Scavengers don’t always win scavenger hunts.
When 12-year-old Joshua Poland squeezed his .270’s trigger on Dec. 28, 2011, the gratification came much later. Unlike the targets he and his dad, Terry, plink with a .22 rimfire back home near Delhi, La., the buck did not twirl in the air.
In this case, the palmettos swallowed it.
Fifteen minutes later, much sooner than Terry had planned, he told Joshua to stay in the stand and to direct him as he waded across the knee-deep water to look for sign on the other side of the cypress-studded brake. He and the boy wound up looking for an hour and a half, sometimes on hands and knees, but they found nothing to indicate that bullet connected with buck.
“I’d lost hope, but Joshua told me, ‘Daddy, I know we’re going to find this deer,’” Terry said. “How could I not keep looking?”
Father and son were hunting the same club in Concordia Parish where, as a guest, Joshua shot his first doe when he was 8 years old. This was their first time back there (to hunt) since that memorable day. Terry had joined the club, an hour’s drive from their home, in 2011. They attend church with a longtime club member, who even suggested places to set up stands.
Terry and Joshua arrived at the two-man ladder stand late that day. Soon after they settled in, Joshua whispered, “Daddy, any bucks I kill from now on (he’d taken seven or eight deer in the four years leading up to then), I want a skull mount. I think those look cool.”
“Sure, son,” Terry agreed.
Soon into their vigil, they heard something running through the palmettos, and Joshua raised his rifle. Four or five minutes later, a lone deer passed on the other side of the brake they were facing. Terry knew there was a scrape line over there.
Even when Terry saw that the deer wore a rack, he wasn’t convinced it was a club-minimum 8-pointer. After staring at it, trying to get an accurate point count, he finally gave his son the okay to shoot.
As soon as the deer entered a clearing, Terry grunted, the deer stopped broadside, and Joshua fired. Terry didn’t think his son missed, but there was no evidence to support a hit.
After reluctantly giving up the search, the Polands returned to camp like whipped puppies.
“There were people there,” Terry said. “And after we told the story, three guys — I didn’t even know their names — offered to help us look.”
Even with the additional eyes more accustomed to the swampy terrain and its inhabitants, nobody found blood. No hair. No tracks left by a running deer.
When the trio of samaritans returned to camp, Terry and his son made one more loop through the thick underbrush, and that’s when they found the deer that made Joshua forget all about settling for a skull mount.
“We had no idea ... none ... that the buck was this big,” Terry said. “I’d told the guys it was an 8- or 10-pointer, probably 140 or 145 inches.”
The Polands might have been new to the club, but the deer was no stranger to some of its members. Two hunters had trail cam photos of the strange buck; one even had video footage. Another hunter had passed up the deer earlier because he just couldn’t verify that it was an 8-pointer until it was too late.
“Everybody got caught up in the kill,” Terry said. “Joshua, meanwhile, just wanted to get home and spend the night with a friend. He got shook up at first, but then he was ready to get on with it.
“We’re not what you’d call diehard hunters,” he smiled. “We hunt to have fun. I’ve hunted only once without Joshua.”
Hunter: Joshua Poland
Official Score: 203
Composite Score: 219 2/8
– Photos by Cecil Reddick
This article was published in the August 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.