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Don't Tell Dad...Yet

Eric League

While dad bowhunts Kansas, son sticks giant from dad’s stand back home

By Eric League

Each fall my dad Art League takes a hunting trip somewhere in the Midwest or Texas. I’ve been to Kansas with him twice, but the years I haven’t gone, I’ve been very successful back here in North Carolina.

In fact, on Dad’s first Kansas trip four years ago, I shot a great buck from his stand, but this year, I did ever better!

Most everything I know about hunting I learned from my father. From an early age, I developed a passion for deer hunting just being around him. He always made sure to include my brother and me in all his outdoor activities.

Dad gave me my first bow when I was ten, which I used to arrow my first deer when I was eleven, so bowhunting is in my blood.

Our close friend Sandy Brady had given us permission to hunt his farm in North Carolina, so Dad and I set up a stand there this past August.

After scouting, we placed a ladder stand in an oak tree about 80 yards from a field edge. It had white oaks nearby, along with neat features such as ridge, a ravine, a small lake and swamp.

Both Dad and I are right-handed, so we positioned the stand accordingly.

We set up a trail camera with corn and left the area until the first week of deer season.

When Dad checked the camera, he was amazed. A huge 10-pointer we figured to be better than 160-inches appeared on the cam, and we knew it would be the one Dad would be after.

He hunted that buck for several weeks with no luck, trying several other stand locations and checking the trail cameras. It was as if the buck had simply disappeared.

In early October, Dad and I hunted with Sandy Brady and discussed the giant 10-pointer over lunch.

Dad asked Sandy if I could hunt in his new stand when he left for Kansas. Sandy agreed to let me hunt there for two days during bow season. This changed my entire outlook for the entire deer season!

On October 22, Dad left for Kansas, so I started planning my hunt.

A huge cold front was moving in the following weekend, so I decided to hunt Dad’s stand that Friday afternoon. Because the temperatures were rapidly dropping that day, I arrived at Dad’s stand early.

I eased into the woods, making only a couple steps at a time before pausing. I didn’t want to spook the deer, and everything was perfect to hunt that stand.

I settled into Dad’s ladder around 3:45 p.m. and doubled checked my weather app. Temps were in the upper 40s and the north wind made for perfect conditions.

By 5:15, I’d seen a doe and small spike. They’d walked down a hill toward the swamp and disappeared.

A little while later, I spotted a deer coming out of a thicket up and the hill toward my stand. At first, I thought it might the spike again, but man, was I wrong!

When it crossed a small opening, I saw it had a huge body and a rack with wide and tall-framed antlers.

The buck was about 70 yards away, so I looked through my binoculars. Immediately I knew it was the giant 10-pointer.

I removed my Mathews bow from the hanger and prepared for the shot.

I haven’t been that shaken up about a deer in years, but I literally started to shake all over as it walked straight toward me. I knew I must regain my composure or I’d blow it.

Purposefully, I looked away from the deer, took a deep breath, then said to myself, it’s just a deer . . .  it’s just a deer . . . relax and shoot it.

When I looked back, it was still walking my way, but I’d managed to gain total control of my emotions.

The buck stopped in a very small opening at 18 yards, but I’d knew to wait and allow it to walk into a better shooting lane at 22 yards. I knew if I had patience, I’d get my opportunity to take the biggest deer of my life.

Hunting Stories Wanted!When the buck stepped behind a large oak, I came to full draw without it seeing me. I reminded myself I’d been shooting a bow for 26 years and it was time to relax and make the shot count.

I placed my pin behind the front shoulder, made sure my anchor points were correct, looked through the peep sight and took a deep breath.

Focusing on my target, I put my thumb against the release trigger, adding slight pressure until the shot surprised me. I knew I did not flinch.

The arrow found its mark three inches behind the deer’s left shoulder, and I knew at that moment I just taken a true North Carolina giant.

The deer turned and ran back down the hill from where it came, and I saw my arrow protruding from its side. That worried me a little, knowing there was only one hole which meant I likely would not find as much blood.

Once the deer disappeared, I started shaking so badly I could barely get my bow back on the hanger.

I got out my phone, but was shaking so badly I couldn’t send a text!

A few moments later, I called Sandy to tell him I’d just shot the giant ten.

I will never forget Sandy’s response when he answered the phone, “Man, that didn’t take long!”

Sandy was very pleased and asked if I’d made a good shot. I told him the shot was perfect, so he told me to back out and he’d come help me track. 

Then, I told Sandy I was going to text Dad in Kansas, but Sandy asked me not to.

“Let’s just wait and you can send him a picture of you with the buck,” he said. “But, we gotta find it first!”

It was all I could do not to send Dad a text, but I agreed to wait until we found the buck.

I got down and eased over to where the buck had been standing. Bright red blood was all over the ground, and I knew the broadhead had done its job. 

I didn’t proceed any farther, but could see a good blood trail for at least 10 yards, so I felt very confident we’d find my buck. Then I turned and eased out of the area.

When Sandy arrived, I showed him the blood and we felt confident we’d find the deer.

We tracked it easily for about 70 yards, then the blood disappeared, and I got sick feeling in my stomach.

We searched for several minutes with no luck, so Sandy went where the last blood was and stood while I walked in ever-increasing circles, looking for telltale signs.

I finally found a few drops a blood about 25 yards from Sandy, and from there, the blood trail picked up, leading us to the top of small hill.

Moments later, I looked downhill and saw my buck lying near the bottom. Immediately, I ran to put hands on the giant. Never before have I been more excited to find a deer. I knew this 170-class buck was a truly a special, once-in-a-lifetime animal!

Sandy and I celebrated, then he used his smartphone to take several pictures of me holding the buck; one of which I texted to Dad.

When Dad got the picture, my phone immediately rang and his excited voice asked, “Is that YOU in the picture?”

“Yep, that’s me all right, Dad!” I replied. “I got the giant ten!”

He was so happy for me, even though it was supposed to be his buck.

Dad told me he couldn’t be any prouder of me. That made everything even more special.

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