I had a big fall of hunting. I walked 37 miles elk hunting in the Black Hills. Another 17 miles hunting west river. But today I'm more sore and worn out than any other after a mile of walking yesterday.

I went back to Sully County for the first day of the Antlerless Only deer season. It's a season that runs for nine days and is only for antlerless deer licenses.

I left at 4:00 am and pulled into the spot I wanted to hunt right at shooting light. After grabbing my rifle and pack I walked 30 yards into a cut corn field and was on a doe right away. I dropped my pack and started crawling to get closer before she hopped a fence into private ground. I set up my rifle on my bipod and followed her in the scope, waiting to get a clear shot through the corn stalks. I lost the doe momentarily and looked up to find her again.

CRACK, BOOM!

Hearing the sound of a rifle bullet breaking the sound barrier followed by the boom of the muzzle blast will cause you to need a change of underwear. I never saw the deer again. Shortly after a figure wearing blaze orange started walking in the direction of the downed deer. I didn't blame him. I didn't know he was there and never saw a truck and I'm sure he never saw me either since I was crawling behind a rise. I just headed back for my pack and then my truck and started on plan B.

I arrived at my second choice of spots and again saw deer moving again. After walking about a half mile into a cut sunflower field I saw what I thought was a doe in my binoculars from about 700 yards away. As it turned out, it was a doe and a buck that had been feeding. I worked my way to 230 yards away, which was as close as I could get without getting busted. Then it became a waiting game as they had bedded down by the time I got done crawling the last 70 yards. After two hours the doe stood up, rousted by the buck who certainly had a romantic notion. I ruined the date.

After gutting the deer I hooked up my drag harness to my frame pack, which just had a small bag attached to it. I opted not to skin and bone out the deer even though I was equipped to. That was a mistake. Even though I knew it, I didn't really realize I was going to be dragging the deer 100 yards shy of a half mile back to the road. My truck was another half mile down the road.

The second mistake I made, as the day warmed to nearly 30 degrees, was that I left my warm bibs and heavy coat on. I got warm and sweaty. As I arrived at the ditch following the 20 minute walk I was pooped. Luckily a very nice couple who were out road hunting for pheasants offered to give me a ride to my truck. I happily accepted.

While I shouldn't have been, I awoke surprised this morning to muscle soreness throughout my legs and buttocks. I didn't do much today.

It was a frustrating year that ended on a high note. My biggest fear was not adding any meat to the freezer. I big mule deer buck would have been nice last month, but after my cow elk fantasy evaporated in October, I wished for at least what I ended up with: a nice sized doe to work on eating over the next year.