Rack Magazine

Ruination of a Young Hunter

Ruination of a Young Hunter

By Steve Scudder

Humility Isn’t a Trait Often Seen in 11-Year-Olds.

My son, Tristan, has hunted with me since he was 6 years old. He started out in the fall of 2006 and harvested his first deer, a button buck, during our Indiana muzzleloader season. That pretty much hooked him for life.

I introduced him to bowhunting three years later, and he took his first archery deer.

Going into 2011, he’d seen several deer, including some really nice bucks, that we just couldn’t connect with for one reason or another.

He had taken two small bucks to that point, and he was really hoping to get a bigger one. He actually told me that he was hoping for a deer that would score around 120 inches.

Because I’m a part-time taxidermist, Tristan has seen several bucks of different calibers come through my shop. He knew exactly what a 120-inch buck looks like, and he thought his was a reasonable and attainable goal.

In mid-May, 2011, we saw a buck that was much bigger than 120 inches. I’d actually seen it the previous fall and thought it would break the 160-inch mark, but I never saw it a second time.

Judging from how big this whitetail was in May, and with lots more time to grow before its antlers hardened, I figured it would be a dandy by autumn, far bigger than it was in 2010. The rack already extended past the buck’s ears, and the blunt tines were tall.

By mid-June, this buck was spending all his time in the soybeans. His spread was incredible, and the tines were some of the longest we’d seen. Tristan and I dubbed him “Tiny.”

From a distance, my son and I kept tabs on Tiny all summer. He hit the beans like clockwork. We loved watching and videotaping him, and we hoped nothing would alter his routine. We were so worried, in fact, that we didn’t bother setting out trail cameras.

We figured we knew everything we needed to know about the deer.

Toward the end of July, I mentioned to Tristan that maybe we should go after Tiny during the state’s youth hunt. He kind of looked at me like I was crazy, at first, and reminded me that he just wanted a deer around 120 inches.

He was worried that taking too big a deer would ruin him (his words).

It took some convincing to shake that notion. But after repeated assurances that he wouldn’t “be ruined,” my son grew excited over the possibility.

We checked on Tiny all the way up until two weeks before the youth hunt. Each time he left the beans, he re-entered the woods between two little draws.

Our game plan was to sit and watch the flat between those draws. The only drawback was that there wasn’t a tree big enough for a stand, which meant we’d have to use a ground blind.

We had used blinds before without any issues, but not on a deer like this. Tiny was mature, smart, and he knew his surroundings well, which meant we’d really have to mold it into the landscape.

Ruination of a Young HunterThe youth season started Sept. 24, and we counted the days. Tristan was going to use his H&R .44 Mag rifle, but the scope messed up while we were shooting it a week prior to the opener. After telling my buddy, Greg Yazel, what happened, he offered up his .357 Max H&R for Tristan to use.

Tristan practiced shooting it until he was comfortable and consistently on the mark.

We watched the weather forecast with a close eye the entire week before opening day. We needed a southerly wind to hunt Tiny.

The wind switched directions often early in the week, and then it settled in from the southwest. The forecast called for overcast skies with a chance of light and scattered showers. We couldn’t have asked for much better.

We went out about 4:30 the first afternoon, found a nice olive bush overlooking the flat, and erected the blind next to it. We chose not to hunt that morning because we weren’t sure what Tiny was doing in the mornings, and we didn’t want to take any chances.

Before settling in, we also cut a lot of saplings and pruned a bunch of trees, using the clippings to further camouflage the blind. Setting up took an hour.

Around 6:30, I looked out the front window of the blind and saw Tiny feeding in the beans. He ate for about 15 minutes, and then melted back into the timber.

Tristan looked over at me and said, “Dad, you’re shaking.”

I looked back at him and replied, “You’re darn right I’m shaking.”

The suspense was KILLING me!

Forty-five minutes to an hour later, Tiny came back onto the patch and began walking straight toward the blind. When he was at 75 yards, he turned and started walking broadside to us. Tristan was already staring at him through the scope.

I whistled, the buck froze, and “KABOOOOM!”

I turned just in time to see the deer kick. His front end dropped as he rocketed into some thick cover.

We called my wife, Sarah, and told her that Tristan had shot Tiny. Twenty minutes later, my son and I went back to the house to change clothes. I also called my buddy, Alan Carpenter, to see if he wanted to help us track the buck.

An hour or so later, we went back to look for Tristan’s deer. We found it after 20 minutes. He’d traveled between 60 and 70 yards.

Hunter: Tristan Scudder
BTR Official Score: 161 6/8
BTR Composite Score: 184 6/8
Centerfire Rifle

— Photos Courtesy Steve Scudder

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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Copyright 2018 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2017 by Buckmasters, Ltd