This world would be a very boring place if a person did not have anything to feel passionate about. I assume that, since you are reading this article, we have a similar passion DEER HUNTING. I also have another passion that you will read about as this story goes along. I am a lucky man to have a job and a loving family both of which allow me to spend a lot of my time in a tree stand. I always try to save a week of vacation time for the last week of deer season.
The season was not going very great for me, although I had harvested some does. The only highlight of the year was that I was with my son when he took his first deer; a very old and heavy 140-pound doe. I did not see a buck that was mature enough to harvest until the 7th day of January. Unfortunately, it was so late in the evening, I could only see the horns and the shadow of a big buck slipping along the fence line not more than 30 yards from my stand. I got up the next morning eager to get to my stand. As luck would have it, I did not see a buck that morning. To make things worse, the buck I had seen the night before had made a rub on a cedar tree that was ten inches in diameter, not 80 yards away from my stand. My anxiety level increased two-fold after that day.
My luck did not seem to get any better as the end of the season approached. I began to lose my confidence in both my hunting land and hunting skills. Frustration is a very powerful emotion as most hunters could testify to. One might wonder why a person would torture himself or herself over such a thing as this and call it enjoyment. I think one could not say he was passionate about his hobby unless he has gone through something like this.
To make matters worse, I began hearing stories about the bucks that my friends and neighbors were taking. I could only say that I had not seen one yet. One particular story took the cake. My cousin's husband had decided to take up this sport, purchased a .243 caliber rifle, picked the fairest day to go hunting, stepped into his stand in front of his house (where, by the way, he still can see his front porch) and killed a good 8-pointer. He then waited a couple of weeks before going back to his stand, which he had moved about 40 yards, and killed a nicer 8-pointer. Mind you, this was not jealousy or anything, I was very elated for the guy and hope I have gained a new hunting buddy. It's just a blow to my ego. After all, I had hunted for over 20 years and thought I knew all there was to know about this sport. Now I was reminded of what the phrase "being in the right place at the right time" meant.
My anxiety level had quadrupled. It was the last week of the season and I was certain my luck was about to change because it was "rutting" time. All seasoned hunters know of this glorious time when the buck's hormones are doing his thinking for him and he is wandering around like a seventeen-year-old boy looking for a prom date. Monday and Tuesday came and went without seeing a buck, although I was seeing does everyday.
I have a lifelong friend who always comes up to hunt with me for a couple of days during the last week of the season. My friend, who I will refer to as Mark from here on out, chose to hunt in a stand I had placed by a creek bank. I had hunted from this same stand earlier in the week and hadn't seen anything. On Mark's first time out, on Wednesday, low and behold an 8-pointer arrived, running along the creek bank trailing a hot doe. Mark's luck was not much better than mine was, because the doe spotted him in the tree and bolted, taking the buck with her. This forced him to take a rushed shot in a low-light situation that resulted in a missed shot. He felt bad about it and I felt for him too because I had been in the same predicament.
Thursday arrived. Mark chose a stand overlooking a sage field that he and I had put up before the season began. He took his rattling horns with him to try to call in a big buck. At 9:00 a.m. Mark became restless and decided to stalk through some pine trees not more than 100 yards behind his stand. He had barely gotten into the pines when he jumped a big buck. The buck was bedded down with a doe and had not paid any attention to Mark's rattling. The buck scampered out of the pines, jumped a fence and was headed across a rye field toward the woodlot right behind my house. In a state of frenzy, Mark fired a round off, hoping to get lucky. He missed and decided that it would be foolish and unsafe to fire again.
Mark was fast approaching the state of mind that I had come to know all too well. He told me that it was a "good buck". At that time I didn't know what he meant by that remark. I still had not seen a buck, so any deer with a rack would have been a good deer to me. Mark thought that he had scared the buck into the next county, and that it surely wouldn't come back that afternoon. He did not know of my frustration level. Here I was, hunting hard all week and had seen nothing that even resembled a buck. I wouldn't have been able to hunt anywhere else knowing that there was a racked buck in the woods behind my house. So, I made my decision. I would hunt from a ladder stand behind my house.
It is here in the story where my other passion emerges; my belief in Jesus Christ and the power of prayer. Many times He has soothed my soul in situations dealing with more serious issues. I said a quiet prayer to myself and decided to razz my friend some. I told him just to pick me out a stand since he was seeing all the bucks. "Just tell me where to go," I said. It was about then that I told him, "Well, since you are not going after the buck you spooked, I am going to sit in that stand behind my house." I told him I had given him every opportunity to harvest a buck. I told him I was going to my stand and that I was going to get that elusive buck, that he would be a 10-pointer, and that I would take him at 5:20 p.m. We were having a nice time laughing and carrying on.
As I departed, I reminded him that when he heard the bark of my .308 to come help me load him because it was going to be a big one. Before I left I went back inside the house and wrote a note instructing my son to go to the fence line behind our house and make a little noise at 4:00 p.m. This fence line was north upwind from me about 800 yards. I got in my stand at 3:30 p.m. and kept an eye on my watch. There was a lake to the left of me, woods in front and around me, and an open pasture to the right of me. The pasture was going to be the problem, because if the buck decided to come out in it he could come out anywhere from right on me to 700 yards or better. The worst scenario would be that he wouldn't come out at all.
At 4:10 p.m., two does came out 250 yards from me, running as fast as they could and not letting up until they ran out of sight. I was relieved that a buck was not with them, because I could never have hit him and would not even attempt it with cows in the pasture beyond them. My son Judson's yell was so faint I could hardly hear it. It was his signal that he was going back to the house. I thought to myself that my plan had failed to deliver a buck. My anxiety level was erupting like a volcano.
Suddenly a peaceful calm came over me. I remembered I was a Christian, and that Jesus tells us in the Bible that if we trust and believe in Him we will receive many blessings. I must have prayed for at least 15 minutes. My prayer was that if the Lord would give me a buck, any buck, I would give him the praise. The size did not matter to me. I will be content with anything you offer, I prayed. I did not ask for a record buck, just the blessing the Lord said He would give to His children. I also asked Him to take from me this frustration that I had placed on myself. I told my maker that if anyone asked me about the buck, I would give Him the honor and glory and use it to give encouragement, or to plant a seed in someone else's life. Every so often I would glance down at my watch.
At 5:18 p.m. I looked up and spotted a buck coming out of the woods. I knew it was a buck because I got a glimpse of horns. I immediately took my eyes off his rack and focused on the shot at hand. He did not walk out the same path the does had come from earlier in the afternoon. He came out closer to me. I wheeled around, in control, still calm from my recent prayer, put him in the cross hairs of my scope and jerked the trigger. I missed. The deer turned like he was going back into the woods and stopped, as if confused about which direction the noise had came from. I braced my shoulder and forearm up against the extended leg of the ladder stand, aimed at the front shoulder, squeezed the trigger and the buck fell to the ground.
I climbed down from the ladder stand, crawled under a barbed wire fence that almost removed the coveralls from my body, and counted 153 paces to my downed buck. I was stunned, shocked and thrilled at the size of this buck. I looked at my watch and it read 5:20 p.m.
I fell to my knees, looked upward and gave thanks to the Lord with tears on my cheeks. This was just too much for me to take. I felt as if I was in shock for the rest of the season, not from the buck, but from the experience that I had that afternoon. I got back to the house, but Mark had not made it back yet, so I turned my truck around so he would not see it when he drove up. I took my deer cart out of the back of my truck also. Mark finally arrived and I quickly asked him if he had seen anything and he began to tell me about a deer he had seen at dusk. He then asked me why I had taken my cart out of the truck. Was I trying to make him think I had shot a deer? He hadn't heard my shot so I told him I had taken a buck. His reply was, "Yeah right, how big was it?" My reply was, "Oh, it was a good buck."
After Mark saw the 10-pointer that was taken at 5:20 p.m. and heard the story behind the buck, he appropriately named him the "Divine Buck". This buck was not the state record or anything, but I'll always cherish it. This story isn't meant to imply that you can pray rewards or riches upon yourself, rather that God will bless you in ways unimaginable if you will trust in Him and ask for things with the right reasons and a humble attitude. I know some will have doubts or say it was just an overactive imagination.
That deer did not have to come out in daylight or in range like it did. That deer did not have to give me a second shot. I didn't know if that deer stopped in the woods behind my house or had kept going. Of course, I could have missed him if I hadn't had a good brace. So goes my theory of "being in the right place at the right time". Too many things happened that afternoon to say it was luck. I do not believe in luck. I believe in blessings.
I would like to dedicate this testimony to Andy Yancey, a friend of mine who passed away a little over a year ago. Andy showed me that it does not make you any less of a man to share your salvation. Not in anything he said, but in the example he lived. Andy loved hunting and was a good friend. 11/06/62 - 12/27/98