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Hey, I Know That Buck!

Alan Cramer

Rasputen could have taken lessons from this tough deer.

By Ryan Noffsinger

Peering through his slug gun’s scope, Alan Cramer silently prayed for a clear shot at the gimpy buck with a rack full of extras. So enchanted by the forked points, kickers and drop tines, he never once considered that he’d crossed paths with the same deer the previous year, or that the animal’s peculiar gait was his own doing.

Their first meeting took place in October 2009.

An upset stomach kept Alan out of the woods on opening weekend of the Illinois bow season. He even called in sick on Monday, Oct. 5. But by 3:00 that afternoon, he felt well — or brave — enough to spend a couple of hours in his favorite treestand.

Alan has a few setups he calls “5 o’clock” stands, because they are easy to reach quickly and without spooking game. These sites are perfect for when he’s running late or has only a short time to hunt.

It was 4:00 by the time he climbed the tall walnut tree at the crest of a timbered ridge overlooking a large hay field. As daylight dwindled, a doe and a buck emerged from a dense thicket at the far side of the field.

While glassing the pair, he figured the buck for a 140-ish 10-pointer with a short drop tine on its right antler — good enough, if the opportunity arose.

Twenty long minutes later, the buck finally offered a slightly quartering shot at 30 yards. At the touch of his release, the arrow hit its mark, completely passed through the buck and stuck in the ground.

When the deer bolted for the timber all the way across the field, it was favoring its right front leg.

Later, when Alan picked up his bloody arrow and began following the obvious trail, he was confident he’d find his prize.

But after covering nearly 400 yards, he still hadn’t found it. That’s when he decided to back out and return the following morning.

Unfortunately, the floodgates opened that night and washed away all evidence of the buck’s passing.

Alan searched for the deer for three days before throwing in the towel.

A neighbor told him in November that he’d seen a wounded 10-pointer with a drop tine on his property. Alan was thrilled to learn the deer had survived.

The following August, while “speed-scouting” some of his hunting property from the comfort of his air-conditioned truck, Alan glassed a large buck in velvet — possibly the one he’d stuck in 2009 — feeding on beans. He hung several treestands and put out multiple trail cameras near well-worn deer trails.

Alan bowhunted every chance he got in 2010, though he neither saw nor photographed the drop-tined buck. He saw a couple of dandy whitetails, but not within bow range, which is why he traded his bow for a muzzleloader during the first firearms season, during which he saw nothing.

At daybreak on Dec. 3, two days into the state’s second firearms season, Alan was 20 feet aloft and pulling up his Remington 870 when disaster struck. The rope broke, and the shotgun nose-dived into the ground before falling over like a fainting groom.

Subscribe Today!Alan got down and cleaned the mud out of his barrel, but then he decided he’d best leave and check the scope’s zero.

He’d almost reached his Chevy when Alan spotted a buck standing motionless 50 yards away. During their short stare-down, Alan admired the deer’s tight, but tall rack, but he chose not to chance a bad shot. He had no idea if the scope was still zeroed.

Back home, Alan cleaned and shot his gun. It was six inches off at 50 yards. After making the necessary adjustments, he was ready to get an early start to the afternoon, but not as early as he’d planned.

Before leaving his house, Alan received a phone call from a friend who had shot a nice buck. When he went to look at it, a crowd had assembled. Many of the guys tried to convince Alan to join them for a man-drive of one of his favorite parcels. It was tempting, but he opted to return to his own setup, a ladder stand 100 yards off a cut bean field.

It was 3:40 before Alan saw anything. That’s when a mature buck wafted out of the trees and began crossing the field, heading — Alan hoped — for the trail that would take it to the bedding area behind his stand. Just in case, he laid his shotgun across a limb and waited, his cheek glued to the stock, eye looking through crosshairs.

Eventually, Alan noticed the deer’s laborious approach was more related to a limp than state of mind.

When he focused on the antlers, he made the connection, but not the obvious one. He merely realized it was the same tight-racked buck he’d opted not to shoot that morning.

At that point, Alan moved his scope off the deer’s antlers and refocused on vitals. When the buck turned broadside at 20 yards, he squeezed the trigger.

Although the hit was lethal, the massive buck ran 10 yards and stopped as if unscathed. Not about to take any chances, Alan swung his gun to the other side of his tree and sent another slug through the deer’s chest, dropping it. After a few minutes of watching the buck to make sure it wasn’t going to rise from the dead, Alan walked over to the animal.

Only when he grasped its unique antlers did he realize he’d shot the same drop-tined 10-pointer he’d arrowed in 2009.

Editor’s Note: We don’t usually post magazine articles to the web so soon after they’re printed, but we felt it was appropriate in this instance. Alan was lost in a motorcycle accident early in 2013, and he’s sorely missed by family and friends.

-- Reprinted from the August 2011 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.