Even with a forked tree as a rest, it took every ounce of George Morrison’s willpower to steady his .30-06 long enough to bring the crosshairs to rest on the huge whitetail’s neck.
With adrenalin coursing through his body, he took one last deep breath, locked in and slowly squeezed the trigger.
A lifetime of hunting, much of it with a shotgun stoked with buckshot and the wail of hounds echoing across the Virginia countryside, hadn’t prepared him for what happened on Nov. 17, 2012, when he’d moved back home to Ghent, Ky.
In a land where public land is hard to come by, George was fortunate to find some familiar private tracts he could still hunt.
“When I moved back to Carroll County, I quickly resumed deer hunting in some of my old haunts. We don’t have a lot of good public ground around here, so most of the hunting is on private farms,” he said.
“Most of the property I hunt is between the Ohio River and Interstate 71,” he continued. “For a while, I had a lease on 150 acres, but the property went into different hands, and I lost it.”
That left him with access to only 100 acres in two adjoining tracts. He’d hunted the larger, 73 acres, off and on since he was 14 years old, which is when he started deer hunting. The place changed hands several times, but he managed to retain permission to hunt it with each rewriting of the deed.
“The current owner lives up in Cincinnati,” George said. “We discussed my leasing the property, but he finally decided that I could just call him up and let him know when I was going to hunt. That way, he would know I was going to be on the property. So that’s the way we did it.
“I’ve been on this ground so much that I know it well,” he added. “And I know where the deer like to go, how they move from place to place.
“There’s quite a few hardwoods, including some good oak patches. The place is covered up with squirrels, too, especially in good mast years. There’s also plenty of cover for bedding deer,” he said.
George hunted the first weekend of Kentucky’s 2012 rifle season without any success.
He hunts mostly alone. But a friend, Keith Grenzebach, sometimes accompanies him. When he returned the following weekend, Keith was with him.
“Keith came by the house before daylight that Saturday morning,” George said. “We stopped by McDonald’s to get some breakfast.
“When we got to the hunting area, Keith decided to hunt on the smaller farm next to the big tract. He didn’t want to hunt in the direction I was going because the sun comes up in your eyes, and it can be uncomfortable trying to see deer,” he added.
Neither man saw anything that morning. They came out, went for lunch, and returned close to 2:30.
“There was a little bit of a hill to climb going back to my stand, so I took my four-wheeler part of the way and walked the last 300 yards,” George said.
It was 3:00 by the time he reached his tree. The afternoon crept by without any action, and pretty soon the sun was going down and George hadn’t seen a thing.
As much out of boredom as with any strategy in mind, George decided to get down and spend the rest of the evening still-hunting.
“You know how when it starts getting dark, you can get up on a hill and it’s lighter? That’s the way it was when I reached the top of the ridge,” he said.
“And as soon as I did, I immediately saw a flash of movement,” he continued. “There just happened to be a tree nearby with a fork in it. I rested my gun in the tree fork and, looking down to the left where the movement came from, I spotted a doe.
“I had a good shot at her, but I just decided not to, not really knowing why,” he added.
Not taking the shot at the doe was definitely fortuitous, as the next thing George knew, he was in the situation described at the beginning of this story.
“When I first saw the buck, it was head-on to me, rubbing a tree,” the hunter remembered. “All I could see from the front was the spread, but then it turned sideways.”
The buck was huge, magazine kind of huge, and there was a wall of tines.
Already having the gun in the tree fork was a blessing, as otherwise George might never have gotten a steady rest. Working hard to settle his nerves, he brought the crosshairs of his scope up to the bucks’ neck and fired.
“It ran about 100 yards and fell,” George said. “I just stood there. The doe ran off somewhere to the side. Then everything got quiet.
“It was getting dark, and I couldn’t see the buck from where I was standing, so I walked down to look for it. When I saw it, I just said, ‘Oh My Gosh,’ and started shaking badly.
“I immediately called my girlfriend to tell her what had happened. She finally said, ‘Have you got a cold or something, because you’re just mumbling?’
“I texted Keith, and he came down and couldn’t believe it. He said he got my text about a 20-pointer (it was actually 19), but he thought I’d hit the wrong key,” he laughed.
The two hunters loaded the buck onto the four-wheeler, then into the back to the truck, and then they drove to George’s house.
George called a friend from work, who called a friend, and word spread quickly.
George realizes the buck he took last year is the proverbial once-in-a-lifetime deer, but he has no plans of hanging up his spurs. He says he might be a little more selective in the future, as far as antlers are concerned, but that’s not why he hunts.
“I’m just a meat hunter,” he said.
Hunter: George Morrison
BTR Score: 219 1/8”
– Photos Courtesy of George Morrison
This article was published in the September 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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