By Lisa L. Price
Arkansas man gets first taste of bowhunter’s aftershock
Being in the presence of a slammer buck can do strange things to people.
You might think your breathing rivals the ocean’s surf, or that your heartbeat echoes like the pounding of an ivory-billed woodpecker. And it’s inconceivable that the deer you’re watching, unless it’s deaf, can’t hear these things.
You can lose all feeling in your legs, hopefully not your arms, or forget to aim altogether.
Arkansas archer Billy Garner heard an unforgettable tale about such an encounter when he arrived in Kansas last year to hunt, the third season he’d made that drive. He hunts a private lease in Harper County, where he’s made many friends.
One guy told him an incredible story of how he’d emptied his quiver at a monster — taken five shots and missed. Two days later, he shot the same buck.
“He said that when he’d calmed down and thought about what happened, he replayed the shots and realized he wasn’t even looking through his peep sight,” Billy said. “That story made a big impression on me.”
Billy didn’t have long to wait before his own nerves were tested.
He spent the first magical morning on stand within a creek bottom. A hot doe kept things interesting. Deer were everywhere, and the chase was on.
“I rattled in nine bucks, but none were big enough,” Billy said. “It’s fun to go out there and see so many bucks, deer that I’d shoot without question if I was back in Arkansas.”
In 30 years of hunting his home state, his best buck was a 165-incher he shot with a rifle. He’d taken up a bow only four years ago, and used it mostly in Kansas.
“Later that morning, I’d also had a 170-class buck within bow range, but it was behind a tree and I just couldn’t get a shot at it,” Billy said. “That was a nice 10-pointer, and I would’ve been very happy with it.
“But when the doe it wanted walked away, it followed,” he continued. “I tried grunting, but there was no bringing it back.”
He’s now glad it kept going.
After taking a midday break, Billy returned to the same stand. Who wouldn’t?
“A doe came out, and she had an 8-pointer and a bigger buck with her,” he said. “As soon as I saw those long tines, I knew it was the buck my Kansas friends had e-mailed to my cell phone. I’d looked at those trail cam photographs several times a day.”
Although the doe kept walking, her suitors lingered, going to and pawing anew each of the several large scrapes nearby. For nearly 20 minutes, the two bucks dug and thrashed overhanging limbs, putting on a show Billy won’t ever forget.
“At one point, I had the big one broadside at 41 yards, and the 8-pointer was working a closer scrape, at 27,” Billy said. “The big one was raking the ground and breaking limbs. I could feel my heart beating, but I was trying to stay calm.”
Billy used his rangefinder to check various yardages. He struggled over whether to take the longish shot or wait to see if it came closer.
“They worked the scrapes for a long time, and I almost drew on the big one a couple of times, but I was thinking — hoping — it would hit the scrape the smaller buck was working, that it couldn’t just leave that one alone without adding its two scents,” Billy said. “And that’s what happened.”
The 8-pointer wisely and quickly vacated the area, and the star of Billy’s cell phone pictures swaggered his way.
“I had my bow in hand and was almost chanting: make the shot ... make the shot ... look through the peep ... look through the peep,” he said. “When it was done, I think I made the best shot I’ve ever made in my life. I could see the fletching when the arrow hit.”
Billy had to get down from the stand and climb a nearby hill to get cell phone reception. He arrived at the crest with shaking legs, fighting for breath.
“I got really nervous after I shot the deer. It was like I didn’t know what I was doing,” he recalled. “I was so out of it that I left my Mathews Outback up in the tree. We had to go back and get it later.
“I got up on that hill and tried to send a text, but I couldn’t type or spell. So then, I just called my buddies. But my voice wasn’t right. I was still ripped up,” Billy said. “I told them I’d shot the big 10-pointer, and they thought I meant the one I’d seen that morning. They told me later they were having trouble understanding me.”
About 10 minutes later, lots of help arrived. The blood trail was so obvious, it could be followed at a fast walk.
“I had wanted to wait an hour, but once we saw the blood trail, we took off,” Billy said. “We found it after only 75 yards.
It was the biggest deer I’d ever seen,” he added. “It might be the biggest I’ll ever see. I still have a hard time believing I shot it.”
Hunter: Billy Garner
Official Score: 179
Composite Score: 195 2/8
– Photos Courtesy of Billy Garner
This article was published in the Winter 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.