Following the 2009 season, Spencer Forsythe was a perfect four-for-four in filling his tag on opening day. The first three deer were a bit easier on his nerves than this bull of the woods was.
“I can’t believe you missed it,” Kyle Forsythe told his son, Spencer.
“I’m sorry,” the boy replied.
“I just can’t believe you missed it.”
“I’m sorry I missed it.”
“You don’t have to apologize. It’s just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you missed it.”
“Look, I said I was sorry, alright?”
Kyle and Spencer, relative newcomers to deer hunting, were staring at the empty woodlot where, moments earlier, a huge buck had stood. The boy was the first to see and shoot at it. His dad had even taken a Hail-Mary at the fleeing animal, which looked perfectly healthy when it was turning on the afterburners.
After a few minutes had passed, Kyle realized the ridiculousness of berating his son. He was suffering as much from buck fever as was his charge, and he began chuckling, which also was contagious.
“We laughed at that silly conversation,” Kyle said. “And after we settled down a bit, we decided to get down and see if we could find any blood. It was getting late anyway.”
Kyle knew his son could handle the .243 Winchester, so they had to check. In the three seasons since they’d both taken the hunter safety course so Spencer could try his hand at the sport his older brother, Ryan, loved, the youngster had taken two bucks and a doe, all on opening day, all between 3:30 and 4:30.
The Forsythes own 85 acres in rural Jefferson County, Pa. Hunting rates a distant fourth behind trail riding with dirt bikes, ATVs and mountain bikes.
Two hundred yards behind their home, Ryan built a 20-foot-high platform within a cluster of five mature maple trees overlooking a clearing. That’s where Kyle and Spencer sat on Nov. 30, opening day of the 2009 rifle season, which is as much a holiday as the earlier Thanksgiving.
Prior to the season, rumors of a huge buck were circulating, which had Spencer pumped. The boy was the first in his family to confirm the gossip.
“About two weeks before the opener, I was looking out the dining room window and noticed a very large buck come out of the woods near the house. I thought no one would believe me, so I grabbed my camera and photographed it,” he said. “We were sure it was the deer everyone was referring to because it was much bigger than anything else we’d seen.”
From that moment on, Spencer frequently announced that he was going to shoot the deer.
Father and son watched the sunrise from the platform on opening day, despite the sporadic misting rain. It was cold, but not enough to snow.
“It was a slow day as hunting goes,” Kyle said. “We heard very few shots from the surrounding hills and valleys. The deer were just not moving.”
Spencer decided midmorning he’d go back to the house, warm up and eat. Kyle stayed in the stand. When the boy returned about 10:00, his dad was ready for a change of scenery.
“I got down and decided to circle through the woods to see if I could run a deer back toward Spencer,” he said.
“As I was making my way along, I saw a bobcat. I had never seen one in the wild before that. When I got back to the treestand, Spencer said he hadn’t seen anything while I was gone.”
After another hour passed, Spencer went to the house. He came back out at 3:00.
“After a while, I could tell he was getting bored again. He was shuffling around and not paying enough attention,” Kyle said. “I thought if we traded places and he could watch a different part of the clearing, he might perk up a bit. So we shifted.
“Two or three minutes later, I heard Spencer say, ‘It’s a buck,’ and I turned to look. I saw only half the rack, at first, but it was absolutely huge,” Kyle said. “I whispered to Spencer, ‘If you get that thing in your scope, don’t wait. Just squeeze the trigger as soon as you can. Don’t wait for it to turn or get closer. Just take the first shot.’”
The deer was at 80 yards, but getting closer.
“I had a good view of the deer as it was coming toward us,” Spencer said. “It was moving pretty quickly. I had my rifle up and was getting ready to squeeze the trigger when I heard Dad whisper for me to shoot. Just then, the buck raised its head and looked straight at me.
“A split second later, I fired straight into the front of its neck and chest,” he continued. “All I could remember was the lines in the scope moving around in a circle on the front of the deer as I squeezed the trigger. I hoped it was in a good spot when the gun fired.”
The deer spun around and took off running.
“I also had my new open-sighted rifle to my shoulder in case we needed a follow-up shot,” Kyle said. “I tried, but the deer was moving too fast. I missed.”
After regaining their senses, Kyle and Spencer went to look for blood. They were thrilled when they came across some. Kyle decided that since neither he nor Spencer were experienced trackers, they needed help. Spencer called two friends, who were hunting nearby, and a neighbor.
Not long after he finished the calls, Spencer bent down and peered through the trees along the trail the buck had taken. He saw what looked like a broken tree limb he didn't remember being there earlier, so he called his dad over to investigate.
“When I bent down to look under the overhanging branches, I saw the dead buck. It had gone about 100 yards,” Kyle said.
"The 18-year-old neighbor boy arrived a few minutes later. He told us he’d seen that deer earlier and had his gun on it, but he was shaking too badly to take the shot,” Kyle added. “We also learned after the fact that another hunter encountered the same deer earlier in the day and had actually missed it on the other side of the hill from us.
“I guess its luck ran out when it wandered into Spencer’s sights.”
Hunter: Spencer Forsythe
Official Score: 170 7/8
Composite Score: 189 7/8
– Photos courtesy of Spencer Forsythe
This article was published in the July 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.