All Luck Buck (image courtesy JWT, all rights reserved.)
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I’d spent almost every single minute of daylight shooting out to the limit of the range on my property. I’d gotten tons of solid data on new loads, zeroed some scopes, broke in a new .300 Win. Mag., and even got to shoot my new SSK-50 pistol out to half a mile. The weather was perfect, and the lack of cell reception made it even better. A great day done, the sun touched the horizon and I headed to the house.

Driving up the hill of our dirt road driveway, I looked out to our south facing field hoping to see a familiar doe and her fawn hanging out around the live oaks. They’d become a fixture over the fall. The field was empty and motionless, save for one short oak with some bare branches swaying in the wind.

I’m not sure if I’m dumb, but I know for certain I’m not too quick, because it took my mind a bit to unwind what I’d just seen. I’d been shooting all day. There was no wind. End branches grow outward, not straight upward. Those weren’t branches at all. Those were antlers. Very big antlers.

I drove on another 50 yards or so before I stopped the truck and snuck back to have a look. Doing his best to intimidate a rival, or maybe impress the doe I’d been hoping to see, a whitetail buck was sparring with the oak. His neck swollen from the rut, he thrashed at the branches while he stomped and scraped the ground bare.  He was big by any standard, but on this Texas Hill Country property, with no high fence and no feeder at all, he stood a titan.

An alarm on my watch buzzed. I had 10 minutes of legal shooting light left. As quietly as I could, I ran to the road and back to the truck.

Coming back from the range, you’d think I’d be ready to shoot. Indeed, I had several spectacular rifles, all freshly dialed in, stowed away in their cases and boxes, buried under a mountain of gear. There was no way I was getting them out in time and without drawing his attention. But there in the passenger seat was the one gun I didn’t have cased, because I didn’t have a case for it yet. The SSK-50 pistol, chambered in .309 JDJ.  With no time left, I grabbed the gun along with two rounds and hurried back to the field.

As I came up to the field again, I no longer saw him under the tree. Instead, he was actually closer, in the wide open and looking right at me. I hadn’t been as quiet as I’d hoped. I crouched behind a fallen branch and brought up the pistol.

He raised his head high with his tongue curled in the air and gave me a good look at his bony crown. This was, without a doubt, the biggest truly wild deer I’d ever seen around here.

The mad monarch snorted, but didn’t flee. Instead, almost impossibly, he stomped the ground and walked toward me not realizing I was a human. At 60 yards, I pulled the trigger.

He ran.

I had barely ejected one round and chambered the other before he fell, crashing into a dead cedar. My watch buzzed again as I stared across the void at him lying motionless; the end of legal light.

For the first time in the last 10 minutes, I took a breath. He didn’t take any at all.

The biggest deer of my life was the luckiest hunt of my life, and I hope they’re all just like that.

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  1. Some times you see something that just does not register for a moment.

    I flushed a covey of quail out of a small bush that had a deer in it also. A couple of moments of confusion followed.

    Moments like that are just worth it for the memories.

    • “Some times you see something that just does not register for a moment.”

      Oh, yeah. About 25 years back, I had business in a fair-sized city about 20 miles away. The parking lot was a little ways, and as I was walking up to the building, I decided to use the handicapped elevated ramp entrance. Half way up that ramp, there was something laying on the ground. For the briefest moment, I thought it had the number 100 on it. Obviously, I was hallucinating.

      *Something* made me stop dead in my tracks. Yeah, it kinda looked like a 100 dollar bill, but there’s no way in hell it really was that. I turned around walked the 7 or so steps back and looked again. Holy crap, it actually *was* a 100 dollar bill. Sure doesn’t look like a cheap copy.

      You bet your ass I picked that bill up and stuck it in my pocket… 🙂

      “Moments like that are just worth it for the memories.”

      Yeah, that was the most improbable thing that could have happened to me at that time..

  2. Nice.
    I just happened upon a huge buck by Lake Grapevine today while out for a motorcycle ride.
    Caught it in my peripheral vision just inside the tree line near the road, whipped a U-turn, got to around 20 mph, shut it down and flipped open my visor. Coasted to a stop where I saw it last and he was still there.
    Was around 20ft away from the buck for over 10 seconds, it just stared me down. He turned tail and ran off.
    Moments like that stay with you.

    • indeed. reading meters in a previous nursery part of nw ‘burbs. out pops a pair of siblings and mom reddfoxx. i freeze, they know i’m there. the kits literally cavorting in the snow while mom backed up halfway into some junipers, watching. i carried an 8x russian surplus monocular, with it i could count her whiskers. as i ran the next couple of yards they accompanied as they were hemmed in by the surrounding berm.

      • Foxes are great. We love them, but they force us to pay tribute. If we throw them scraps they leave our chickens alone.

  3. Good memories last!

    Unluckiest pig I ever shot was similar in the 1980’s. Had passengers in the car most of the day and my wife had been shopping. So shotgun case was under everything.

    Saw very large pig in a mob just on dark. Stopped the 4wd wagon and had one homemade solid loaded when they saw the vehicle. Hit the leader just as they went from a trot to a run. Full dark by the time I found a torch and walked over with some more ammo. Didn’t need them. Somehow did a perfect heart shot.

    Still remember that evening almost 40 years later.

  4. I boiled horns for 6 hours and they still weren’t fit to eat.
    A guy moved to Kansas, he didn’t say from where, his BIL said let’s go get a deer, they jump in the car with a .22. They see a doe and plug her, open the hatch back and throw her in.
    Driving down the road the passenger heres a noise coming from the back, the deer wasn’t dead, it came to and tore the hell out of the back before it finally busted out the back glass and jumped out.

    • I freely admit that a lot of my deer aren’t really hunts. I sit at my breakfast table, look down at the field below (between 400-500 yards) pick out a doe and shoot from the back porch. If I’m feeling particularly lazy, I’ll have one of my boys go down and pick her up while I finish my coffee.

    Great story and a memory to cherish. Shot a 9-point with 15 minutes of light left with my TC Encore 50 caliber at 100 yards–I was beginning to pack gear up when I looked out the window and he stepped into the lane.

  6. Wow…
    Great story. I came to Texas to see a friend in September, and had a nice wild hog hunt with him. Now that I was there and did that, I can relate a lot better to these stories.

      • That’s what we did. I got mine somewhere around 2:00 AM. It was since Army duty that I didn’t do some serious night stalkin’.

  7. Well done, that’s one for the wall and the memoirs for sure! It’s nice to be at the right spot and right time, especially after having NOT been there so many times prior. You don’t get these kinds of stories unless you get outside, and get outside often.

    • Lord knows I’ve hunted a lot harder for a lot less of an animal. But they were all good hunts too.

  8. My story unfortunately does not end with a trophy in the back of the truck. I take my daughters hunting any time we can get together during the season. My oldest is 22 and lives 2 hours away, my youngest is 20 and still lives at home while going to school. A few years back I was fortunate enough to secure an invitation to hunt a large tract of fenced private property. We just call it “the fenced in area” as they have 9 foot security fencing around 1100 acres I think I recall it being. They open the fence gates from time to time to allow some new blood in. They have a rule that if you shoot a buck, he has to be over 5 years in age and you must have him shoulder mounted. They were kind enough to offer to cut us some slack, as I was there for my kids not myself. I sat with my youngest daughter, my oldest sat by herself. My youngest didn’t need me, but again this was a few years back and she was only about 15 at the time so I sat with her to placate the club owner. One of the guys takes us out to a stand and drops us off. Now I should point out, this is late December is SC. It was unusually hot. Like nearly 80 degrees. We climb up this stand only to find it is over run by wasps. They are everywhere. It was almost like having a cloud around the stand. So I have this innate fear of wasps after one stung me between the eyes as a kid. I don’t care about snakes or spiders or other manner of crawling creatures. I don’t even mind bees or yellow jackets. But I don’t mess with wasps. So I’m sitting in this stand, petrified, holding my kid who is also not comfortable with the wasps. My uncle had organized the whole trip so I had no one’s phone number. I had to call my uncle and have him call the club and tell them we had to move. When the guy came to get us he popped up the ladder and came straight back down. Said he’d never seen so many wasps in one place. They were hibernating in the square tubes that made up the frame of the stand or something and they just kept coming like a waterfall. So they moved us to another stand that I actually preferred as it had a nice plated grass road on two sides and a big field in front. You could also see perfectly through some manicured pines behind us. She was looking for her first kill and we were hopeful. Had a bunch of does come out, she was itching to shoot any of them but I made her wait. You could have nearly spit down on these does they were so close. When the finally left, they literally walked directly under our stand. It was about 30 minutes to sundown when I saw a beast come through the tree line. This 12 point walked to about 70 yards and turned broadside to eat. I was dam near stupefied at the luck she was having. I handed her the little 243 she shoots, said take your time. Now, anyone who deer hunts knows when you see a big buck, you get tunnel vision. We were locked onto this buck. She takes aim and fires. Except there was no bang. Trying to be the good dad and teach gun safety I had told her to wait until we got in the stand to load her rifle, which we had never gotten to thanks to the wasps. It was the most dreadful “tink” sound you’ve ever heard. And my rifle was sitting right there next to me, loaded and ready. At the sound the 12 point took off toward the back of the plot. My frantic attempt to load her gun probably didn’t help. But as he was running to the back my eye caught another deer in the far corner. He stood still long enough for me to see what I’m pretty certain was 14 point. Mind you all this happens in the course of a few seconds. As the 12 goes into the treeline, the 14 decides he should exit as well. And then there I sat, having just seen the two biggest bucks I’ve seen in all my years, and not a shot fired. I modified my behavior after that incident. Now, when I go to our hunting lodge, I load my gun on the first trip out and I don’t unload it until the last hunt of the trip is over. The next season, my daughter got her first kill, followed 15 minutes later by her second kill. A little 6 and a doe within 6 feet of one another. To this day it still pains me to think about that hunt.

    • Yup, although I understand the safety concern, especially with youngsters, the best practice is to load the second you walk out that door, and don’t unload until the hunting is done for the day. If the concern is getting in and out of the blind while keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction, unchamber while you get in and rechamber as soon as you are in.

    • You mean chance met opportunity. He wasn’t prepared for what he encountered, but rather by chance…

  9. Great buck, great story. I took a big 10 one time, I’d already lowered my rifle out of the tree and started climbing down, a little too early. He saw me at 100 yards, but instead of running he came stomping toward me, stopping to ravage a tree just as you described. I pulled the rifle back up and plugged him at 50 yards. No pictures of him on the property.
    They get stupid around mid-November, best bet is to set dark to dark.
    Congratulations, that one will be one of your favorites when you’re old and feeble, given circumstances.

  10. Congratulations Jon on a very fine specimen you harvested there! God was/is smiling on you with that one.

    My only large buck that I harvested (a beefy 10-point) was basically a lucky situation as well. I occasionally hunt as a guest on an acquaintance’s property. I headed up their tree stand in the morning for the first time that season. Someone shot at something about 150 yards away on the adjacent property which sent three does running by me about 80 yards away. Maybe 10 minutes later a nice 10-point buck came along with his nose low toward the ground tracking those does. I braced myself against the tree and lined up my shot and … nothing. In my excitement I forgot to pull the hammer back on my single-shot rifle. I hurriedly pulled the hammer back and lined up again–squeezing the trigger just as his head disappeared behind brush. Blam! He bucked, ran about 70 yards right underneath my tree stand, and then crashed another 70 yards away.

    I did not realize what a beast he was until I walked up on him. I went to my acquaintance’s home to inform him of my harvest and he graciously volunteered to drive out his tractor with front-loader to scoop/haul him back for me. When I saw his front loader bucket, I told him that it probably was not big enough. He laughed off my comment and drove out to retrieve my buck. When he arrived with his tractor, he was astonished and agreed that his front-loader bucket was too small and drove back to get a bigger bucket! I acquired a mount for that buck which now adorns my family room.

    Mine was another example of simply being fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time (and was not the product of exhaustive pre-season scouting and planning). Of course you have to actually go out to have any chance of being at the right place at the right time. And you have to be prepared as well.

  11. @jwt hope you are doing well, miss your stories here. It was one of the main reasons I visit the site.

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