Only In America!

Only In America!

For this Purple Heart veteran who spent 13 months in Iraq and was seriously wounded by a roadside bomb, the hunt he went on last January in Virginia for his first buck ever will be etched in his memory always!

Twenty-three-year-old Army veteran Nick Vinogradov proudly shows off his trophy whitetail, taken on Jan. 1, 2009, on private property in Cumberland County, Virginia. Nick's "All-American" buck sported 18 points and grossed nearly 160 inches.

In early December 2008, my brother Doug invited me to rifle hunt with him in Cumberland County, Virginia, over the New Year holidays. Doug lives in Chesapeake, Virginia, and we planned to hunt on property owned by Dr. Charlie Anderson. I had hunted there several times before back during the 2008 bow season. I'm primarily a bowhunter, and prior to this hunt, I had only been gun hunting twice in my life.

I'm a 23-year-old Purple Heart veteran. I spent 13 months in Iraq during operation Iraqi Freedom. While there, my truck was hit by an IED. The explosion blew out my right eardrum and shot shrapnel through my right hand. I have 60 percent hearing loss in my right ear and constant ringing in both ears. I'm glad to be alive, and proud to be an American. Deer hunting has always been very important to me.

Prior to the 2008 season, I'd been deer hunting for about 10 years. During that time, I'd hunted a number of states from New York to Florida and I'd never seen a live buck in the woods while in a stand. I spent many hours in tree stands and ground blinds, and I was beginning to think I was doing something wrong. Little did I now that all of that was about to change on New Year's Day 2009!

I couldn't wait to tell my fiancée that I was going whitetail hunting with my brother. I don't think she was too happy since I planned to be gone over the holidays. Dr. Anderson has a beautiful piece of property. He has spent a lot of time clearing fields, planting food plots and even building bridges over creeks so that his guests can get to their stands easily and quietly. He has a great population of deer on his property.

Ninety percent of the people who hunt on the property are bowhunters, including myself.

But on this late-season hunt we planned to use rifles. We arrived in Cumberland County on New Year's Eve. That night, while most people were out celebrating the last day of 2008, I was in bed at 9 p.m. We got up on New Year's morning and headed off to our stands. I had no idea where my brother was taking me. We drove down a dirt road and then through a small field. Doug parked the truck next to a power line right of way. We walked about 20 feet and he said, "There's your stand."

With no questions asked, I climbed up into a ladder stand and waited for the sun to rise.

When the sun came up, I turned around and could see the truck behind me. I thought, This isn't good. Certainly any deer in the area will see the truck and run the other way.

I now live in Florida and I'm used to fairly warm weather. It was about 10 degrees on New Year's morning! I was freezing. I couldn't feel my toes or fingers. I sat in the stand for about two hours before I saw three does run across the top of the power line about 400 yards away. I couldn't get a shot on them, so I settled back down and continued my vigil.

The author very nearly paid the ultimate price while serving in the Army in Iraq. Now that he's back home, he plans to finish college and do a lot more whitetail hunting!

A half hour later Doug called me and asked me if I'd seen anything. I told him about the does. He climbed out of his tree stand, located several hundred yards up the power line, and headed toward the top of the hill to see if the does were feeding in a small food plot located there. I unhooked my safety belt and got ready to climb down to go and meet him, but that little vice inside told me to stay in the stand until Doug started walking back toward me.

As soon as Doug crested the hill, I heard bushes moving to my left. I looked over, and all I could see was a huge set of antlers coming through the bushes about 50 yards away. I couldn't believe my eyes. This was the first antlered buck I had ever seen while deer hunting. Since I usually hunt with a bow, I wasn't prepared to shoot my rifle when the buck came out of the brush. I was hunting with a Savage .30-06 bolt-action. I brought the gun up and attempted to find the deer in my scope.

It was clear that he did not like being in the open on the power line right of way. He had his head in a sneak position and he was moving fast. As soon as I got the cross hairs on the buck's shoulder, his head disappeared behind a tree. I knew it was now or never, so I squeezed the trigger. The buck went out of sight, but I could hear rustling in the leaves. I didn't know if the deer was down or if he was running away. Then all was silent.

I called Doug and he asked me if I'd gotten a buck. I had already been shaking from being cold, but after the shot, it was uncontrollable. I told Doug that all I had seen was a wall of antlers coming off the deer's head. He told me to stay in my stand and that he was coming. I was too excited to stay in my stand. As soon as he started walking toward me, I climbed down and started looking for blood. Moments later I heard my brother whistle. I turned around and he was waving me over with a huge smile on his face.

I couldn't believe the size of my first buck ever! He had a total of 18 points over 1 inch long, 9 on each side. With over 16 inches in abnormal points, he grossed nearly 160 inches. In addition to all of the non-typical points that give the rack lots of character, the extra-long brow tines measured 8 1/4 inches and 11 inches in length. Also of note were the rack's heavy bases, measuring 5 4/8 inches on each side.

I am now attending college in Florida, and I'm very proud of my service with the U.S. Army. Hunting whitetails has been a great way for me to adapt to civilian life again. It's also been great therapy. Never in a million years did I ever think I would shoot such a great buck.

Only in America!

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