By Ed Waite
Diagnosed with T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma six months earlier, 14-year-old Jeremy Eaton was determined not to miss the second day of Indiana's 2008 shotgun season. A cold driving rain had kept the Eatons indoors during the Nov. 15 opener.
But that seemed to be the way of things for Jeremy last year. Because of his leukemia, he had to give up playing baseball and basketball; gave up school altogether. Twice-weekly chemotherapy injections were destroying his immune system, so he couldn't risk injury or illness.
All the kid had left was deer hunting on his family's 40 acres. Walking back and forth to his stand behind the house offered both physical and mental therapy, which is why his doctor approved.
While bowhunting in October, Jeremy saw a buck so big, he had a hard time convincing others of its size.
"I was in my stand when this monster buck appeared with two does," he said. "They were about 150 yards distant. It was the first time I'd ever seen such a buck. Even though the deer were too far away, I got ready ... just in case.
"But then, all of a sudden, they all took off running," he continued.
"When I looked around to see what had spooked them, there was my Grandma Dorothy, walking in the woods, picking up kindling for her fireplace.
"I was so upset that I got down and stomped back to the house. I told my dad and he said I should just calm down. There were lots of deer, he said, and I would get one soon enough," Jeremy added. "But I said, 'Dad, you don't understand. It was a monster ... not just a buck, a MONSTER buck!'"
Jeremy went out the next day and arrowed a nice fat doe.
For the rest of the month and into November, Jeremy scouted and hunted. He never saw the buck of his dreams; never got a trail camera photo of it. But he did discover several new rubs along a trail and moved his stand near them in preparation for the gun season.
Spending opening day inside the house was frustrating, but at least the rain stopped that night.
"We were up early Sunday, and Dad walked me part of the way to my stand just to make sure I could get there. I was having a lot of trouble with my legs and knees then," Jeremy said. "Dad watched me get into my stand, and then he went to his own."
The sun came up early to a bright blue sky, and the wind was good for where Jeremy sat waiting. He was anxious for a chance at the monster buck. And he didn't have to wait long.
"About 7:30, I saw two does come out of the cedars. The big buck was behind them. They were all about 150 yards away - too far for my 20-gauge Remington 870, but I got ready anyway," said Jeremy.
"They came toward me slowly for about three or four minutes, and then all three went into another cedar thicket about 130 yards out. Everything got quiet again, and I didn't see anything moving. After several minutes, I heard what sounded like a bulldozer coming through the woods," he added.
"Suddenly, the buck came out of the cedars alone about 50 yards to my left and was moving pretty fast to the right, crossing right in front of me. I raised my gun and got him in the open sights."
The first slug struck the buck behind the shoulder, but Jeremy wasn't going to stop with two more shells in his pump. The second shot was high and farther back. The third clipped the spine and dropped the deer.
Jeremy sat there for a while, looking at the buck lying just 50 yards away. When he was sure it wasn't going to get up, he radioed his father,
"I called my dad on the radio and told him I shot the monster buck and needed help. Then I got out my cell phone and called my dad's friend, Mike Drouge, to see if he could come, too," Jeremy said.
When Jeremy's dad, John, and Mike arrived, they were shocked at the size of the deer. Points were literally sticking out everywhere, and the antlers' mass was incredible. They took lots of photos before moving the proud young man's "monster" to a place accessible by truck.
While the two men were field-dressing the deer, Jeremy called everyone he knew who hunted. By the time they got back to the house, friends were arriving to see the trophy, which also drew a crowd at Best Buy Grocery in Cross Plains, the local check station.
Hunter: Jeremy Eaton
Official Score: 219 1/8"
Composite Score: 238"
-- Reprinted from the September 2009 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.