posted on April 09, 2012 06:50
By Mike Handley
It fell to a veterinarian's scalpel to decide whether an Illinois 15-year-old could keep the deer he shot on Nov. 18, opening morning of the state's (initial) firearms season.
Because three telephone callers claimed he'd shot the enormous buck with a rifle, which is illegal in Illinois, Josh Riggs, a straight-A student and football player at La Salle-Peru Township High School, was forced to prove his innocence.
The allegations were taken seriously until Josh agreed to take the whitetail to an Ottawa, Ill., veterinary clinic for X-raying.
The teenager told authorities he shot the buck three times with his 12-gauge shotgun. But the X-ray showed more than three foreign objects. One was an expandable broadhead buried in the deer's shoulder. The rest were indeed fragments of three shotgun slugs, Josh said.
The finding lifted the kid back onto Cloud Nine.
"That was a three-hour ordeal," Josh said. "I wasn't happy about it at the time, but now I couldn't be happier."
Josh was hunting from a 17-foot-high double ladder stand on his father's 80 acres in La Salle County. He'd lost track of a 10-pointer that had followed a couple of does across a power line when he happened to look in the opposite direction and into the glare of this magnificent buck standing only 20 yards away.
"As soon as it turned its head away from me, I blasted it," he said, adding that he got off two more shots as the deer fled. The animal went to ground about five feet after the third slug hit it.
Winning the local big buck contest's $200 prize helped take the sting out of Josh's being wrongfully accused of shooting this 29-pointer with an illegal weapon. It scored 199 4/8 by the BTR's yardstick, and that doesn't include the 15 4/8-inch inside spread.
Josh's story will appear next fall in Rack magazine.