By Mike Handley
Prior to last November, Derek Thompson had pretty much convinced himself that seeing or shooting a big buck wasn't going to happen where he hunts in Ross County, Ohio. Truth be told, he wasn't having much luck with little bucks either.
A busy signal seemed to greet him whenever he tried dialing the Almighty's hunter hotline.
"I can't tell you how many times over the years I've prayed for God to just let me SEE a big one," he said. "I thought shooting one was unachievable. My prayers were always unanswered."
Derek doesn't have a lot of time to hunt. Thirty-three-year-old father of two children and foster dad to four others, his time away from the post office is often earmarked. But no amount of pleading from his wife, Melissa, or kids could keep him out of the woods on a rainy Saturday, Nov. 8.
The previous Sunday, as the Thompsons were leaving church, Derek experienced a sense of déjà vu. As soon as he stepped out the door of Faith Chapel Ministries in Bethel, Ohio, he flashed back to a dream he'd had a couple of years earlier.
"The dream had two parts to it," he explained. "In the first, I was walking out of Faith Chapel holding an infant. The second part showed me in a tree, watching a monstrous buck coming my way.
"When I had that dream back in 2005, my wife and I were not expecting to have more kids," he said. "So after telling her about it the next morning, I forgot it ... until that Sunday two years later.
"There I was, holding an infant," he said. "And then it clicked. That was the vision I'd had. So I immediately told Melissa I had to go hunting the next weekend and why (the part about seeing the big buck). I called my brother-in-law, Matt French, and we started planning the following weekend's hunt."
While he was en route to Chillicothe on Saturday, storm clouds unleashed torrential rains. Matt called to say he wasn't going out in it.
But Derek would not be deterred.
He was in the woods by 3 p.m., hoping his ScentLok jacket would keep him dry. He laid down some estrous doe scent by drag rag and hung some scented wicks before attaching his portable stand to a tree and shimmying up the trunk. While the rain bounced off his clothes, he offered up a prayer: "Lord, let me see the big one."
Just before 5:00, Derek glanced up and saw the buck of his dreams. Okay, it wasn't THE buck, literally, he'd envisioned. That one was a huge Typical. This one was clearly an irregular-racked creature.
"Still, it was the monster I'd been waiting for all my life," he said. "It came down the freshly scented trail, straight for me. At 10 yards, it passed my stand and I lifted my bow.
"Just before firing, I realized the safety was on, so I hurriedly switched it off, resighted and then fired," he continued. "I watched the mammoth deer gallop away - not springy, like a deer. More like a large bull. The arrow was dangling."
Derek was worried that he'd shot too high and maybe too far back. He was too pumped to wait and too eager to see what kind of blood trail remained before the rain washed it away, so he got down immediately and began tracking.
The buck lay dead about 100 yards distant. The quartering-away shot had been perfect. The arrow pierced both lungs and heart before embedding in the off shoulder.
In a decade of hunting, this was Derek's first antlered buck. And it was the first time something didn't go awry.
"I look at all those other mess-ups as training," he said. "This was meant to happen, or maybe it was a fluke ... and I'll find myself shooting at a monster Typical some other time.
"It's kind of weird," he added. "I got this deer on a day when nobody else in his right mind would be caught outdoors. I never gave up."
Hunter: Derek Thompson
Official Score: 203 6/8
Composite Score: 224 5/8
-- Reprinted from the November 2009 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.