Not saying anything was the hard part.
Greg Murray looked from the buck to his 12-year-old son, Gunnar, and then back to the deer. Last season was only the boy’s third, so Greg wanted to reassure him, to calm him, or maybe to talk him through squeezing the trigger. At the very least, he wanted to point out that there were two bucks, and the one bringing up the rear was the one Gunnar had been hoping to see.
But after handing over the rifle, he remained tight-lipped, as if speaking would be the equivalent of an ill-timed cough on a golf course green.
“I felt like I should’ve said something,” Greg smiled. “I was wondering the whole time, Should I be talking to him? Coaching him? But I kept my mouth shut because the deer were less than 50 yards from us and staring in our direction.”
Greg’s eyes were on the bigger buck when the crack of the .243 sent both animals fleeing. He saw what his son didn’t: the reaction of a fatally hit deer.
“YOU GOT HIM! YOU GOT HIM!” he almost shouted, reigning the volume as best he could.
Father and son were sharing a camo-shrouded ladder stand about half a mile from their home south of Topeka, Kan., last Sept. 9 (the youth and disabled season ran from the 8th through Sept. 16). In a day and a half, they’d seen only a couple of does and a fawn come across that Shawnee County field.
After Sunday morning’s uneventful vigil, Greg explained to Gunnar that hunting long stretches might not be the best way to get a shot at the huge buck their trail camera had photographed. Maybe, he offered, it would be best just to show up about an hour before the times stamped on the camera’s images.
“I told Gunnar, ‘We’re not patterning him. He’s patterning us,’” he said.
With only half a day left in their weekend, Greg decided it might be worthwhile to see if they could jump a buck out of one of the draws in the field they’d been watching. He was certain Gunnar’s big buck was spending its days in one of those draws. He’d once seen it bust out of one when spooked by a coyote.
It was a good midday plan, but the draws were devoid of deer. They reclimbed the ladder that afternoon, and the hours passed slowly.
Whether you’re 12, 22 or 42, it’s easy to write off those few remaining minutes of daylight when boredom and a grumbling stomach combine. And that’s what happened, or almost happened.
When Gunnar announced he was hungry, Greg had no qualms about leaving a bit early. This was his son’s hunt, after all. So about 6:40, he picked up the rifle to hold it while Gunnar got down from the stand. Before the dismount commenced, however, Greg looked to the right and saw a nice 10- or 12-pointer and quickly handed the rifle to the boy.
Gunnar was trying to acquire the deer in his sights when another buck — THE buck — appeared behind the first one. That’s when Greg began biting his tongue.
The deer were less than 50 yards from them when Gunnar squeezed off the shot.
“It was awesome. Gunnar was pretty cool — real calm — throughout the ordeal,” Greg said, adding that his son seemed more nervous when facing his first wild turkey.
“I’ll never forget that either,” Greg said. “He looked up at me and said, ‘Dad, my leg won’t stop shaking.’”
There was no shaking after the deer rifle barked. That came later.
Because he’s color-blind and cannot see blood, Greg immediately called his oldest son, 25-year-old Bryan, and his brother-in-law, Mike Gibson. When they arrived, the whole gang started looking for Gunnar’s deer by flashlight.
Despite the lack of a blood trail — the .243 bullet failed to exit —they found the behemoth about 8 p.m.
“I don’t know if he realizes what he shot,” Greg said in December. “He just can’t wait to get it back from taxidermist Dan Bell and hang it on his wall.”
Hunter: Gunnar Murray
BTR Score: 217 3/8
— Photos Courtesy of Greg Murray
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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