SIKA DEER HUNT 2014
I was surprised when I arrived at the Davenport Game Preserve for my Sika deer hunt last Thursday and there was no one at the lodge. I was a bit early but I was anxious and about an hour early; so I thought. When that hour turned into an hour and a half I called my friend and preserve manager Jerry Wilson to see where he was. “I am home (Pennsylvania) Ed,” he said; the hunt is tomorrow. We both laughed and I headed home.
The next morning I was again a bit early but Jerry with his friend Josh Long arrived shortly after me. We wasted little time in unloading our gear and headed up into the preserve. I could not help but enjoy the colorful foliage of the dense woods within the preserve as we headed for the top. The plan was to have Josh slowly walk through individual plots hoping to drive the deer to me with Jerry sitting a bit behind me with the video camera. I was soon to find out that seeking a Sika was not as easy as I expected it to be.
The first two drives did not produce any deer but on the next one Josh pushed 2 whitetails with 20 yards of us; but drive number four through a dense mix of hardwoods and pine alongside a creek provided plenty of action. Half way through the drive two deer and a small flock of turkeys was spooked up; all heading in our direction. The deer broke up the flock and I thought one of the gobblers, whose beard was dragging on the ground, was going to run over us. I should have had my shotgun.
That afternoon two other friends of Jerry’s, Paul Unangst and his son Dominick came up from Pennsylvania and they volunteered to help with the Sika driving that afternoon. A quick lunch and I was eager to get back up in the preserve.
From top to bottom we drove every inch of the preserve again and the Sika deer eluded us all afternoon. It was getting late and at about 5:30 p.m. Jerry suggested we would make one last patch up on top by the creek where we had kicked up the whitetails and the turkeys. It was a good call because 15 or 20 minutes into the drive I saw the high antlers of two Sika headed our way and shouldered the Henry. I was ready and I knew Jerry had the camera rolling.
Our set up in the pines cut off some of the light but the Leupold scope gave me all I needed to get the Henry 30-30 on the target. But at about 70 yards both of the Sika stopped facing us; then quartering away to our left; and I knew they were going to bolt. It was now or never and I squeezed the trigger. I was sure I hit him by the way he acted but the two of them didn’t waste any time running off. Now I had my doubts; did I or did I not hit him? Fortunately when Jerry showed me the video it was definitely a hit.
When the drivers got to us we all picked up the blood trail; but it was getting dark and we had to use flashlights to follow the blood. However with the wind picking up and blowing the leaves tracking made it a bit difficult and we decided to pick up the search early the next morning.
Back in the cabin that evening I must have looked at the video of the hit a dozen times; but it still was a very restless night for me.
In the woods at daybreak we decided to again drive the woods looking for my downed Sika buck. We only completed two drives before the wind picked up and the heavy rains came. As I sat there with the rain dripping down my neck (left my rain suit was in the lodge) after each drive my confidence level of finding the Sika was dwindling. I did get excited on the third drive I when I saw the high antlers of a Sika deer heading our way; but as he got closer I knew he was smaller than the one I had shot. Gathering after this drive Paul Suggested that we start all over, stay closer together and move a lot slower looking for movement and/or the downed deer.” It was an excellent idea.
On the very next drive Dominick had two Sika bucks jump up within 20 yards of him; and he thought one was limping; but they did not come by Jerry and me. Now I was worried about a leg shot but that was about to change shortly. Seeing the direction that the two Sika had headed we set up our next drive; and Jerry and I headed to set up.
Shortly after we got to our watch Dominick saved the day. He was walking through the center of the field along a very low hedge/rock wall towards the woodlot where he was going to drive; but he never got there. Laying down in in the grass and rock was my Sika; and this is where the hunt ended. I was one happy hunter and very grateful of those that helped me. After a few handshakes Paul, who was once a butcher, took charge of the field dressing and skinning. But first there were a lot of photos taken. What was really interesting was the stout solid build of this deer. All of us were surprised at how far this animal had run considering my bullet had damaged its heart, and its lungs.
In my research prior to the hunt I found an article by Chuck Hawks, a well- known hunting and firearms expert, that said the Sika deer is recognized as exceptionally difficult to hunt and, hard to kill which I witnessed. Also included in his recommendation for calibers and bullets is the .30-30 rifle and Fusion 170 grain bullet which were both what I used.
My Sika weighed in at 230 pounds and his rack measurements were: 18 inch main beams, 16 inch spread, pair of 5 inch and 3 inch mid beam located on the spikes and 7 inch circumference beam bases. It was a definite Bucket List trophy for me. A special thanks to Davenport Game Preserve owner, Steve Novotny who made this all happen.