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The second big act of autumn will begin Saturday with the opening of the statewide youth deer season.

If there is somebody age 15 or younger in your life, you should catch this act. It's a great way to introduce a youngster to hunting, but it is also a lot of fun for experienced young hunters. Adults cannot hunt, so the focus will be entirely on the youngster and on ensuring that he or she has a good time.

I've cherished every moment I've spent with my kids in a deer stand, and we've had some great conversations. They've even killed a couple of deer.

Antler point restrictions don't apply for hunters age 15 and younger. They can shoot spike bucks, but better yet, they can shoot mature bucks that don't have three points on one antler.

We have a lot of bucks like that on our lease, including one ancient 4-point that is at least 7 years old. I first saw him four years ago chasing a doe. His antler mass was impressive then, but now he's retirement age, with a sagging chest and gut and thick, tall, wide antlers that any hunter would be proud to have on the wall.

That buck has been very elusive since I first saw him. My remote cameras have photographed him only at night except on one day in 2018 during the modern gun season. Evidently, he's been reading his clippings because he visited Mike Romine's stand every day during the muzzleloader season.

"It hurts my feelings to have a mature buck under my stand every day and not be able to shoot it," Romine said.

This weekend would be a great time for a youngster to take that buck out of circulation. He needs to be culled, too, because he has sired a lot of offspring. I have several generations of bucks on camera that look just like him. Several raghorn "scrags" also inhabit my woods that don't make book for an adult hunter, but they would be fair game for a youngster. From what my cameras show, these bucks are more prolific breeders than the ones that have better antlers.

Muzzleloader season was uneventful in our part of Grant County. Besides the big 4-point, my buddy saw only does and yearlings around his stand. Zack Smith opted not to shoot a young 6-point.

Romine's highlight was bagging a big coyote that made itself too comfortable near Romine's stand. After its first visit, he asked if he ought to have taken it.

"Absolutely," I replied. "The deer will come back. You won't see that coyote again."

"That's exactly what Zack said," Romine said.

The third time was the charm for Romine, who has a commission predator control permit. Removing that coyote is good for our turkeys and quail, and yes, we do have quail. I hear them every dawn and dusk when I'm on the lease. We also have woodcocks. They love to poke around for worms on a certain hill, and I always spend a couple of days before modern gun season hunting them. If you have never eaten woodcock, it is delicious, and they are fun to hunt.

I missed the second half of the muzzleloader season due to obligations elsewhere, but I didn't miss much. My cameras showed only does and yearlings, including one with spots on its hindquarters, during muzzleloader season. The raghorns were on camera before muzzleloader season, but they have vanished.

My one exciting moment came on Oct. 21, when I shot at a doe near dusk. I wanted a buck, but Miss Laura ordered me to get a deer. She didn't care what kind it was.

The doe steeped into a clearing, and I fired as soon as it gave me a clear broadside. There was a slight delay between the primer and powder detonations, and the powder detonation didn't sound right. After the smoke cleared, the deer was gone. I walked a large, expanding circle and found no blood, hair or deer. I was confident I missed.

Coincidentally, the incident occurred right in front of a camera. I took the memory card home, and the last image captured the whole affair. A big cloud of smoke obscures the stand. In the foreground is a clear image of a doe peeling out and getting out of Dodge.

I enlarged the image and inspected it closely for any sign of an exit wound on the camera side. There was none, but it's one of the coolest photos I've ever seen.

Sports on 10/31/2019

Print Headline: Let kids cull some raghorn 'scrags'

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