Didn't see this coming.

Not the bulldozer-sized buck that closed within 30 yards, but an inexplicable miss from my formerly-trustworthy Browning.

The most massive deer I ever pointed a gun at was there, then gone with the breeze.

Sunday morning was the first deer sit of the season for me, thanks mostly to just enough ducks hanging around through archery time to keep water-fowling interesting.

This particular spot, part way into a football field-sized maize of briars and brush, has often been good. Mostly because it separates one of the those impenetrable "sanctuary" swamps from 100 acres of oak woods.

Of course, like anywhere else, I've been skunked and never seen deer here many times. Other days, as many as a dozen might slip by without offering a fair shot. Most exciting is having them practically waltz into the ground blind.

An elevated perch would be more sensible, but I've sniped enough deer from tree stands that it has lost some of its intrigue. Sort of like fly fishing or bait plunking purists, success is best enjoyed on your own terms.

Besides, I could never climb a stand without alerting ever deer in the bottoms.

Time glance was 8:19 a.m., when I caught a glimpse of a wide rack then an incredibly wide-bodied buck quartering towards me at 40 yards. Game on. Slowly and smoothly I mounted the shotgun.

Major accomplishment. Getting the gun on point is the biggest challenge with a buck at eye-level. Nothing left except to zero in behind the armpit and squeeze.

Kablamm!

The bruiser hunched backwards like a solid hit, then bucked upwards on hind legs as it spun and disappeared the same way he came. Mentally, I counted the seconds waiting to hear the expected death crash that never came.

That allowed the first bit of doubt creep in. No blood, no hair and only Hereford-sized tracks at the "impact site" brought on a nauseating chill. Two hours of searching, one immediate and one with the dog a bit later, left no doubt.

A clean miss, albeit a spectacular miss with a buck that big and that close.

Days later, I'm still not sure how or why I blew it.

The open-sight Browning pump is a point-and-shoot sure thing. A week earlier, after dialing in the landowner's scoped shotguns at 60 yards, I chambered a slug and punched a hole two inches off the center of paper plate. Although, I don't consider myself a great shot, the Browning is the one gun that I've owned that has always been magic.

Someone mentioned "buck fever," but it never crossed my mind until now. I mean I've been-there, done-this many times.

On the other hand, I still get very excited when deer are close. Why else would you spend two hours, two days or two weeks waiting for that two-seconds of adrenaline.

• Deer donations: If you're lucky enough to shoot an extra deer, don't forget about the less fortunate.

Mike Mussa. proprietor of Eastside Meats (874-7524), a popular deer processor at 4666 West U.S. 20, Michigan City (a bit east of I-94), has been the middle man between hunters and area soup kitchens, shelters and church programs for years. It’s as simple as leaving a few pounds of venison burger behind when you get a deer butchered or donate an entire deer for a greatly reduced processing fee.

• Outdoor notes: Whitefish and lake trout turned up in the DNR's annual fall assessment netting near the Michigan City harbor this week. It’s not surprising those beautiful fish were in 40 feet of water, but it is remarkable the water temperature was still 54 degrees in mid-November.

Used to always be in the mid-40s or colder by this time of year, and steelhead, whitefish and the lakers would all be biting with some regularity on the pier, although there have been steelhead and lake trout landed in lower Trail Creek in the past week.

Note the Lake Michigan water temperature at the Water Department intake is listed on the back page of Section A of The News-Dispatch. Sunrise and sunset times, which are necessary for hunters to know, are also listed.

Inland fishermen were still pulling quality bass, bluegill and crappie from the La Porte lakes at mid-week. The bite likely will end quickly with the cold front in the forecast for the weekend.

Colder, blustery weather, and the ducks and geese it should push down from the north, is what waterfowlers have been waiting on for weeks. Canada geese season in the North Zone closes on Sunday before reopening Dec. 10 to Feb. 12. Ducks remain legal until Dec. 11.

Also, keep in mind that youth hunt free next weekend in Indiana. Nov. 26 and 27 are free hunting days for any resident, age 17 or younger, and accompanied by an adult. See www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild for more details.

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