Somehow, I knew it would come down to this.
We're approaching the last weekend of the A-Zone deer season, and I still haven't filled my buck tag.
Failing to take an A-Zone buck this season would end my streak of four consecutive years bagging a deer for the region. That's one run I'd like to continue.
As expected, the monster buck I wrote about in an earlier column that we saw while setting up camp has vanished -- he teased us with a quick glimpse and hasn't returned.
So far this season, we've seen more predators than deer, which is never a good sign.
But there is hope.
One of my hunting buddies, Gerald Dooley, harvested a respectable forked horn at about 2 p.m. Sunday.
The stud was out for an afternoon stroll with some of his girlfriends when Gerald interrupted the date, shooting the buck on the run.
With help from Gerald's brother, Andrew, we dragged the deer up toward camp when we noticed two promising signs -- his neck was swelled and his tarsal glands were ripe with doe-attracting pheromones. Both are indications that the bucks are rutting and chasing does.
This time of year, bucks usually become more preoccupied with does than hunters, and often take more risks -- all in the name of love. The change in behavior provides hunters with excellent opportunities to take down a nice wall-hanger.
As the season progresses, larger bucks will usually move in and push the young guys out.
Gerald's buck seemed to be ruling the roost in his area. We had seen some small spikes with him, but none that could match him in a fight.
We've come across several does on the property we hunt, and are anticipating that they'll draw in lovesick bucks from neighboring parcels.
Having one-less buck in the area will hopefully allow a big daddy to take his place.
Gerald getting the skunk out of deer camp adds to the good news.
The bad news for me -- I have a bet going with Gerald based on who gets the bigger buck this season, and now I have one more weekend to try and beat his kill.
If not, it's dirty-dish duty all next season.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.