A wide-eyed Shane Ragon clapped a hand to his open mouth like he was trying to swallow a cuss word in the presence of a preacher.
The 40-year-old bowhunter from Calhoun City, Miss., didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, to shout hallelujah or utter something less suitable for a tent revival. What he did know was that every time he tried to walk away from the buck lying dead in the sweet potato field, he turned right around and went back to it.
“I just couldn’t leave that deer,” Shane said. “I’d let go of those antlers and walk off, but then I’d go back. I did that at least three times.
“My hand was shaking so badly, the flashlight’s beam was dancing around like a strobe light,” he added.
Shane knew that the buck behind his bow sight’s pin was bigger than any other he’d shot, but he hadn’t exactly paid that much attention to the rack. He was too busy trying to hide behind a power pole — somewhat ironic, since he’s a lineman with the Natchez Trace Electric Power Company — and too busy praying the animal would come within range.
That Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, might’ve ended well for him, but it got off to a less-than-stellar start.
Shane and his 9-year-old son, Zane, hunted together that morning, a typical weekend ever since he introduced the boy to the sport in 2011. After an uneventful sit, they drove past a 4-acre sweet potato field on the way home and saw a large wild hog. When they stopped to get a better look at it through binoculars, it either saw or smelled them, ran the full length of the field and disappeared in the small block of timber at the far end.
They might have pursued it, but Shane got a text message from his wife saying their refrigerator had died. He spent the next several hours finding the best deal on a new one, which required a half-hour drive to Eupora.
When he got home around mid-afternoon, he had to unload his purchase in the rain.
While his wife was filling the new fridge inside and the weather cleared outside, Shane decided to return to the sweet potato field to see if the big hog might return to finish its meal.
“I told her I had a feeling that I might get a shot at that big hog. So I grabbed my bow and took off on my four-wheeler. It was getting late, so I hurried down there,” he said.
Big crop fields surround the Ragons’ house.
“I can’t walk outside my door without seeing deer,” he laughs.
The sweet potato plot is bordered by a hedgerow, which is where he parked his ATV; he pulled off on the right side of the main road about 700 yards from his house and walked a deer trail into the field, marveling over the sea of half-eaten potatoes.
“There’s a big line of oaks down one side, and a 10-foot-high hedgerow on the other that is so tall you can’t see through it,” he said. “A power line runs through the middle of the field.”
Shane’s initial plan was to find a hiding place within the oaks, but the strip was just too thick. Almost every tree had limbs drooping almost to the ground. He wound up heading to the power line, basically stalking from pole to pole.
There were no stands down there, and he wasn’t carrying a climber. He’d headed out so late in the day that he thought it would be a waste of time to find and scale a tree. But he did have his binoculars and a 1,000-yard rangefinder.
“I walked out to one of the poles and ranged from there to the end of the field. It was 418 yards,” he said.
When he glassed the far end of the field, he saw a deer. And when it lifted its head, he could tell only that it was a buck.
“It was so far away and late,” he said. “I knew I had to get closer.”
Closer meant sneaking to the next power pole down the line, which gained him at least another 100 yards.
When he peeked around it, he noticed even more deer had come onto the field, one of them another nice buck.
The closest was still 300 yards distant.
In all, there were the two bucks, two grown does and two little ones.
The hunt might have ended there, since there was no way Shane could advance, but the lead doe began walking slowly in his direction. All the rest of the deer filed along after her, and the big buck was bringing up the rear.
“Of all the ways they could’ve gone, they were coming right at me,” he said. “I’m tucked in behind that pole, on my knees, sure that she was going to see me.”
All Shane could do was wait, his release attached to the bowstring, one eye almost telescoping around the pole.
The doe and yearlings passed without incident.
“Then, all of a sudden, two more does came up from behind me, from the north side. They came out of nowhere,” he said. “I didn’t move, but they must have smelled me. They took off running, but they never blew or anything. All the other deer stopped and looked.
“Those two sure scared me, but not the other deer,” he added.
The buck, between 30 and 35 yards from the pole with the bulge behind it, was watching the two fleeing does when Shane, worried that it might do a 180, decided to take the shot.
“I put my top pin on the top of his back, just behind the shoulder, dropped it a bit, and then hit the release,” he said. A nanosecond later, he heard the smack.
“Deer were running everywhere after that,” he added. “The buck ran down the field toward the timber. It was dark down at that end of the field, but I saw a flash of white. I thought it was the deer’s belly as it fell.”
A look through binoculars confirmed it.
Because the deer never moved again, Shane decided he didn’t have to wait long. But when he reached for his flashlight, it wasn’t there. He retraced his steps until he found where it had fallen out of his pocket, picked it up, and then headed for the deer.
He approached the downed whitetail from behind and toed its rump before pointing the flashlight at its head.
When the beam splayed over the row of tines on the visible antler, he almost lost his breath.
Shane had known only that the deer was the biggest he’d ever shot, but he wasn’t prepared for what was at his feet. When he lifted the head and saw the other side was equally impressive, he sank to his knees.
“It’s hard to explain, but it was like my mind began playing this slide show of everywhere, everything I’d ever hunted,” he said. “It was just crazy!”
On his fourth attempt, he finally left the animal and went home to get Zane.
As they neared the dead deer later, Shane told his son to close his eyes and not to open them until he gave the okay.
“When I said he could open them, he saw the deer in the four-wheeler’s headlights and said ‘Oh … my … god!’
Three words. He flew off the four-wheeler and was standing over the deer in the breath between ‘my’ and ‘god.’
Just that quick!
“The next thing he said was, ‘That’s the biggest thing in the world!’” Shane laughed.
Hunter: Shane Ragon — Photos Courtesy of Shane Ragon
BTR Official Score: 184 5/8
BTR Composite Score: 200 3/8
This article was published in the July 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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