The Lunch Time Buck
Huppman Valley, VA. 11/04/2000

I was feeling a little gloomy at the beginning of the 1999 deer hunting season. Although I was looking forward to vacationing Thanksgiving week in Las Vegas with my family, I was going to miss my annual trek to my former home in West Virginia to hunt with three of my four brothers. However, living in Virginia the deer hunting season traditionally opens the week before the West Virginia season, so this gave me a chance to at least hunt a few days before leaving for Vegas.

I was lucky enough to have a couple of good friends join me on opening day in the mountains of Virginia. Larry Wilson, Steve George and I worked together in a local sporting goods store and they shared my love for deer hunting.

We arrived in Hupman Valley on Sunday morning and after setting up camp we set out to scout and select stands for the next day. My brothers and I had hunted this particular land in the Highland Wildlife Management Area for many years. Although we had not hunted there in recent years, it seemed like old times, being back again. Although the area had changed somewhat in the eight to ten years since I had last hunted there the same ridges and hollows held the same excitement and anticipation of years past. I was very familiar with the lay of the land and returned to many of our previous stands to look for sign. I selected a stand near camp for Larry. He had suffered injuries to both of his knees while in the military and he was limited to how far he could walk. I had missed a large buck from this stand many years ago and I hoped that this stand would be a good spot for him. Steve and I chose to hunt a considerable distance from camp on the backside of the ridge from where we were camped. Steve and I agreed on a stand for him in a long hollow near the bottom where the under brush was quite thick and good sign was everywhere. I chose a stand in the next hollow over near the top of the ridge. I felt confident in our stand selections.

The weather promised to be ideal for opening day. Monday morning was very clear and cool (low 30’s). After a good hardy breakfast of bacon, eggs and coffee we dressed for the day and Steve and I headed for our chosen stands at 5:00 am. Larry planned to leave camp a little later since his stand was nearby. Steve and I had an uphill walk, which took about 45 minutes. I dropped Steve off on his stand well before daylight and proceeded to my stand in the next hollow. The sun was slow to break the hill behind me and bring the light and warmth that felt so good. Just as the first light of day began to fill the woods, I was startled by the crack of a high power rifle about 50 yards up the hill behind me. Once I regained my composure I looked behind me to my left to see the faint image of a deer stumbling down the ridge. It disappeared and everything was quiet once again.

The rest of the morning was uneventful with only an occasional shot that could be heard in the distance. At approximately 11:30 am I saw Steve working his way toward my stand. When he arrived he told me that he was sure that I was the one who had shot early that morning and was certain he’d find me with a big buck by my side. I told him that it wasn’t me, and shared with him what had happened.

We sat quietly talking and eating our lunch. Suddenly, out of the bottom of the hollow, came three deer running at full speed. Steve and I saw them at the same time. The first two deer were large does followed by a very nice buck. Steve insisted that I take the shot since it was my stand. I wanted him to have the shot but he insisted that I take it. The deer had closed the distance between us from about 400 yards to 200 yards and I realized that soon one of us was going to have to shoot or lose our chance altogether. As the deer closed the distance to just over 100 yards I whistled loudly and all three deer stopped in their tracks. The two does took off on a run quartering to my right and the buck followed them. At a distance of 100 yards I picked up the buck in my scope and at the crack of my .270 Win. the buck went down.

As with almost every deer I have taken I started to shake and it took a few minutes to calm down. Steve and I made our way down the hill to the buck and got our first good look at the rack. It was a perfect eight pointer with a 15 1/2 inch spread. What it lacked in mass it made up in symmetry.

As all deer hunters know after the shot the work begins. We field dressed the buck and began the long hard drag back to camp. It took Steve and I almost three hours to get the deer back in camp and hung on the game pole.

Steve had not seen any deer from his stand. Larry arrived back in camp just before dark. He only saw one lone doe. We hunted Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday without further success. Other hunters from neighboring camps came by to admire the nice eight pointer on our game pole. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday trying to put Steve on a deer and also move a deer to Larry by making small one man drives toward his stand. I also took time to check other areas for sign. I spent Wednesday morning scouting one of my old favorite stands and found tremendous sign of a large buck. There were many rubs and scrapes in the low gap and one tree which was at least six inches in diameter that had been rubbed clean. All this sign has given me hope for a successful hunt in the year 2000.

Bill Johnson