What’s the worst that could happen if you stay for the duration?
Nothing is more discomfiting to a deer hunter than the ill-timed squeak, ping or pop of a metal stand. Regardless of volume, the noise is as unwelcome and annoying as the chirping of a cell phone in a movie theater.
When some invisible joint on Tracy Butler’s 15-foot-high tripod popped during an impromptu afternoon hunt in 2007, the hunter from Harned, Ky., was ready to throw in the wet towel. There might have been a few minutes of daylight remaining, but seeing six white flags racing away from him did more to rain on his parade than the rain itself.
He’d left the paper mill early on a rheumy Nov. 21, eager to walk away from the mill’s heating systems and to jumpstart the long Thanksgiving holidays, because the rut was underway in his portion of Breckinridge County. Plus, a cold front was behind the rain, and he suspected the deer would be on the move.
Lunch was a quick pack of cheese crackers and a bottle of water. He went home, put on his waterproof, cold-weather clothing and grabbed his gun and pack, where he keeps his scent spray and doe pee.
The property he hunts is about a mile from his house. He drove his four-wheeler there, parked and walked about 600 yards to his tripod, which is set up in a brushy drainage within a 3-acre cornfield. He chose the draw because there are no climbable trees in decent spots, and he knew he could reach it quickly and silently without spooking deer.
The six does filed out of the nearby thicket and into the cornfield behind Tracy about an hour before dark. The stand popped when he turned to get a better look.
“I was very upset that I spooked them,” the 35-year-old said. “I sat there for just a few more minutes, decided the hunt was probably over, and then I began lowering my gun. That’s when I heard what sounded like a buck grunting inside the thicket.”
No longer eager to get out of his stand, Tracy settled back in and started watching the tree line. He knew an enormous buck called the place home. He’d seen the sign, had collected photos of it from his trail cameras, and his own dear mother had shot and missed it during the season’s opening weekend.
“I’d planned on spending that whole Thanksgiving break — five days — hunting for that deer,” he said.
When a buck stepped out of the timber at last light, Tracy knew only that it was a good one. He took the 75- to 80-yard chip shot and dropped the animal, and then he waited to make sure it wasn’t going to stand up again.
“It was dark when I finally got down and walked over to the deer,” he said. “I didn’t know until I put my hands on those familiar antlers that it was the one I’d been hunting all season.”
Before loading it, Tracy went immediately to his mother’s house to tell her he’d shot the buck she missed. She didn’t believe him, but she agreed to climb on the four-wheeler and ride back out to the cornfield to see it. All doubts were erased when they pulled up to the magnificent 3 1/2-year-old, rut-worn whitetail.
“She was really excited for me,” Tracy beamed.
Official Score: 176 4/8
Composite Score: 198 6/8
– Photos Courtesy of Tracy Butler
This article was published in the July 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.