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Happy Birthday to Me!

By Greg Wilson

Whitetail Deer
Greg Wilson of Tyner, Ky., poses beside
his 29-point birthday present.
Photo by Shawn P. McNierney, Shamrock Photography

As daylight broke on opening day of the '05 rifle season in the hills of southeast Kentucky, my son, Nick, and I were hunting our favorite ridge on the family farm. It's about three-quarters of a mile long with an old grown-up strip mine field at the crest. White oaks grow at the top and bottom, and a creek runs parallel to it.

Back in the summer, I'd built a permanent stand beside an old logging road, at the foot of the hill and close to the creek. There has always been lots of buck sign on that old road. By November, several big scrapes pocked it, and many trees had been horned.

Around 8:00 that morning, a doe came over the hill, snuffling up acorns. She kept glancing past me, toward the creek. And eventually, I heard the familiar sound of animal footsteps about 75 yards distant. A deer was walking back and forth in the thick underbrush flanking the creek. I was able to make out antlers, but the buck would not come any closer or step into the open.

A half-hour later, two yahoos across the creek decided to sight-in their rifles. After 20 minutes of their shooting between 25 and 30 rounds, the deer had enough. The doe moseyed on her merry way, and the buck slipped back into the thick mountain laurel and hemlock.

Whitetail Deer
As if the extra beam and strong 11-point
mainframe aren't enough, the Jackson County
brute's bases are ringed with sticker points.
Photo by Shawn P. McNierney, Shamrock Photography

So much for my opening-day hunt!

The next morning, Nick and I returned to the ridge. It was Nov. 13, my 39th and soon-to-be very special birthday.

Dawn broke cloudy. We could feel a change of weather in the air.

 While watching six gray squirrels playing under my stand, I heard leaves crunching behind me. A shooter buck was tending its scrape line, headed toward me. As I turned and saw a large rack, I stood up slowly and turned to face the buck.

Meanwhile, the buck stepped off the road and stopped behind a large hemlock.

When I raised my rifle and acquired the deer in my sights, all I could see was from the middle of its ribs to the tail. Seconds later, the buck resumed walking toward me. My pulse quickened and my heart started to beat faster as I followed it with my scope, waiting for a chance to shoot.

Today!I whistled twice in an attempt to stop it, but the deer never slowed. When it was within 20 yards -almost underneath me - I couldn't wait any longer and fired.

The buck reared up like a stallion and hit the ground running. I tried to work another cartridge into my gun, but I was too slow. By the time I got back on the deer, it had disappeared in heavy cover.

My heart was pounding out of my chest as I saw the enormous rack weaving through the timber. When I heard "the crash," I almost jumped up and down.

A few minutes later, I heard the deer kicking the leaves for the last time. All was soon silent.

I anxiously slipped through 75 yards of woods and spotted a large white belly under a hemlock. My heart was racing!

In fact, I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I freed one side of the rack from a fallen log. When both sides popped into view, I gasped.

In nearly three decades of hunting, I've never been wowed like this. It's the most awesome birthday present I've ever had!

Centerfire Rifle
Read More Stories From RACK Magazineegular
Official Score: 229 4/8"
Composite Score: 250 1/8"

-- Reprinted from the October 2006 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine

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