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From the Agony of Defeat to Glory

John SaysBy John Says

-- It was mid-October 1991, and I had ventured off to a place that I was very familiar with, a place called Shoates Creek Pastures. This is a place I had hunted quite often. I had gotten up early that morning anxious to get to the woods and do some scouting. I loaded up a brand new treestand that I had just purchased the day before at Nichole's Dry Goods for $130.

The morning was cool and crisp with a slight haze in the air. I was excited because I had seen good deer in this area before. I scouted along a fire lane that pushed its way through some tall pines and broke out into some young saplings. The farther I went the more deer sign I saw. Quite a few does were in the area, and I was anticipating some good buck sign. Sure enough I came across a good buck that was traveling out of a bed in the short pine saplings into the tall pine timber for feeding.

This was a good buck. You've seen the signs he's left behind: large tracks, rubs on trees the size of your leg, scrapes the size of a wash tub. I knew right away that I had found the right spot, but the only trouble was that the deer had a lot to eat. I set my stand up on the only huge pine I could find close in the area.

I decided to hunt in a transition zone between security cover and a cutover of young pine saplings. I hoped to catch a monster either heading back to bed or cruising for does. Boy was I excited! I just knew that tomorrow was going to be a great day.

The next morning I got up early. It was misty and rainy with a south wind. I hiked to my stand around 5 a.m. I wanted to get there early to let my scent have time to settle. But something was very wrong. As I approached were I had put my stand all I found was an empty tree. The new treestand I had put up the day before had been stolen. The area I had wanted to hunt had been trashed with food lying on the ground and paper wrappers. Then as daylight came, I noticed where the scoundrels had tried to set fire to the woods. My blood was at a boil.

I went home without a treestand and no hope of bagging a nice buck. But I was determined to have a wallhanger in my living room over my fireplace if it was the last thing I did. I went back to Nichole's Dry Goods Store and purchased another treestand and went to another hunting spot.

This place led into the Louisiana Sabine River Swamp - a little place called Hack-Shaw. I knew it was a good spot because I had hunted it before, and I already had a place picked out to hang the stand. It was in some hardwood trees that run in a straight line between two marshes. I had seen several does in there during the first part of the season.

I did some quick scouting and found some great sign, and I felt rather lucky. I found a good tree with a lot of ground cover were I could put my stand, and it would be hard to spot at night or day. I took extra precaution and brought a chain and lock this time. If nothing else I would not make it easy for the next scoundrel. I put out some doe scent called Harmon Deer Scents that I found in my bag and then left the area as it was getting dark. I arrived home around 8 p.m., took a shower and soon went to bed. Then the phone rang. It was a friend who called to remind me that I had to be at his house to do some work the following day. There went that hunt. I couldn't think of anything else the next day. I just wanted to go on a relaxing deer hunt.

Finally, the next morning came and I got up early to drink a cup of coffee with my mind racing about were I had put my stand. I knew it was in a good spot. I arrived at my parking spot around 5:30 a.m. The weather forecast predicted a cloudy morning with a 20-percent chance of light showers. I got my things together and turned on my flashlight. I set off to get in my stand. I had walked down an old logging road that had grown up slightly and knew that I needed to turn off on a marked trail. For some reason everything looked different.

I began to make my way to were I thought my stand was. I was tripping over everything in my path. My goodness what in the world was going on? I couldn't be lost. I knew these woods like the back of my hand. Finally I became frustrated and just sat down. I had decided I would just wait for daylight because I must be lost.

I sat there in the dark, wondering how I had taken a wrong turn. It wasn't long before a slight mist was falling from the sky. As daylight slowly began to come I could see tree branches lying everywhere. This couldn't be happening to me.

Sure enough the woodsmen had come in and clear cut everything in sight. When daylight arrived completely, I could see only one tree standing and it had my deer stand on it. I was crushed, disappointed, angry, wet and cold.  BUT, I was determined to hunt if it killed me. I made my way to my stand. I climbed up and sat down. I looked all around and saw nothing but ravaged land. I looked out in front of my stand and spotted an old oak tree that had fallen over from the skidders in the area. I sat there in disbelief. Ten to 15 minutes passed.

Then all of a sudden I could not believe my eyes! A buck jumped over the end of the old oak tree. The sun had broken through the clouds and the light was shining on the buck like a star. The buck stomped its foot. I was sitting in my stand and didn't want to move. I looked down at my old Winchester .30-30 and asked the Lord if this gun would be big enough to do the job.

I raised the rifle to my shoulder as slowly as I could and pulled the trigger. The buck went into a heavy trot like the shot didn't even faze it. I thought I missed. I slid around to the corner of my treestand with excitement trying to get another shot. I took aim and squeezed off another round. Then all of a sudden, the buck disappeared into a briar patch. It seemed like an hour went by before I couldn't take it anymore. I climbed down from my stand and walked directly to where the buck ran into the patch.

I went in and pushed back the briars. To my surprise I found my buck. I saw nothing but antlers. This was a 10-point buck with a 23 3/4-inch inside spread. The buck weighed 252 pounds. Sometimes it pays to have patience and see things through to the end because you never know what is going to happen on a deer hunt.

John Says
Merryville, Louisiana

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