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Early Birds Sometimes Miss the Worm

By Mike Handley

Hunter: Cameron Bunting
Sixteen-year-old Cameron Bunting of Deville, La., gained a sixth notch in his bowhunting belt last November. He waited six days for the 10-minute window to shut out this 15-pointer's lights. Photos by: Greg Bunting

Ordinarily, anyone who has traveled across four states to climb a tree where bruiser bucks roam would rise with the roosters. But that wasn't the case when 16-year-old Cameron Bunting crawled out of the sack on Nov. 9, six days into his fall vacation.

Cameron's enthusiasm for rising before dawn was definitely waning. The hunting party - which included his dad, Greg, cousin Doug Bell and another guy, Reggie Yancy - was one day away from calling it quits and heading the 17 hours back home to Louisiana. Almost everyone else had drawn blood, and the kid, understandably, was ready to write off the 2006 season.

That he had a stomach ache that day was plenty enough reason to hang around camp for a few extra hours.

The trip to Ohio is an annual pilgrimage for the Buntings, who usually are accompanied by two or three others. They go to a cabin in Pike County, near the public ground they've come to know very well. As soon as they hit town, there's always a trip to Wal-Mart for over-the-counter licenses.

Hunter: Cameron Bunting
Cameron Bunting

Cameron slept in that Thursday morning. His one and only vigil wouldn't begin until much later in the day, and he was definitely looking forward to a change of scenery, eager to take his dad's advice and hunt an area five minutes away that always seemed to hold a few does.

Around 4 p.m., the well rested hunter climbed off his ATV and began the 80-yard hike from the gravel road to his stand. It was three hours later than his usual afternoon starting time.

Greg had gone so far as to suggest a particular tree, but Cameron didn't like it when he got an up-close look at things. He wound up going 80 yards deeper into the open hardwoods, until he stumbled across a fresh scrape.

A buck had left a ripe calling card, and Cameron decided to answer it.

As soon as he was about 35 to 40 feet high in an oak, he flipped his doe-in-a-can twice and grunted. Almost immediately, he heard a deer approaching. Moments later, the kid zeroed in on its antlers.

"I didn't think it was all THAT big," he admitted. "I thought that it was just a nice 8-pointer."

When the "nice" animal was within 40 yards less than five minutes later, Cameron bleated again. When the buck stopped, the kid's bow hummed.

The deer ran about 50 yards after the thwack, and then its right front leg folded inward, sending it sprawling. Woozy, but still full of adrenaline, the buck managed to rise again and covered another 50 yards before calmly lying down and taking its last breath.

Cameron didn't realize until he was standing over the fallen whitetail that it was far bigger than the bragging-sized bucks the others had taken during the week. Instead of eight points, it wore 15 (eight on the right side alone).

Read More Stories From RACK MagazineThe 10-minute hunt was almost surreal, especially considering that Cameron had taken only one buck and a few does in the eight seasons leading up to that day.

Hunter: Cameron Bunting
Official Score: 162 2/8"
Composite Score: 177 7/8"
Compound Bow

-- Reprinted from the October 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine

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