Do You Like Chocolate?

COLUMN-HEAD

Sponsored by: Black Eagle Arrows & Grim Reaper Broadheads

By: Brian
Kightlinger

My phone vibrated as I was finishing up Thanksgiving lunch. ‘Do you like Chocolate?’  Coby Jent had sent me a confusing text and I wasn’t sure where he was going with this question. I replied, ‘I use to like chocolate quite a bit but after having my gallbladder taken out I don’t crave it much anymore.’  He replied, ‘LOL, not the food! Fallow Deer, do you like Chocolate Fallow Deer?’ I thought for a second and replied, ‘Sure!’ I didn’t know much about Fallow Deer but had seen them at his business, Tusk n Tines Outfitters in Ohio. I saw them while on a hunt there in October and found them fascinating.  They have a beautiful chocolate and silver hair, cool antlers that resemble paddles and are about the size of a small whitetail. I also learned there are a few different phases of Fallow Deer and that they come from areas of Europe and Asia.

I texted Coby back that I would be interested in hunting for a Chocolate Fallow Deer and asked when he was thinking I could come to his place. He replied that I could come on New Year’s Eve and hunt on New Year’s Day. All I had to do at that point was convince my wife of the importance of this hunt. 

Looking at my wife’s work schedule I found she was off both of those day. I asked her as she was busy doing work around the house and before thinking about it, she said sure, go ahead! I texted Coby that I would be down for the hunt and started to do a little more research on Fallow Deer.

Being that it was Thanksgiving week and the hunt wasn’t until the end of December,  I focused my attention on getting set up for the Pennsylvania Rifle Season. My son, Samuel and I had to go out and set up the ground blind for the first day of the season. As we rode to the 10 acres we were going to hunt, I talked to him about Fallow Deer and my hunt coming up in December. He was interested in what their antlers looked like. I told him they looked like a small elk and showed him pictures of what Fallow Deer look like and he smiled with delight.

The Pennsylvania rifle season came and went without any antlered deer being taken by Sam or me. This was the first year, in all the years I have hunted in Pennsylvania that I did not see an antlered deer. Sam and I both harvested a doe. The freezer was filling up and we were able to donate some venison to the local VFW for their Spring Game Dinner.

Living in Northwest Pennsylvania in the middle of December there was plenty of snow on the ground so I practiced in the yard out to 80 yards. I wanted to be sure I could make any shot that might come about from the hunt. The Black Eagle Zombie Slayers were flying great. I spent many sessions shooting the Grim Reaper practice heads at those long distances. What a great set up! I was confident I was ready for the challenge of hunting Fallow Deer.

On Friday, December 23rd I went to a 40 acre property to hang my Advanced Takedown Treestand in an old abandoned apple orchard. I was confident that this orchard would give me a solid chance to kill a doe or two. I used my new Stealth Steps to hang my stand and felt confident about the tree I had picked for my ambush point.

Christmas Day was filled with lots of gifts and fun. The kids played with their new gifts as I practiced in the basement shooting my bow. On Monday, December 26th I went on an evening hunt to the 40 acres. It was a blustery December evening where the temps hovered in the mid 20’s. I layered my G-Force Evolved Camo and stayed plenty warm. At about 4:30, I saw a deer coming my way and watched as she worked her way up the well worn trail. She stopped 8 yards from my stand. I drew my Halon 6, put the pin on her shoulder and let the Zombie Slayer go. The Grim Reaper made easy work of her. The doe kicked, ran 20 yards and was done. This was a first for me as I had never killed a deer in the late Pennsylvania archery season. I was able to repeat the performance the very next night on another doe. At this point my antlerless tags were filled and I was riding a tsunami of confidence before my Fallow Deer hunt.

December 31st finally arrived and I packed up my Chevy and headed to Southern Ohio to meet up with Coby at Tusk n Tines Outfitters. It was late into the evening when I arrived and we talked for an hour or so about the plan of attack for the morning. Coby thought it would be best if we would spot and stalk for the Fallow Deer. I told him that I only brought my bow so we would have to use the terrain to our advantage. I unpacked all my gear to prepare for the morning hunt. I decided to head to bed after the long drive, so I could get plenty of rest.

The alarm woke me at 6:15 am. I looked out the window of the lodge and saw a fresh coating of snow covered the ground. I was super excited that we had snow. It would help quiet our steps and also make the Chocolate Fallow Deer easier to see. I quickly showered and washed with my Nature’s Essence Products to eliminate any scent I had, dressed in my G-Force Evolved Camo, grabbed a granola bar, my bow and my back pack. There was no wind but the air was cold with the temperature in the low 20’s. This was going to be a great day to hunt.

Coby met me in the lodge as the sun was coming up. We laid out a plan based off of his experience with Fallow Deer and where they liked to bed. Coby told me we would be after one of the older bucks.  

The plan was to take the main road and head up the western ridge to begin the hunt. The deer enjoy bedding in the thick cover on that ridge. Halfway down the main trail we came across a large herd of Russian Boars tearing up the main trail feeding on the acorns under the leaves. We stopped to look for a path off the trail so we could get around the boars. As we were stopped, I told Coby that I saw a white Fallow Deer walking toward us from down in the draw.

Grabbing my binoculars, I scanned the valley below us and saw another Fallow in the bottom. Coby was glassing the the opposite ridge and said, “Bingo! I see a nice buck.” He directed my attention to where he was looking and I could see him easily in with the snow. It looked to us as the fallow deer were coming off the ridge into the valley and working their way up to the main road. Coby shut off the UTV and I grabbed my stuff and looked for a good vantage point.

The day was growing brighter and the deer were on the move. I was ready and just waiting to see if they were going to make it to the main road. Two young deer crossed 20 yards in front of me then worked their way up the ridge behind me and out of sight. The buck cautiously made his way down the opposite ridge and into the bottom of the valley stopping periodically to eat acorns. Coby felt certain he would follow the other deer up and across the main trail. The buck began to climb out of the valley on the same trail that the others had used. I could see his antlers and they were tall. He looked like a small elk. I lost sight of him for a few moments as he stopped behind some trees. I ranged the trees the other deer had passed at 22 yards. I set my HHA Kingpin for 22 yards and waited.

There were hogs milling about the main trail vacuuming up the acorns from the forest floor and the noise they made put me on alert as I saw my buck step out from behind the trees. He was about 40 yards away and closing fast. I went into my shot sequence as he closed to 30 yards. As he got to the main trail and passed behind a big oak I drew my bow and waited for him to step out. 

Two large boars started to fight on the main trail and the buck turned, stepped out on the opposite side of a big oak watching the two boars fighting and not paying any attention to me. I moved slightly to a different angle and as he turned broadside I let the pin float behind his front shoulder and  lightly squeezed the release.

The arrow impacted a tad high but made excellent penetration as the buck spun on his back legs, kicked and ran into the valley. I watched as he made his way up the ridge and then lost sight of him. Coby had his hands up in celebration. He was confident the arrow had done its job.

The Russian boars were still in their feeding frenzy as I grabbed my pack, went to where the buck had been standing and found great sign. Coby and I followed the blood down the ridge about 45 yards and  found my arrow. The Grim Reaper was covered in good blood and the whole shaft was solid red. The blood trail was now getting easier to follow.

The arrow told the story. A good hit.

The bright white snow made the crimson pathway easy to follow. I walked up the other ridge and just as I crested the top, I could see antlers sticking up. I stopped for a moment and used my binoculars to look at the motionless deer. The buck was finished.

“I love Chocolate Coby!” I said as we reached the buck. He was beautiful and larger than I expected. I was impressed with his antlers. His coat was perfect with flecks of silver near his belly. We took pictures and talked about the excitement of the hunt. I couldn’t believe how the whole morning fell together so well.

Coby and I dressed the animal, loaded him up and took him back to the lodge. We were able to skin and quarter him to fit into two coolers. I thanked Coby for the great hunt and headed for home. When I arrived home, my kids were excited to see the big antlers from the buck. My daughter commented about how pretty the Chocolate Fallow deer looked. I took my kids with me to drop off the venison at the processor and then headed to the taxidermist.

If you have never had the opportunity to hunt Fallow Deer, I highly recommend it. They are beautiful animals, the meat is wonderful and they can be hunted up until about April. So if your archery season ends early, hop on the computer and look for a great place to hunt some Fallow Deer.

Sponsored by: Black Eagle Arrows & Grim Reaper Broadheads

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