Four days into his Thanksgiving-week vacation, Steve Lewis walked out of his house and winced at the warm breeze, which held the promise of rain. Ignoring Doc’s incessant barking, he went back inside and decided to give the ducks at Corney Lake a break — not that they’d notice, since they’d apparently found someplace other than the Kisatchie National Forest to bide their time.
The 53-year-old from Haynesville, La., had hunted ducks at dawn and dusk on Saturday and Sunday and again on Monday morning, which is why his black Lab assumed Tuesday would be no different. But with the abysmal luck he’d had in the blind and the less-than-ideal weather, Steve decided to watch the sunrise from his deer stand.
It hadn’t been a great ’09 deer season to that point, either. Despite the adrenaline spike he and his oldest son, Tyler, had enjoyed after retrieving trail camera photos of at least two shooter bucks on the Claiborne Parish parcel they hunt, Steve hadn’t seen a hair during his last three or four outings.
The drive wasn’t far. Steve parked and followed an oak ridge for about 250 yards to his homemade, 10-foot-tall tower stand at the timber’s edge. He was aloft before daybreak.
He chose the tower because there were a couple of scrapes nearby, and the deer there keep them fresh, as a rule. Still, Steve wasn’t feeling particularly lucky.
About 10 minutes before 7:00, while watching a couple of squirrels, he spotted a deer about 140 yards distant. It was within an easy 30 yards of his bow stand. The deer was walking with its tail up, which Steve thought odd.
As the hunter lifted his rifle and peered through the scope, the deer stopped, most of its head hidden behind a holly bush. Steve didn’t realize it at the time, but the buck (he could tell that much, and that it wore a decent rack) was working a scrape.
Hoping it was either the big 4x4 or 9-pointer the trail camera had photographed, Steve decided to take it. Even when he squeezed the .270 WSM’s trigger, the buck’s head and neck were hidden from view. He had a clear poke at the shoulder, but it was between a couple of trees.
Figuring time was running out, he didn’t wait for another look at the antlers. He was confident he’d get a follow-up shot in a more open spot if the deer ran.
And run it did, but it never reached the shooting lane. Steve lost sight of it almost immediately. He hoped that was because the deer had fallen.
When he walked over to where the deer had been standing, he saw the fresh scrape. He saw the buck a short time later and was totally surprised at the size of its rack.
“Where did you come from?” he whispered, realizing that this whitetail had somehow managed not to be photographed or seen by anyone hunting there.
Although Steve was elated at the antlers’ size and the number of points, he never dreamed the narrow set — it was only 16 3/8 inches wide — would score so high.
“People just don’t shoot deer like this around here, not in Claiborne Parish,” he said.
After admiring the buck, he called Tyler and said, “Guess what I shot?”
“You got the 9-pointer, didn’t you?” he answered.
“Nope, this one has 18 points,” he said.
“Umhm,” his skeptical son retorted.
During the trek back to his truck, Steve thought of his longtime hunting pal, Kevin Reeder, who’d died of cancer the previous January. He wished Kevin was there to see the deer.
The drag to the truck was shorter by 150 yards than the route Steve had taken to his stand.
“I really think I walked by that bedded buck, probably within 50 or 60 yards, in the dark, on the way to my stand,” he said. “Otherwise, there’s no way it could’ve slipped in there without seeing my truck or even walking right past it.”
It wasn’t until Steve actually hoisted the deer in the truck that he noticed a 19th point, a 6 6/8-inch-long drop tine.
Before seeing his son, he first drove to his workplace of nearly three decades, Marathon Oil, where a coworker took a photo with his cell phone. Unbeknownst to Steve, the guy posted it on the Internet.
Tyler’s boss saw the Internet photo and asked him, “Did you see what your daddy just shot?”
Even the folks at Simmons’ Sporting Goods in Bastrop, La., had heard about and seen photos of the deer before Steve arrived to enter it into their big buck contest. When the rack was scored at nearly 216 inches (spread included), Steve almost choked.
“I was in shock,” he said. “I’m still having a hard time believing it.
“I called my wife to tell her, and she asked ‘Is that good?’ She doesn’t know much about scoring. So I told her, ‘Yes, honey, that’s VERY good.’”
The deer was estimated to be 4 1/2 years old. And it was very small in body compared to the normal weight of mature bucks there.
“It weighed 170 pounds on the hoof,” Steve said. “I guess it all went to antlers. I shot a 9-pointer there three years ago that weighed 235.”
Steve’s cell phone was like an annoying seat belt buzzer for the rest of the day, all the way ’til bedtime — calls he didn’t mind answering.
Official Score: 199 2/8
Composite Score: 215 5/8
– Photos Courtesy of Steve Lewis
This article was published in the October 2010 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.