By Lisa L. Price
The dead deer might as well have been a Buick.
Chris Edwards, only an inch shorter and 25 pounds heavier than NBA great Larry Bird, who used to frequent his family’s bait shop in French Lick, Ind., couldn’t budge it. Even a second set of arms and legs were of no use.
“Go get Shirley,” he told his young bowhunting protege, Jake Sternberg, who’d been hunting nearby that Sunday, Oct. 17.
Shirley was the landowner, a coworker. She’d become a close family friend after her husband died, and had repeatedly invited Chris to hunt her property in Pike County.
When Jake left, Chris began punching numbers and letters into his cell phone. He began with texts to his wife, Lindsay, and daughters, Maddy and Chloe. Jake, meanwhile, had called a friend’s parents, owners of The Great Outdoors store, to see if they’d stay open to register the buck.
“I was hopping around like a jackrabbit on Jolt cola,” Chris said.
It had been a long and frustrating week since Chris first glimpsed the giant whitetail well beyond bow range.
The previous Sunday afternoon, Chris had set Jake up in a ground blind before climbing a tree overlooking a pocket off a bean field. About 10 minutes before dark, he saw two bucks, one a very nice 10-pointer. But the other one dwarfed it.
“They didn’t come close enough,” he said. “After dark, I snuck out of there.”
The next day, a trash truck hit a power pole next to Chris’ workplace, cutting off power to the business and forcing him to work late. He couldn’t get away from the job on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday either.
While taking some practice shots on Thursday, he broke his bow.
“I called John Vercamp, who runs a bow shop called Hunter’s Hideaway, and he stayed open late to fix my bow,” Chris said. “If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to hunt on Friday.”
Based on where he’d seen the two bucks Sunday, Chris chose a different place to hang his stand. He found a single ash tree within a sea of sycamores, and then made a mock scrape with some Tink’s #69.
“I didn’t see anything that afternoon, and I couldn’t hunt at all on Saturday,” he said. “On Sunday, running a little late, I picked up Jake and went back to the ash tree.
“The mock scrape had been hit. It was bigger. And the trees around it were all torn up,” he said. “I’d made somebody really mad.”
About half an hour after he’d inched his Summit stand into place, a group of does entered the field. A little while later, a single doe exited the woods and stood under his tree. While watching her, he caught the flick of yet another tail.
“That tail looked like it was about 12 inches wide,” he said. “When the deer went to the scrape, I knew it was the bruiser I’d seen, so I stood and got my bow ready.
“It was throwing dirt, really tearing it up, but I couldn’t get a shot because it was too thick between us,” he continued.
There was a moment when Chris thought he’d botched it.
“When I’d refreshed the scrape, I’d made a mistake and touched one spot along an old fence with my bare hand. That buck sniffed that spot and bolted,” he said.
Chris was sure his window had slammed shut, but the doe was still under his tree.
“I said a quick prayer, and the buck came back, although it was nervous,” he recalled.
Chris had already drawn and was waiting for the right moment. He was looking at the sticker on his bow that says “Breathe, Relax, Focus, Release.” Just as the buck started to back away, he whistled at it and took the shot.
“I heard that pumpkin-thumping noise and knew it was a good hit,” he said. “But the buck didn’t jump or anything. It just stood there for what seemed like an eternity.”
That did nothing to boost the hunter’s confidence, but then things changed.
“That buck got down on its belly, crawled into cover, got up, and then started walking toward me,” Chris said. “Then it laid down, started licking its side, and then just fell over.
“I hung up my bow, sat down and, for at least 10 minutes, shook like crazy,” he added. “I texted Jake at 6:50 p.m. that I’d shot the big one, but to stay where he was.”
Chris, overcome with emotion, was unable to get down from his tree until 8:15.
“I had intended to take Jake on the blood trail, to teach him about tracking. But I couldn’t do it,” Chris said.
“We started on the trail, and then I blurted, ‘Let’s just go get it.’
“I’m so glad he was with me when we walked up on that deer,” he added. “It was like a moment in time stood still. It’s something we’ll both remember forever.”
Chris’ father-in-law, John Gogel, stayed up with him to take care of the buck. A taxidermist, Dean Stallion of American Taxidermy, also stayed open to accept the buck’s cape.
“I finished caping the deer at about 2 a.m., and that’s when we thought to weigh it,” Chris said. “With no head and no legs, the body weighed 220 pounds.”
Chris took a shower afterward, but spent the rest of the night in the garage, keeping the big rack company.
“I kept thanking God for such a beautiful day, for everybody who ever took me hunting when I was young, and for all the friends who helped me and got me to such a special moment,” he said.
Hunter: Chris Edwards
Official Score: 175 2/8
Composite Score: 192 2/8
– Photos by Melissa Klinkler, Impulse Studio & Design
This article was published in the November 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.