Hunters on both sides of the Red River were gunning for this driftwood-wearing buck.
This story is not about Leonard Ernst, but it might explain why he almost skipped Sunday morning services last Nov. 7.
It most definitely accounts for the bare pew in Andy Anderson’s church.
Andy didn’t intend to play hooky that day, but he had his hands full with a deer he shot during an impromptu, pre-church hunt.
He hadn’t been able to spend much time in the woods last year, not since the fire exactly one month earlier. So when he saw an opportunity, even a tiny little window, he seized it.
Andy hunts a mostly open 600-acre lease in Louisiana’s Red River Parish. It’s not exactly teeming with whitetails, he says, but the tract is a funnel for deer movement between places with more cover.
On Oct. 7, the man from Coushatta, La., lost his enthusiasm, as well as his means, for hunting. That’s when his home pretty much burned to the ground, the blaze hotter than even his high-dollar gun safe could withstand.
“It was a terrible shock to see everything we owned gone,” Andy said. “The only thing salvaged was my father’s Model 12 shotgun, though the fore-end was burnt. The inspector said the fire must have reached at least 2,000 degrees for all the damage that was done.”
Andy and his wife moved into a travel trailer in the back yard while their house was being rebuilt.
“Hunting season was on the back burner as we worked on getting things back to normal,” he said. “Buying a gun was the last thing on my mind.”
A couple of weeks after the fire, a cousin loaned Andy a .270 and a shotgun. The rifle had an old 4x scope that had seen better days, but it was warmly received.
“I made a few trips to check my stands when I had time,” Andy said. “I hunted a little, too.
“I had intended to hunt Saturday evening, Nov. 6, but I was called in to work. It was after midnight when I got off and headed home. Needless to say, I slept in Sunday morning.
“When I did get moving, I decided to watch the LSU highlights and check my e-mails. Afterward, I told my wife I was going to go out and sit for a spell before church,” he continued.
Andy arrived at his lease about 7:30 and struck out for his “middle stand,” which seemed best for the wind.
Upon nearing it, he crested a high spot and saw a buck with a nice rack about 150 yards away in a low spot.
“I ran the last 50 feet to my stand because I needed a steady rest for such a long shot,” he said. “I propped on one of the cross members and, when I finally found the buck in the scope, squeezed the trigger.”
The deer dropped like a bag of rocks, though Andy took a second shot to anchor it.
“I think that old scope might deserve a lot of credit,” he said. “Had it been a newer or more powerful model, I might have had a clearer picture of what I was shooting at, and I might’ve blown that first shot.
“All I really knew was that the deer had a rack,” he added.
After administering the coup de grace, Andy paused to give thanks and to admire the gnarly antlers, which looked strangely familiar.
It had to be the same buck he’d shot at in 2008. The deer stopped broadside in the center of a pipeline at last light, but Andy didn’t cut a hair.
Nobody had seen the buck since that day. Andy had even convinced himself that the tangle of antlers he’d seen must have been an 8-pointer with vegetation entangled in its rack.
Now he knew better.
After examining the freakish antlers, Andy called his hunting buddy, Leonard Ernst, to ask for help. Leonard and his wife were getting ready for church, but Andy convinced him to make the short drive.
“I told him the gate was open, and to just drive straight back to the stand. We could load it on his truck, and then run it out to mine,” Andy said. “When he got there, we shared some serious excitement before doing the truck shuffle. I practically had to force Leonard to get back home and go to church before his wife got mad at both of us.
“I stopped at his house to weigh the deer, which went 230 pounds,” Andy continued, “and then I took it to my cousin’s so his wife could take pictures and send them to her husband, who was hunting in Illinois. They live right next door, so I was essentially hunting in our back yards.
“By the time I hung the deer at my house, a steady stream of people began arriving to take a look at the unusual rack,” he said. “We counted those points many times.”
Andy’s taxidermist, Wayne Gates, said the deer was at least 8 1/2 years old. It was almost toothless.
“I learned later that a hunter across the Red River had trail camera photographs of this buck eating oat bran from his feeder at midnight Saturday, one and a half miles north of where I took it Sunday morning,” Andy said. “This deer got around.”
Hunter: Andy Anderson
BTR Official Score: 207 4/8
BTR Compostie Score: 222 2/8
— Photos Courtesy of Andy Anderson This article was published in the November 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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