Rack Magazine

Buck of Steel

Buck of Steel

By Mike Handley

Not all deer leap tall buildings when hit by a speeding bullet.

One reason even veteran deer hunters fail to get more than one shot at a fleeing deer is because they’re shocked when the animal doesn’t falter or collapse after the first boom. All too often, those who manage a follow-up shot are too rattled to make it count.

That might've been the case in Pointe Coupee Parish, La., last December, when Phil Major fired twice at what he calls the local “celebrity buck.” The deer, fixated on a doe, didn’t react in the least to Phil’s first shot, and a quick second round flew wide.

Walking almost 100 yards to look for blood you don’t expect to find is a small price to pay for the joy of being wrong!

Celebrity with a Capital C

Phil was among the last to know about the existence of a giant in the vicinity. One neighbor started drooling over trail camera photographs of the buck during the summer, when its rack was covered in velvet. Others collected photos after the velvet was gone.

Phil didn’t retrieve any photos of the distinctive whitetail until October.

At least 100 more followed, all taken at night. Phil was running three units, and the deer was passing in front of them all. He got so many images that he began culling them, keeping only the best.

Other neighbors were still seeing it on their cameras as well.

“It was a celebrity deer,” said the 38-year-old supervisor for an industrial construction company. “I think I was the last one to know about it.”

Phil hunts a 2-mile-long strip, close to 50 acres, behind his home in Ventress, La. The actual wooded area is broken into 5- and 10-acre blocks, and he has three stands and one ground blind from which to choose.

Phil bushhogs the spaces between woodlots every spring, which opens up shooting lanes and allows new edible vegetation to grow.

“There aren’t that many deer. It’s pretty hard to kill (a good) one there,” he says.

At 5:00 on the morning of Dec. 24, Phil roused his 6-year-old son, Parker, and they went to a box stand. For the next couple of hours, the little boy dozed.

About 10 minutes after 8:00, Phil saw deer at between 500 and 600 yards and woke his son. The animals seemed antsy, as if they’d been spooked, and he thought more might burst into the open.

“I don’t even know how I saw them way out there,” he admitted.

So focused on the faraway deer, he almost didn’t notice a doe that stepped into the clear at less than 100 yards, off to the side of the shooting house. When he happened to glance that way and spotted her, Phil decided she’d look better in his freezer.

He hadn’t yet shot a deer that season, so he carefully stuck the barrel of his .300 WSM out the window and told his son to get ready. Had the doe been in a less awkward spot for how Phil was positioned, he’d have collected only venison that day.

Buck of SteelBut his hesitation allowed him to spot the buck — no doubt the one from all the trail camera photos — following the doe.

There was no time for thought. And if he hadn’t already had his rifle resting on the window ledge, there would’ve been no time to shoot at the running animal. All he had to do was switch targets and squeeze the trigger.

The deer never flinched.

Phil managed to fire a second time, but it was out of desperation. He knew that one missed. The buck vanished as quickly as it had materialized.

After waiting for about 20 minutes, Phil told little Parker to stay there and guard the stand, while he walked out to see if there was any blood. There was, but only a couple of drops.

When he walked over to the edge of the woods, he saw another spot. And then he noticed a splash of it on a sapling. Rather than go any farther, he went back to collect Parker, so the boy could be by his side as they followed the trail.

“We found it together,” Phil beamed. “I’d made the perfect shot, though you couldn’t tell it by the buck’s reaction.

“I’ll never forget that day,” he added, not really referring to the hunt or the buck. “Parker was running around, fist-pumping and yelling ‘BOOYAH.’ It was a sight to behold.”

Hunter: Phil Major
BTR Score: 217 2/8
Centerfire Rifle

– Photos courtesy Phil Major

This article was published in the November 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd