West Virginia Firearms Season - 3 Weeks in the Woods

6.5_sWv

Beginner
Mar 5, 2019
142
57
West Virginia Firearms Buck Season opened on Nov. 23rd, 2020. At the same time, Antlerless season was in select counties so a hunter with both tags in his pocket could put some meat in the pot.

Opening day was one for the ages. My father, son Brandon, and a good friend from work Grant, and I were all hunting together on opening day. We all had a designated spot / stand selected and soon daylight was coming on fast. Shortly after daylight, a shot rang out in my Dads direction and as he shot, I saw 2 coyotes cutting across the field at about mach 3 speeds. I tried to lead the last one and fired, unfortunately missing the coyote. My Dad texted and told me he had gotten his. The Bergara 7mm08 put the song dog down for a dirt nap.
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At about 8:30am, I heard a shot in the direction of Brandon, my son, and after a text or 5 he told me he had shot a 4pt. This was his first buck and his fourth deer so far. This is the first season he is hunting by himself. He made me really proud that day, and I think its possible I was more excited than he was. Brandon was using his Mossberg Patriot Predator in 6.5 Creedmoor with a Hornady 143gr ELD-X that I had loaded back in the summer.
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Ten minutes past 9am, I heard Grant shoot twice. I waited for a text and soon he had texted me and told me he had shot a nice rack buck but he wasn't sure what it was. A little while later he texted me a picture and he had shot a nice wide 6pt with no brow tines. Grant was using a late Winchester Model 670 in 30-06
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I went to go get the truck to round up Brandon and Grant's bucks and then my dad met us in the field for a mixed bag photo opp.
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Later in the day, my tag was able to tag a nice 9pt, but it was near dark, and this was the only picture we got of his buck.
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It was a very eventful opener for sure, but I finished the day without seeing any deer other than the ones that had been shot.

Tuesday was another day of no deer sightings for me. I hunted the morning and evenings both but nothing was spotted, jumped, or spooked. The weather was cool, crisp, and just generally deer-ish, but nothing was moving.

The next time I was able to make it out was Thanksgiving evening and I had committed myself to another deerless day but right at the edge of dusk, a healthy mature doe stepped out at about 150yds. I settled the crosshairs and squeezed off a round and was blessed with a bang / flop. As Rut Daniels would say, "Didn't GOOO Twenty !" The 150gr Hornady ELD-X from my 280 Ackley Improved did its job and really opened up some nice holes in the ribcage.
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The day after Thanksgiving, My Dad, cousin Chris, and Myself had decided to go hunt a public Wildlife Management Area that had to be accessed by a boat. The boat ramps had been closed for well over 2 weeks due to high water, and this morning was the first day the ramps had been open. We were hunting unpressured fresh woods that hadn't been hunted during the entire first week of rifle season. This WMA has a 14'' antler restriction for the entire area so the chances of a nice buck are good. Shortly after beaching the boat and splitting up in the woods, I had a buck run a doe in front of me but it wasn't light enough to be able to see exactly how big he was or find him or any other deer for that matter in the scope. After he chased her around the hill, I started finding lots of promising buck sign. I hadn't seen this much sign all fall and I found myself in the thick of it. I wound up seeing a total of 7 deer that morning but some were running and some couldn't be identified so I didnt shoot. My cousin saw 2 does and he had a doe tag, but he wasn't afforded a shot.
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My Dad and I hunted on the Sunday evening after Thanksgiving on the same farm as we had hunted on opening day, but we were unsuccessful.
The first couple of days during the 2nd week of season was met with snow, wind, rain, and a generally uninviting type of weather so I didn't hunt.
The 3rd day of the 2nd week the weather started to clear so my Dad and I headed back to the Public WMA where we had saw all the sign. We decided to explore some other areas of the WMA to hunt and saw some sign, but not the amount we had seen the week before. This land is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and its fairly steep land, but it lends itself to being at times relatively un pressured but it depends on how far you're willing to walk too.
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The next day, which is now Thursday, December 3rd, we again headed back to the same area on the WMA where we had located all the sign nearly a week prior. It was a cold, crisp morning that registered 23* on my thermometer at home. My dad had dropped me off farther down river and he was going to take the boat further up and we were going to hunt towards one another.
I began the climb to the ridgetop going slowly and trying to be quiet. Just after I finally crested the ridgetop, I spotted movement about 100yds away and immediately noticed the movement, a deer, was a buck. It only took a split second to notice his main beams and I knew he was past the 14'' wide limit. I tried to find a hole that he was going to walk through and he kept stopping behind trees, and finally i spotted a gap in the woods, and shot.
Based on the buck's reaction, I felt I had hit the deer, but didnt have a good feeling. I gathered all my gear, and slowly headed to the last spot I had seen him. I located blood in the snow and on the leaves, and felt may have hit in the lower leg. I began to follow the blood, and soon I happened upon a sapling about as high as my hip that was covered in blood. I ruled out the chances of a leg hit based on the height of the blood.
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As I continued to follow the blood, my fears were confirmed. I had gut shot the buck and now I had the evidence.
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I decided to wait for 1 hour. I drank coffee, ate snacks, texted a few buddies, and tried to kill that hour but let me tell you.... it was a long hour. I began tracking again, and about 50 yards farther into the tracking, the blood trail picked up and my hopes began to rise.
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I expected the deer to be down and dead based on several places of worsening blood loss similar to the picture above. The blood trail was following around the hill and based on the direction he was headed, I did not expect him to be bedded below my position. Needless to day, he jumped up, stumbled, and fell down the mountain and I was able to get another shot off before he disappeared.
I made the decision to wait another hour, and this time seemed longer than the first. This time I prayed that the Lord would let me find this buck so that I could end it for both the buck and me. I called my wife and gave her the update.
After I began tracking again, I found where he began to stumble and lose footing going down the mountain. I was prepared this time and I spotted him bedded below me at about 60 yards. I was able to finish him off with a 3rd shot. The Lord answered my prayers and he was finally down. Once again I was using my 280 Ackley Improved with the Hornady 150gr ELD-X.
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After dressing him and taking several pictures, I began the long, arduous drag back to the river. Thankfully it was a downhill drag, but Im here to tell you it wasn't easy. During the drag, I came upon the foundations of a settlement of days gone by. This land was once the home of settlers and homemakers that settled this river valley for decades before the dam was built and the valley flooded. In the next picture you can even see an old county route road bed that served this valley for years and today it served me by providing an easier route to drag this buck back to the boat. After some help from my Dad, we finally made it back to the boat and got him loaded up. Ill tell you this, thats the best kind of boat ride.
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I was able to recover 1 of the 3 ELD-X bullets from my buck. The bullet did its job and it shed 2/3rds of its weight and the post recovery weight was 47.7grs.
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I didnt hunt anymore during the Buck Firearms season as there was only 2 more days left and I was on cloud 9 after that day. I kinda figured Id quit on a high note anyways.
I did have a final doe tag leftover and there was still 4 days left to fill that tag.
On Friday morning, December 11, my Dad and I hunted a farm that belongs to a family member. It was uneventful for most of the morning until shortly after 9am, I spotted 4 does feeding about 150yds away in a field corner. I was waiting for a perfect broadside shot when the matriarch doe spotted me sitting behind my shooting sticks and got nervous. I picked out the biggest doe I could, which was facing me almost straight on and settled the crosshairs on the shoulder and fired. All the deer left the field and I headed towards where they entered the woods to look for signs of hit deer or the deer itself. About 10 yards inside the woods, I spotted the big doe, belly up, expired. She "Didn't GOOO Twenty" and the last doe tag I had was now filled. The 8x57 with the Nosler 180gr Ballistic Tip had done a wonderful job on this doe.

Well, I hope I havent bored you to tears with my 2020 Firearms Deer Season. Ill be the first to admit that this season is one that I wont soon forget and was filled with so many memories. I was blessed to get to hunt with my Dad, my son, my cousin, and a good friend. I am beyond thankful for the time spent with all of them and for my Dads help, guidance, and for chauffeuring me around on his boat.
If you read this far, I sincerely appreciate your time and hope you've enjoyed this post.

Ben
 

JD338

Range Officer
Staff member
Nov 4, 2004
21,723
988
Congratulations to you and your group on your successful season. That is some beautiful country you have there, thanks for sharing your pictures and hunts.

JD338
 

ReloadKy

Beginner
May 13, 2020
234
34
That is an excellent recap of what sounds like an awesome deer season! Thanks so much for sharing.
 

mjcmichigan

Handloader
Dec 26, 2016
2,263
21
You guys sure have some beautiful land to hunt on!

Thanks for the pictures and stories!

Congratulations!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

DrMike

Ballistician
Nov 8, 2006
35,014
1,403
What a delightful photo essay of your hunt. Everyone appears to have enjoyed considerable success. So pleased at your perseverance in tracking the wounded buck. I know it is worrisome when they are wounded, but you showed some real character in staying on the track. Congratulations.
 

NYDAN

Handloader
Sep 17, 2013
1,199
154
Congratulations to your group on a good hunting season. That was a good job on your part for tracking down the wounded buck. Well done. Dan
 

cloverleaf

Handloader
Sep 10, 2006
3,847
141
As they say. looks like a "good time was had by all"! Congrats!! BTW- that rifle of your son's is pretty cool looking too! CL
 

6.5_sWv

Beginner
Mar 5, 2019
142
57
cloverleaf":8ojl7k1z said:
As they say. looks like a "good time was had by all"! Congrats!! BTW- that rifle of your son's is pretty cool looking too! CL

Thanks, the rifle was a flat dark earth when it was purchased but I painted it. I tried to emulate the KUIU Vias camo pattern but I didn't quite hit the correct color scheme. He likes it so that's all that matters I guess.
 

1Shot

Handloader
Dec 5, 2008
1,435
4
Good report. Glad you all had a great season. I went to college in Bluefield WV and lived in Richwood WV for 4 years. I got a chuckle out of the "thankful it was a down hill drag". For those that don't know there are only two directions in WV. Straight up hill and straight down hill. LOL That cranberry glade territory around Richwood is some of the roughest country I have ever tried to hunt in.
 

Guy Miner

Master Loader
Apr 6, 2006
16,538
1,027
Excellent post about an excellent hunt!

Love all the photos. Good job. Thanks!

Guy
 

SJB358

Ballistician
Dec 24, 2006
31,304
564
Great hunting season Ben. That’s a great account and awesome pictures. Great stuff.
 
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