I was 14 years old when I finally learned why my family was gaga over deer hunting. I didn’t shoot one that year, but I did tag a 10-pointer with my 12-gauge Remington during my second season.
Despite my early success and countless trips, I waited a long time to put my crosshairs on a real wallhanger.
Early during Indiana’s 2009 season, my dad spotted a big-bodied deer with a heavy rack from a distance. Right before the firearms opener, my mom, dad and I scouted the area where my dad had seen the big buck. We found a few scrapes and a couple of rubs unlike any I’d ever seen.
The ravaged trees were a little thicker than a football, scarred with deep grooves and gouges.
When gun season arrived, I thought I was ready. And then I discovered that either my scope or its mounts was not working. I borrowed my mom’s 12 gauge when she wasn’t going to use it.
My dad wound up shooting an impressive 8-pointer, while I saw only young bucks. But my luck changed on the last day.
The temperature was hovering around 32 degrees, it was raining intermittently, and the wind was favorable for hunting from my dad’s treestand. He’d decided that since I hadn’t filled my buck tag, he’d trade stands with me. We set out that afternoon in the rain, each heading to the other’s setup.
My father was about 500 yards upwind of me. We hoped the breeze would carry his scent and push the deer to me, but things didn’t work out that way.
I hadn’t been aloft an hour when a gigantic buck approached from my downwind side. It was at 75 yards when I saw it, and then it disappeared into some brush. Seeing such a deer gave me the “buckachers,” and my heart was racing.
Fifteen minutes later, I spotted sun-bleached main beams bobbing as the buck was feeding on something about 160 yards distant. I grunted — I mean, how could I not? — but it paid me no mind.
I waited and watched the deer feed for another 45 minutes, which had a much needed calming effect on my nerves. I eventually began focusing on finding a shooting lane, determined to take the 135-or-so-yard shot if the deer stepped into the clear.
Half an hour before dark, it eased into a lane and met my slug. After the shot, the buck went about 60 yards and bedded down in some thick brush. I waited until almost nightfall before getting down from the tree.
While lowering my pack, I saw the buck get up and walk away.
Rather than pursue it, I met up with my dad. We decided to wait until the morning to search for it; we didn’t want to push our luck or the buck.
My mom, dad and I returned the next day and split up to cover more area, knowing the rain had washed away any blood. Mom found my deer; she spotted the antlers and called to us. The buck was just a couple of feet from where I’d last seen it.
When I reached it, a feeling washed over me like no other. My wife says I must’ve felt the Holy Ghost pass into me, letting me know I’d been blessed.
I will always remember that day. Having my parents there during the recovery of this wonderful animal made it even sweeter.
Hunter: Daniel Crane
Official Score: 172 7/8
Composite Score: 191 1/8
— Photos Courtesy of Daniel Crane
This article was published in the November 2010 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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