George Smith poses with the 198-pound deer he shot several years ago, on a day when he only had 30 minutes to hunt. Courtesy of George Smith Credit: Courtesy of George Smith

Nothing is more important to deer hunting than spending lots of time in an area you hunt. I was on my woodlot year-round and spent a huge amount of time there in November and December, hunting deer. I knew my deer, where and when to find them, and how to hunt them.

And this story is one I have used in the past to illustrate this point: Even if you only have a very brief amount of time on any given day, get out there in the woods with your gun.

I had seen this buck during the last two hunting seasons but never gotten a shot at him. I was pretty sure he was still hanging around my woodlot, but it was mating time and he could have gone elsewhere in search of love.

He was a big buck with a big rack and I really, really wanted him. I hadn’t seen him that year, at least not yet, and it was the next to last Saturday in November. I’d had some chances at other deer, but none matched this one, so I was (uncharacteristically) patient.

I had to attend a funeral that day and I got home late in the afternoon, jumped out of my suit and into my hunting clothes, and trotted about a mile through the woods to a small ticket of fir trees where I like to stand on a knoll above Hopkins Stream.

By the time I got to that spot, I was sweating and out of breath, and there was only 30 minutes left in the hunting day. Half of that time was gone when I heard a snap and glanced to my right to see the buck move quickly past me and out of sight. Darn it! Well, I silently muttered something like that.

He was headed down the knoll to the stream and I thought I’d seen the last of him. But about five minutes later, here he came, moving slowly through the fir trees toward me. He was well hidden in the firs, but every few steps he’d raise his head and I could see his antlers.

The next minute or two were agonizing and exciting. He kept coming. There was a huge boulder about 15 feet in front and to the right of me, with a nice opening to the left of it, and the buck stepped right into that opening and right into my scope.

One shot, two leaps, and he was down and dead. I’m pretty sure I was hollering by then. But I didn’t have too much time to celebrate.

I had shot him with just 5 minutes left in the legal shooting time and it was getting dark quickly. So I got to work, dressing him out and dragging him to the canoe. He was definitely a big buck, weighing 198 pounds, and it took awhile to get him down to and into the canoe.

It was pitch black as I paddled toward home, a big smile on my face, and when I got to the Hopkins Stream bridge my wife Linda and 5-year-old son Joshua were there. Linda called out a greeting and aimed her flashlight into the canoe.

Josh saw the buck and hollered, “Great fishing, Dad!”

Indeed it was.

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George Smith, Outdoors contributor

George Smith has spent his life advocating for hunters, anglers, wildlife and conservation. He has been awarded many lifetime achievement awards including from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife...