Being a deer hunter who only uses a gun limits me to 13 days of hunting spaced out over three different gun seasons in my state. That is assuming I can hunt every available day which I have been able to do for the last several years. It’s been a few years since I could write up a deer hunting story before late December or January. Two years ago, I killed a deer on day 9. Last year I killed a deer on day 12. This year it was on day 3. All I can say is that I have really enjoyed relaxing for part of my annual deer hunting vacation. It has been a welcome change of pace. In just 3 days of hunting, it’s amazing how many fun, memorable, and comedic events there were. The 2017 deer season will always be a special memory because my niece and her boyfriend came to Ohio for Thanksgiving and stayed for the first day and a half of deer season. This would be my niece’s first time hunting anything. Her boyfriend is from a small town out West and grew up hunting. He is teaching her to hunt and shoot just like my husband did with me. On Sunday our guests arrived to spend the afternoon shooting. With the recent rule changes in Ohio to allow the use of rifles chambered to use straight-walled cartridges, we had several different rifles and shotguns for our guests to choose. My choice was easy as I would be using my .50 caliber CVA muzzleloader with open sights. My husband would use a scoped .357 maximum H&R Handi-rifle. After shooting a couple different guns with and without a scope, my niece chose the scoped .357 magnum rifle. Her boyfriend chose the scoped .45-70 rifle. We thought it was interesting that the four of us headed to the field all carrying single shot guns. The weather on Monday’s opening day was quite pleasant. Clear and calm with morning temperatures in the low 30s and afternoon temperatures in the middle 40s. This was quite nice weather for the hunter to be in the woods but perhaps not so great weather for getting deer up on their feet and moving. My niece and her boyfriend had one up close and personal encounter with a young buck right at the start of the morning. Unfortunately, the buck would not offer a clear shot before moving away. I saw lots of squirrels and made a mental note to go back to this spot later in the year and do some squirrel hunting. I took a walk mid-morning and got 3 deer up on their feet but alas they did not move by any hunters. My husband saw squirrels. At lunchtime we all lamented about the lack of shooting heard and the apparent lack of hunters in the woods to move deer around. Opening day has not been a big event in my area for many years. Monday evening was uneventful. My niece and her boyfriend saw no deer. I saw one deer 200+ yards across the field from me. And after 3 shots in rapid succession on the neighbor’s property, my husband got a quick glance at 3 deer running through the thick stuff at the edge of the field. The next day I exchanged a couple text messages with my neighbor. He said he shot 3 times at a running deer and was pretty sure he missed. The very next evening I was out hunting and again I heard 3 shots in rapid succession coming from the neighbor’s farm. All I could do was shake my head. Seems like there was a lesson to be learned the first time around. Sigh. Tuesday morning was even warmer. My niece and her boyfriend only had a couple hours to hunt. No deer seen. But they said they had fun and my husband and I sure enjoyed having them stay at our farm for the start of deer season. My niece said she is now addicted and wants to go hunting where they live out West even more. That made me smile. Tuesday evening’s hunt was all about laughing to keep from crying. I decided to hunt the opposite side of the field where I had seen the deer on Monday evening. Legal shooting time ends at 5:30pm but with my open sights, I really can’t go much past 5:15pm. Any deer hunter will tell you that the last 30 minutes of the day is prime time. So at 4:45pm what happened? A fox squirrel started barking at me. Loudly. Right above my head. At first I ignored it. Then I saw two deer walk right past the spot I was sitting Monday evening. The deer moved off into the woods. The fox squirrel was still barking. That did it. I got up and started throwing sticks at the squirrel. That just made it madder. I sat back down and started laughing. I laughed until I had tears running down my face. Then a third deer, a buck, walked past where I had been sitting Monday evening and squirrel kept barking and I kept laughing. Finally the squirrel was quiet and darkness came. At 5:30pm I got up and started walking home. 100 yards up the edge of the field I walked right up on a deer browsing along the edge. We were not 30 yards from each other if that. The deer was up wind of me and we just stared at each other’s dark form for several minutes. I finally broke the stand-off when I took a couple more steps forward and the deer scampered off. All I know is that after deer season I will be participating in some revenge squirrel hunting. Wednesday morning I hunted alone and saw no deer. The weather was warm, calm and dry. I would have loved to do some still hunting but the conditions were not right at all for that to happen. I did get to listen to a flock of wild turkey hens and jakes on the roost first thing in the morning and that is always a blessing. Wednesday evening my husband and I set off to hunt opposite ends of the smaller of our two picked bean fields. I would be back in my spot I sat on Monday evening blissfully knowing that I would not have a barking squirrel over my head. My husband would be 400 yards away on the other end near where our produce field was. Again the weather was quite pleasant, sunny, a little cooler than Tuesday but not much. Prior to heading out hunting, someone on social media had wished me luck in shooting a big buck. I had to chuckle a bit. I told them that I would love to shoot a big buck but I really didn’t see that happening because I have no self-control. When I see a deer, I see venison. My biggest fear is a freezer that contains no venison. OK perhaps that is a slight exaggeration but venison in the freezer is a huge priority. Last year in an attempt to let our sagging deer population rebound a bit, I passed on several does until I was able to shoot a button buck on the next to last day of the season. I am well aware of my limited opportunities to shoot a deer. Passing up a shot at younger buck (or any deer) could mean a year without venison in the freezer. My love of venison trumps any and all desire to shoot a bigger buck. The only constraints I will put on myself is whether or not to shoot a doe depending on how the deer population is doing in my area and how many does have already been shot by other hunters on our farm. As is so often the case Wednesday evening’s hunt went from uninteresting to full on excitement in the blink of an eye. 4:42pm a yearling spike buck walked out from the woods edge on my end of the field. I hunt deer with open sights. My longest shot so far had been around 65-70 yards with a smooth bore shotgun that had only a front bead. At least today my muzzleloader had fiberoptic sights but I put a limit on myself of 100 yards. The deer was right at 100 yards or possibly a bit more so I waited. He started angling toward me as he walked out into the open field. He was now in range but there was brush on the field edge between him and me. 4:45pm a shot rang out from my husband’s location. The young buck near me froze and stared at the other end of the field. I heard my phone buzz and I knew it was my husband texting me. It buzzed again, another text. But I was sitting still as could be with my gun on my knee waiting for the young buck to make a move. The buck just stood there and stared. I reached back to my phone. My husband had a deer down and he asked if I could see the one in field. Why yes I could. My heart was racing. The buck stood and stared. 4:52pm the buck was nervous and he flagged and turned and started trotting toward same spot in the woods from where he had just emerged. I gave myself one of my very familiar pep talks. If he stops, I can do this. He stopped 15 yards from the edge of the field. I lined up the sights, took aim and pulled the trigger. In the calm evening air, the smoke from the muzzleloader blocked my view of the buck so I had no idea how he reacted to the shot. When the smoke cleared I saw him tail up and running into the woods. Did I hit him? Inside the woods I heard the tremendous sound of crashing and breaking branches. Yes, I was so hopeful. Live deer don’t crash through the woods like that. I prayed. I took my time reloading my muzzleloader. 15 minutes later with light fading quickly I walked over to where the deer was standing in the field when I shot. If I didn’t find anything quickly I would back out and not push a wounded deer. I did a little looking for blood but the approaching darkness made it difficult. I decided to just take a quick peek inside the woods. I followed a game trail opening through the thick brush at the field edge and stepped inside the woods. And there it was 25 yards inside the woods. That beautiful sight of a white belly laying still on the forest floor. I can’t even begin to describe how thankful I was. My shot was good, a double lung shot and the deer barely went 40 yards. Then all the usual work followed. My husband and I both had deer to field dress. My husband had a head start on his and so he walked back to the house to get the tractor with the loader to carry the deer. It sure is nice having that option nowadays. The next day I went back to the shot site in daylight to look around. I found the blood trail. It wasn’t very large but I would have been able to follow it if need be. I used the range finder and my shot was 88 yards. This is now my new longest shot at a white-tailed deer using a gun with open sights. And I made my husband get in a picture of our two deer as well. This morning I was reading a blog post about being happy with the deer you shot and not making excuses for shooting a little buck if that is what you choose to do. I couldn’t agree more. Someone in the comment section somewhat condescendingly typed out a sentence that I have read many times before: “You know if you keep shooting little bucks then all you will ever do is shoot little bucks.” That surely is true especially in states like Ohio where we can only ever shoot one buck per season. And while it is true that I will probably only shoot little bucks in my hunting career, I will have venison in my freezer more often than the hunter who chooses to give small bucks a pass especially in areas where the deer population is down and where does need to be passed up. As hunters we are blessed to have choices as to how we choose to hunt. I am thankful that Ohio lets me choose which deer I want to shoot with no antler point restrictions. And I am happy with my choice to shoot a small buck for meat in the freezer.