Pennsylvania buck addict gets his fix in 2011.
Rena Altman’s coworkers know she’s married to an addict.
That became perfectly clear last fall, when her husband, Dave, called her workplace. High as a kite, he badgered a secretary into patching his call through to her.
“I did it,” he said, a three-word sentence almost too much for him to utter. “The big one.”
Like most addicts, Dave takes no responsibility for his actions.
“It’s my wife’s fault,” he says.
“In April 2009, Rena and her sister, Robin, were walking in a field close to home and came upon a shed antler. My wife took a picture of it with her phone and sent it to my niece as she and I were getting ready for a bass tournament. ‘Should I bring it home?’ she asked me.”
“It was huge,” he continued. “I couldn’t wait for them to get home to see it in person.”
Dave spent the next several weeks looking for the antler’s mate without success. He even dreamed about the buck.
On Oct. 10, 2011, he went into the woods to look for places suitable for a trail camera. He found a promising spot near a pair of scrapes and a nice rub line. Although he planned to continue bowhunting his regular place, he wanted to see what might be using the new area.
“I left the camera until the early muzzleloader season was about to open. I really didn’t want to leave it out there, knowing lots of strangers would be in the woods,” he said.
“I retrieved the camera on Oct. 17,” he continued. “I was eating dinner later that evening while looking at the pictures, and I discovered three shots of this buck and called my wife to come over and have a look.
“That’s when I got serious about hunting this big boy. I moved my treestand the next day and hunted there every minute of every day I could get in the woods. I even took a week off work,” he added.
The buck never showed.
“Finally, I almost got lucky,” Dave said. “I was in the stand one evening when an 8-pointer came out into a nearby field and stood broadside at about 160 yards. It didn’t know I was there, so I experimented by bleating, grunting and rattling, even though I’d never had any luck with the latter.
“I had no intention of shooting the 4x4, but that was a golden opportunity to play with it. When I rattled, much to my surprise, the buck wheeled around and came to within 15 yards.
“While it was broadside at 20 yards, I decided to see if I could stand and draw my bow,” he continued. “No problem. I remember thinking, ‘Why can’t you be the big one?’
“So there I was at full draw, when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something moving along the edge of the field. It was the big buck, coming my way,” he said.
The behemoth came to the scrapes, but all Dave could see was the bottom of its chest and legs; there was no shot. He’d had to let off when he saw the deer approaching, but he drew again when it was close.
“The big one followed the 8-pointer almost step for step,” he said, “but I hadn’t cleared any shooting lanes in that direction. I wound up letting it walk, not wanting to take a marginal shot.”
Much to Dave’s delight, however, the smaller buck looped back around toward the scrapes. He just knew the big one was going to keep following its little buddy, but it didn’t. It had apparently found a doe, and she led it to the field.
He might not have had a shot at the deer of his dreams, but at least he got to see it in the flesh.
“I was in the same stand a few days later, practically surrounded by deer at prime time, when I heard a loud roaring sound. I’d never heard anything like that, but it sure made the deer scatter,” Dave said.
“I thought it was the sow bear with three cubs that I’d seen earlier in the month, but I never saw them,” he added.
“I don’t really know what it was.”
On opening day of PA’s gun season, Dave took his niece, Erin, behind the house where they’d seen several nice deer. It was close enough to where he’d been hunting the big one that every time he heard a shot, he feared someone else had shot the buck.
“The next Tuesday morning, just as I was about to head to the woods, I saw a note on the table from my wife. She’d written: ‘Good morning, honey. Well good luck. Go get the big buck. Be careful. I love you lots! Rena ... XOXOXO.’
“I was aloft by 6:30, and it started raining soon afterward. Eventually, the wind died and the rain turned to a light drizzle. That’s when I noticed another hunter leaning against a tree. He obviously didn’t see me, and I didn’t know who he was. This is private land, and only a few people have permission to hunt it,” Dave said.
Wet and frustrated, he decided there was no sense in sitting there. He stood about 8:30, stretched and gave the place a last look.
He saw antlers.
“I could see only the rack’s left side, but I realized it was the big buck. I shouldered my .300 Win Mag and stared at blackness. The scope covers were still on. I quickly removed the caps and focused on the buck between 150 and 200 yards distant,” he said.
“When I fired, the buck hunkered down and plowed through some briars. Because it didn’t drop on the spot, I thought I’d made a bad shot. I saw it enter a grove of trees, but I didn’t see it exit.
“Moments later, I was on the ground and running through the briars. When I reached the trees, I saw the buck on the ground,” he continued.
“I sank to my knees, shaking so violently I couldn’t believe it. When I could function again, I called my wife at work. She was in a meeting, but I just had to talk to her. I told the secretary that it was an emergency and that I had to speak with my wife. The woman relented only because my voice was shaky.
“Rena was as excited as I was. We talked a bit, and then I asked her what I should do next. ‘You know what to do,’ she laughed. But I didn’t; I was lost; I couldn’t even remember how to field-dress it. My brain was totally zoned out!” he said.
While Dave was still trying to remember how to breathe and hold a knife at the same time, the other hunter walked up to admire his buck. A few minutes later, another guy arrived. He introduced himself as Jeremy Stewart. He had the lease next to Dave’s.
“Jeremy called his brother, Derek, who was also hunting nearby, and asked him to bring their ATV over to help me get the buck out of the woods. Their help meant a lot to me,” Dave said.
Hunter: Dave Altman
BTR Official Score: 183 4/8
BTR Composite Score: 202 7/8
— Photos courtesy of Dave Altman This article was published in the November 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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