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Every Trick in the Book

By Chris Miller

Hunter: Chris Miller
The sun-bleached rack at Chris Miller's feet turned out to be Godzilla's nearly-identical twin brother. Don Paul of Louisville, Ky., is the taxidermist behind Chris' mount. Photo Courtesy of Chris Miller

I received permission in 1998 to hunt a 550-acre farm in Floyd County, Ind. It is about 300 acres of woods surrounded by grain fields and alfalfa.

Those woods are a haven for wildlife, especially deer and turkey. The land has rolling hills with two pine and cedar thickets. There are also two creeks that have permanent water. Hardwoods are everywhere. The property was selectively cut four years ago, and now a dense thicket covers about 60 to 80 acres.

Three years prior to the 2005 season, I saw a pair of bucks that I began calling "the twins." Both sported 150ish 10-point frames. I used to see them together, but then they parted company.

I spent a lot of time in the stand during the '05 archery season. I saw at least 15 different bucks, passing on at least nine that were in easy bow range. I knew there were much better ones to be had.

I decided to cut the farm some slack about a week prior to the firearms season, when my friends Dave and Adam Moloney were going to drive over from Ohio. I spent the time planning where to hang stands - based on that year's deer movement and sign. My personal pick was a ridgetop near a piney bedding area.

On Nov. 12, opening day, Adam, Dave and I arose at 4 a.m., got ready and arrived at the property around 5:00. We were in our stands by 5:30.

Before climbing my tree, I placed a 30-yard circle of six scent bombs filled with estrous doe pee and a few wicks laced with buck urine.

It was a beautiful morning with temperatures in the mid-30s and a light northeasterly wind. A lot of deer moved through before daylight. At 7:45, a young buck approached from my backside. I could not get a good look at its rack, so I let it go along its merry way into the thicket. Soon after, another deer popped out of the thicket close to where the buck had disappeared. I was hoping it would be a hot doe.

I gave a light rattle with my rattle bag and a soft grunt with my tube. I was greeted by silence. Nothing made a peep. There was not even so much as a rustling in the leaves.

After about 10 minutes, I was ready to give up on the deer. I figured it had moved off in the other direction since I did not see or hear it. But I decided to try once more. I gave a tending grunt followed by a quick snort-wheeze. And then, all of a sudden, I heard something and saw a brown flash. The deer had been standing there the whole time inside the pines.

Hunter: Chris MillerAnd now it was coming.

The buck came straight to the call and the sweet smell of doe in estrus. When it turned at 25 yards to go down into the thicket, I saw the right side of its massive rack and body.

The buck stopped in the perfect place. I had a 30x30-inch shooting lane showing right shoulder and vitals.

I immediately raised my muzzleloader and acquired the deer in my scope. I drew the hammer back, took a deep breath, put the crosshairs on its lungs, exhaled and squeeeezed the trigger.

At the boom, the buck took off running. All I could see was smoke, but I heard the crash just out of sight.

I thanked God for putting that animal in front of me and for guiding me to make a clean, ethical shot.

I started to shake while I was tying my rifle and backpack to my pull line. I got unhooked from my safety harness and let down my things. Then I got down from my 25-foot perch in record time. Once on the ground, I reloaded, pausing every now and then to scan for the big buck.

I could not see it from the base of my tree, and I started to get a little nervous.

But then I remembered the crash and went to where I'd shot it. Sign was everywhere. I followed the blood trail for about 15 yards, looked up and ... "Oh my God!"

Hunter: Chris Miller
Chris Miller's 9-year-old son, Tristan, nicknamed this buck "Godzilla." Photo Courtesy of Chris Miller

The first thing I saw was this massive rack sticking up 2 feet off the ground. The buck had expired not 25 yards from my stand!

I didn't get a good look at the rack while I was in the tree due to the thick cover. All I knew was that it was one of the big ones I'd seen on previous hunts.

With shaking hands, I grabbed my digital video recorder and walked up to the deer. At that moment, I realized I had just taken one of the twins. Boy, had it grown!

I stood there and filmed while my whole body shook. Then I had to pick up that huge rack. I couldn't even get my hand around the base.

I looked at my cell phone and it was 8:20 a.m.  I called Adam and told him that I had a big one down. Adam congratulated me and said he had seen several does but no bucks. Next I called Dave and told him to sit tight and continue hunting, but I would need his help later.

After I hung up with Dave, I called home to wake my sleeping family to share my fabulous news. I then found a stump and sat down for a sandwich and a bottle of water. I decided while I was waiting on Dave or Adam, I would help with our management plan and take a doe if the opportunity arose.

Around 9:30, I heard a few shots from Dave's direction and my phone rang. He'd shot a buck and needed my help tracking what turned out to be his first racked buck - a very nice 130-inch 7-pointer.

After field-dressing and loading the bucks, we stopped to thank the adjacent landowner for letting us access his land to place stands and load our deer.

Subscribe Today!While at his home, I noticed a large rack on a shelf in his garage and asked to see it. It turned out to be the other twin.

The man had found it while mowing two years earlier. The two racks are almost identical, even the sticker point on the right beam.

At the check-in station, the crowd grew around my truck. Many people took pictures of my buck. "Godzilla" tipped the scales at 220 pounds, dressed.

Editor's Note: Chris, formerly a Navy man, was injured in the Persian Gulf War. He has severe neck and back problems that prevent him from doing a lot of things he used to take for granted. He has this to say to other disabled hunters: "If I can do this, so can you. Just put your mind to it, and anything is possible."

Hunter: Chris Miller
Official Score: 164 6/8"
Composite Score: 184 2/8"

-- Reprinted from the October 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine

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