And even better to put your tag on one.
Ethan is the youngest of my three boys. He turned 7 in December of 2007, and my wife and I bought him a new Browning Bar .243 for Christmas.
Just a few days later, the weather in Alabama called for severe storms and possible tornadoes. Looking at the radar, I noticed a break coming before another severe storm would come through. Chomping at the bit to try out his new gun, Ethan and I decided to scout a tract of private land we had access to and find a spot for a good setup.
We left the house at about 8 a.m. and arrived at our hunting location just 15 minutes later. On the way, Ethan had told me he wished he was God. I asked him why, and he said, “Because I would come back as a human and pray that I would get a 12-point at 65 yards.”
With fatherly amusement, I told Nathan that if there was such a buck there whose time had come, maybe God would bless him with the opportunity to take it.
The area was an old swamp that had almost dried out from that year’s record drought. Being the only water left in the area, it looked like a natural deer magnet. It was obvious that several deer were visiting the water hole, and there were new rubs and scrapes everywhere.
I told Ethan that I had seen everything I needed to see and that we should sit down and watch for a while.
A half hour later, the wind picked up, blowing directly into the bedding area. A move was in order, so we went 200 yards into the woods and found several trails leading out to the water hole. The spot had potential, so we set up a ground blind for the following morning and decided to sit for a while.
After things were quiet for a time, Ethan insisted on using his can call. I grunted with my grunt tube while he used The Can. About 5 minutes later, I saw antlers and a brown body walking from right to left in front of us about 100 yards out.
said, “Oh, my God, Ethan, what a buck! Get your gun up!”
I helped Ethan get his new rifle settled on some shooting sticks as the deer walked into an opening about 80 yards away. Then it turned and started walking straight toward us.
That’s when I got my first good look at the antlers. It was the biggest buck I had ever seen in the woods. The rack was tall and much wider than the deer’s body. The first thing to go through my mind was that Ethan would never hit it. I said, “Ethan, do you want me to shoot?”
Of course he said no, so it was all up to him. I closed my eyes and said a quick prayer as Ethan struggled to find the buck in the scope. He said, “Where is it?”
It took all my willpower not to yell, but I whispered fiercely, “He’s right there! Just look through your scope and he will walk right into it.”
Next I heard, “I don’t see him ... Oh, my God!”
Regaining some of my composure, I said, “Wait until he picks up his head.”
The deer was quartering to us, straight up the trail that runs just a few feet from the blind. It picked up its head, and I told Ethan to shoot — but he didn’t. The deer puts its nose back to the ground and I said, “Don’t shoot now or you will shoot its antlers off.”
Meanwhile, the buck looked up again and I said, “Shoot!” — still nothing.
Finally, Ethan whispered, “I can’t shoot him walking.” By this time my heart was pounding out of my chest.
The giant buck finally decided to stop and look around only 40 yards in front of us. I said, “Shoot him!” and Ethan fired the gun.
The buck spun around and ran. I got the impression it was hit pretty good and said, “You got him!” as it ran out of sight into the woods.
Ethan said, “That is a mounter right there!” I looked down to see tears in his eyes as he said, “Hug me.”
When we walked up to where the buck had been standing, I couldn’t find anything. Still shook up, I said, “Let’s walk back to the blind and make sure we’re at the right spot.” After checking and returning, I still couldn’t find hair or blood.
Next I located the buck’s tracks and began to follow them. After about 30 yards, now with tears in my eyes, I told Ethan, “Man, I think you missed.”
He looked up and said, “No, I didn’t. I saw the hair puff up where the bullet hit, and I had it right on him.”
I stopped, looked up, closed my eyes and said, “Lord, please let this amazing young man find this deer.”
I followed the tracks with still no sign before finally finding a spot of blood about the size of a quarter. Five feet farther was a lot more. I hit my knees, closed my eyes and gave Ethan another hug, silently thanking God.
Ethan’s buck lay about 30 yards up the trail. I told him, “Boy, you just killed the biggest buck I have ever seen.” After counting the buck’s 10 points, I told my son, “I guess you owe God a big ‘thank you.’ He traded you two points and gave you 25 yards.”
A crowd had gathered by the time we got home. Everyone told Ethan he could hunt the rest of his life and never see a buck like that again. I think some day he’ll realize just how special his trophy is, but he was plenty excited even without that realization.
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This article was published in the Winter 2009 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.