Fog caused by the heavy dew from the night before was making it hard to see in the early dawn light. Looking at the sky through the thick canopy of trees, I guessed it was about 20 minutes before sunup. The wind was light but steady, drifting down the valley we were in. We had a large poplar tree about 3 feet in diameter to our backs. I was debating whether I should go ahead and put a new tape in my brand-new, high-definition Sony camcorder when I heard a little sound. It was faint and seemed to come from up the hill. I didn’t think it could be a deer, because we had just walked off that ridge in the pre-dawn twilight not 10 minutes before, and even though we tried to be quiet, we definitely snapped a few twigs; yet there was that crunch again. I was sure now that I heard it, and that it was close. As I strained to see through the thick atmosphere, suddenly the huge rack of a buck distinguished itself from the fog. You never get over that first-sight thrill.

It was mid November, the time of year in Tennessee when people don their ridiculously orange vests and hats, get up in the morning 2 hours earlier than anyone should be up, and excitedly go out to sit in the cold woods without moving until every bone in their body is sore from sitting in one spot, just in hopes of seeing a deer. We call it deer season, and I love every bit of it.

I was blessed to marry a woman who not only understands my love for the woods, but likes to get out and deer hunt with me sometimes. But duties at home have kept her mostly out of the woods for the last few years, so you can imagine my excitement when her sister happily volunteered to babysit, freeing my wife to go with me on opening morning of rifle season. We decided the night before that I would just carry the camera, and she would do all the shooting. Our living room looked like a sporting goods store, with camouflage, deer calls, and gear spread out all over the floor.

I must admit that I was thoroughly zonked when the alarm clock went off, but after a microwaved bacon biscuit and a horrible cup of instant coffee from the local gas station, we were ready to go.

The piece of property we hunt on is over 600 acres of prime deer and turkey habitat in middle Tennessee, surrounded by creeks, rivers, and cornfields. I leased it about 4 years ago, with hopes that careful management might produce trophy bucks one day. What I mean by managing it is simply: We don’t shoot any young deer (less than 3 years old). Anywhere from 4 to 6 is getting old for a deer.

I consider myself a dedicated hunter, out there every year and throughout the season, sitting high in tree stands nearly every day, waiting for that trophy buck. So far, I’ve taken only 1 trophy buck on this new piece of property, and that was last year.

As a rule, I usually try to walk to my tree stands to keep the deer from knowing that I’m coming, but Lori is 7 months pregnant, a condition not really conducive to long walks in the dark with rubber boots on, so I opted to drive the 4-wheeler as close as possible. I turned the lights off about the last 400 yards and squinted my eyes in the early twilight to stay in the middle of the logging road.

Now here we were, sitting at the base of this old tree with a trophy buck walking our way. With one glance I could see the buck was 4, maybe 5 years old, definitely a mature 8-pointer. I couldn’t believe it. He was scent-checking a small tree only about 25 feet away. In a hushed, excited whisper, I told Lori, “Don’t move, there’s a buck.”

“Where?” she silently mouthed. She was looking up the ridge to her left, but just at that moment, the buck began to walk out into clear view. At 20 yards away now, it walked behind a large tree. That was the chance she was waiting for. I proudly watched as she seized the moment and brought her .308 up to her shoulder in one swift motion. The safety, normally silent, broke the morning silence with a faint snap. That was all it took. This deer had not made it to his ripe old age by being stupid. Peering around the edge of the tree with only his eyes and ears sticking out, he quickly picked out our camouflaged forms sitting against the tree. In a flash, he threw up his tail and began to run up the valley away from us. As a last ditch effort, I whistled as loudly as I could in hopes of startling him into stopping to investigate the sound. At 80 yards, he stopped for a brief second to look back. That was all she needed. Lori had been following him in the scope the whole time, and as quickly as it started, it was over. I got some kind of woman!