By Chad Compton
Chad's father taught him valuable lessons that morning: how to rattle and how to properly name a hunting stand.
After harvesting my first deer, a small 8-pointer, with a muzzleloader four years ago, I decided my next one was going to be a 10-pointer. I also wanted to shoot it with my compound bow, not realizing how difficult that was going to be.
I got my chance one day when a big 10-pointer came within 10 yards of my tree, but when I started to attach my release to the loop, I inadvertently knocked the arrow off the string and rest. It hit the treestand and just about everything possible on the way to the ground. The 10-pointer looked straight up at Dad and me, and it didn't wait around for me to nock another arrow.
For the next two years, I replayed that missed opportunity in my head every time I had a buck come close to my treestand. I vividly remember the words Dad said to me, "When you hook up your release, you need to keep one finger on the arrow so that you don't accidentally knock it off the rest."
During that stretch, I spent a lot of time in a treestand without seeing a buck that I wanted to harvest. I saw plenty of small bucks, but the few big ones never gave me an opportunity.
Due to my freshman football obligations in 2006, I was able to hunt only weekends for the first five weeks. Toward the end of the football season, I suffered pinched nerves in my shoulders. I thought that my hunting season might be over, too, because I could not pull back my bow. But Dad told me not to worry. He said that we would just turn the bow down from 70 pounds to 65.
Even at that setting, I couldn't draw, so we cranked it down to 60 pounds. That did the trick, and re-sighting my bow was the only thing left to do to get me ready to hunt again.
Fourteen-year-old Chad Compton thought he was going to be benched during the '06 season, but adjusting his bow's poundage was just the ticket to the Big Buck Express.
The last week of October, Dad took vacation to hunt the beginning of the rut.
He started hunting his favorite treestand location, a place he'd been avoiding. We don't like disturbing that area until the rut gets going good. Dad calls the place "Buck Alley." To tell the truth, I never understood why.
On Nov. 3, Dad went hunting in his favorite spot and harvested a respectable 9-pointer, which later became summer sausage and jerky.
Dad was waiting for me when I got out of school that day. He told me that he'd shot a 9-pointer and that the cold weather had the deer up and running. "It's on," he said, meaning that the rut was in full swing.
This news had me very pumped and ready to go. But when Dad asked me if I wanted to go hunting that evening, I told him that it was too cold. I'd outgrown all of my cold-weather clothing.
We decided to forego hunting that evening so we could go to the store to buy me some new clothes.
The morning of Nov. 4 started off like any other day in the woods. Dad woke me up at 5:15. I took a shower, put on my new hunting clothes and grabbed a snack on the way out of the house. By the time I had done all of this, my father had loaded the bows and all of our hunting gear into the SUV. We then embarked on what would be one of the greatest days of my life.
We arrived at the woods about an hour before sunrise. We got our gear on and set out on the 15-minute hike to our treestand. We had to go downhill, cross a creek and then go back up a very steep hill. We arrived at the base of the large oak tree about 6:30 and were in treestands and ready to hunt about 30 minutes before daylight.
About 7:30, we saw a nice 8-pointer about 60 yards away. Dad grunted and used a doe-in-estrus call, trying to get the buck to come in closer, but it never responded. It seemed like it had something else on its mind and disappeared into the ravine in front of our stand.
For the next two hours, I was bored out of my mind. We didn't see anything! Okay, maybe one squirrel.
Then, like a teenage pimple that appears out of nowhere, we had four does come in from the south, off the hilltop. The two mature does kept looking over their shoulders back at the hill. Dad looked at me and said seven words that will stick with me for a long time: "Son, where there's smoke, there's usually fire."
He looked back uphill with his binoculars to see if he could see anything and spotted what he thought was a buck chasing a doe. He grabbed the rattling antlers and started rattling. Within a minute after Dad stopped rattling, he reached around the large oak tree and jerked me from a sitting position to a standing position. He looked at me and whispered, "Big buck ... No, MONSTER buck ... Get ready."
The next two or three minutes are like a blur to me. I know that Dad grunted upwind in my direction. The buck then turned and walked along the edge of the ravine that's directly behind our tree. The only thing that I know I consciously did was to keep my finger on the arrow, just like Dad had told me to do.
I came to full draw. The buck then came to a complete stop 20 yards behind my treestand, giving me a broadside shot. I settled the pin behind the buck's shoulder, and released the arrow. That's when it seems like I woke up.
I watched the arrow hit the big buck a little high. As it penetrated, the buck dropped to the ground. Then I heard Dad say, "Nock another one and shoot it again. This time, shoot it in the heart!"
The second arrow hit the buck exactly where I was aiming, in the heart or what we thought was the heart. The arrow had actually glanced off of its flailing leg and penetrated the chest cavity.
We watched the buck disappear over the edge of the ravine. After about two minutes of hearing nothing but silence, we were giving each other high-fives. We thought that the buck was down for good.
We lowered the bows to the ground, got down from the tree and walked to the edge of the ravine. The buck was lying right there. As we approached it, it looked up at us. My Dad turned to me and said, "Get your bow. It's not dead yet."
I ran to the tree and retrieved my bow and ran back to the edge of the ravine. I then nocked another arrow and placed an arrow in the sweet spot. Within seconds, the monster buck was down for good.
Not until Dad and I approached the buck did we realize the true size and mass of its rack. We did a quick point count and came up with 26 that we thought might be scoreable. At the check station, they weighed it at 222 pounds, field-dressed.
So much for wanting a 10-pointer!
How will I ever top this one?
Now I know why Dad calls this area Buck Alley. I guess his 15-pointer and other large bucks that he's harvested there weren't good enough clues.
Hunter: Chad Compton
Official Score: 200 1/8"
Composite Score: 221
-- Reprinted from the September 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine