posted on October 17, 2011 07:12
By Mike Handley
His confidence buoyed by floodwaters pushing deer onto his side of the levee and the discovery of several great sheds in the little 40-acre pasture he hunts, Tom Ross decided to push all his chips to the center of deer hunting’s poker table in 2010.
He’s never walked the 560 yards from his front door to his ladder stand more often than he did last year, starting with the opening of Arkansas’ bow season and ending on the rainy day he almost folded his cards.
“I found 11 sheds in that little field the previous spring,” Tom said. “Several were impressive, but one antler was really outstanding.”
To sweeten the pot, the nearby White and Mississippi rivers flooded that fall, and Tom knew his chances at a decent buck -- maybe even the former wearer of that big shed -- would never be better.
“I hunted hard during bow season, when the floodwaters were at their peak,” he said. “I went 16 days straight and saw plenty of deer, including this buck, but it was too far.”
When the gun season opened, Tom kept hunting from his bow setup, at least whenever the wind allowed. But the big buck he’d seen early never showed.
After a week of hunting every day, Tom was growing tired of the game.
“I’d burnt my entire season waiting on that buck,” he said. “I was ready to sell my guns and quit. I had nothing to show for a whole lot of work.”
Tom saw the rain on Nov. 23 as the perfect reason to stay indoors and take a break from babysitting his neighbor’s little pasture. But he couldn’t do it.
“I was in the stand at daylight, despite the rain,” he said. “It finally quit about 9:00, and I decided to give the hunt another hour, to give the buck one last chance. If it didn’t show, the guns were up for sale.”
Before those 60 minutes elapsed, he happened to glance down and saw the deer at an easy 75 yards. When he walked up on it several minutes later, he was so shaken by its size that he vomited.
At the most recent Arkansas Big Buck Classic, it placed sixth overall. It was also the largest Arkansas buck registered at Simmons Sporting Goods’ Big Buck Contest in Bastrop, La., where Tom’s name was eventually drawn for a $10,000 shopping spree.
At 173 4/8 inches (the composite score is 194 6/8), the Monroe County 14-pointer is No. 4 among Arkansas Typicals in the BTR’s centerfire rifle category. The rest of the story, written by Jill Easton, will appear in RACK magazine.