focus of every whitetail related task I would complete for the next 2 years.   I’m not one to brand a deer with a witty name, I’m not against it, but I just don’t it.  I typically refer to a deer as the 8 or the 10.  This deer would be known as The Wide 8.

In 2013 The Wide 8 was a wide, big browed, pencil racked 2.5 year old (I assume).  He wasn’t a target of mine, but he was enjoyable to watch and his potential seemed endless.  Throughout the summer months he was around constantly.  I could predict his movements like clockwork.   He would frequent a far corner of a pasture field munching on apples as if he had a nightly reservation for one.  He was a loner, never one for bachelor groups.

 

The Wide 8 in 2013

The Wide 8 in 2013

 

The cooling fall air changed him; his routine vanished with his summer coat.  Occasionally he would meander past a trail camera in the depths of night, but never a sight during the archery season.  Rifle season in PA is a stressful time for anyone praying for a deer to make it to another season.  I had not had a sighting of The Wide 8 in some time and I obviously feared for the worst. Finally on the last Friday of rifle season he appeared in front of me.   Limping into the field, he was obviously heavily favoring his rear right leg.  The thought “should I just shoot him? He isn’t going to make it through winter” pounded my brain.  I concluded if I killed him, then he had no chance of making it through the winter.  I watched him feed until darkness closed my season.

The winter was long and cold.  These weren’t exactly favorable conditions for a wounded animal.  He was on my trail cameras again daily.  He shed extremely early and was looking gaunt.  As I searched for his sheds, I assumed I’d find his body.  I didn’t find either.  Spring rapidly approached and I began to set out my first trail cameras to see if “my” deer had made it.

One card pull was all that was needed to vanquish all anxiety from my whitetail addicted mind.     Hallelujah he lives!! He was back; he was beautiful; he was hitting the same pasture as the previous spring.  This set my mind into a bliss filled overdrive, “how big will he be?” “Will he stick around?”  “What do I need to do to kill this deer?”   I spent many nights starring at my ceiling wondering what he was doing at that exact moment. The summer moved along and he was developing into a stud of a PA deer.   He was brandishing huge brows, tall tines and man oh man was he wide.  Growing a few small stickers that would take him beyond an 8, but he was forever The Wide 8 in my mind.

 

The Wide 8 in 2014.

The Wide 8 in 2014.

 

The summer months were again a predictable pattern of movement.  As though he was flirting with me from a far.  Daily day light photos, routine sightings at his favorite apply tree.  His behavior was different this year.  He wasn’t avoiding others, they were avoiding him.  Plans for October were set and all I needed to do was wait for the crisp autumn air.

October…  Oh sweet sweet October… One last card pull before the season, and  he was gone, again.  Not a sighting or trail camera photo since Early September.  I felt used, I felt cheated, I felt as if a friend had left me.  I hunted sparingly in the parcel I believed he “should” be in.  A month into the season and not a photo or sighting. I was convinced he was the prize of someone else, someone who didn’t deserve him, someone who couldn’t possibly appreciate this animal the way I could.

Halloween 2014.  A Cold, Rainy and an absolutely beautiful day to kill a buck. I was settled in and sent an ominous text message to a good friend and fellow whitetail addict. “It feels bucky out today.”  Shortly after 4pm a large bodied, tall tined deer emerged.  IT WAS HIM!  I settled my pin and released the shot.  Watching my deer run off.   The shot looked good.  Phone calls and jubilation ensued.  A hundred yards later I approached The Wid… Oh SH#@. It wasn’t him!  It was an absolutely beautiful deer.  The largest PA deer I have been blessed enough to kill, but it wasn’t him.  I didn’t know this deer. Who is this?! Why is this not The Wide 8?? [Breath, Breath, Appreciate this you ass].

What about my deer? Surely he will be an absolute GIANT in 2015. Right??  Christmas Eve Party 2014.  Friends and stories are shared over beverages of an adult nature.  I simply can’t wait to see this deer in 2015, I told everyone.  I passed trail camera photos around as if I was showing off my first born.   It happened, here on what was supposed to be a joy filled celebration.  A 17 year old kid uttered words that I had dreaded hearing.  “I think that deer is dead.”  No, No…What? Excuse me; you are too young to be drunk.  A few texts later and poof my dreams and hopes for 2015 were dashed.  I starred at a photo of my deer. MY DEER!  It wasn’t even a nice picture… The shame, the horror, the…get over yourself man!!

 

The text I did not want to see. He was dead!

The text I did not want to see. He was dead!

 

This deer was never mine.  He was property of one single entity, himself.  He provided me with every emotion that a deer could.  He gave me everything but his life.  Looking back, hunting this deer was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done in my short 18 years in the woods.  Killing him was my goal, but it shouldn’t define my entire hunt for him.   It is the pursuit, the challenge.  It is a chess game with one of nature’s most intelligent animals.  As I sit here planning for 2015 I can think of 1000 tasks I should do, but honestly I need to do one thing and one thing only.  Move On.

Brent Gargasz, Hunter, Male Nurse, Witty Bearded Gentleman.
Be sure to visit the PA Archery Hunters Facebook page.

 

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