By Ronald J. Wedge
Peggy Gantz of Plymouth, Ind., thought she'd missed this bruiser during a late afternoon hunt. She was so upset that she almost didn't return to her favorite blind the following day, which is when she discovered that her shot had been dead-on, and the big 16-pointer had collapsed where she shot it. Photo Courtesy of: Peggy Gantz
On Dec. 15, 2004, Peggy Gantz hurried home from work in order to spend the remainder of the day in a deer stand. Once home and dressed in camo, she sprayed herself with pine cover sent and then walked the five minutes to her blind. After settling in, she doused the area with more pine scent and doe urine.
Not long into her vigil, Peggy saw something moving in some tall weeds. Two does emerged, followed by a buck.
"One glance at its rack and I knew it was a shooter," she said. "I had passed on bucks for the previous three years, waiting for a mature one. And there it was. I laid my .50-caliber muzzleloader across a hay bale and looked down the barrel."
Much to Peggy's surprise, the smokepole's rear sight looked fuzzy. She had recently purchased new eyeglasses, and it had never occurred to her to re-check her gun's sights.
"I am not a perfectionist until it comes to hunting," she said. "I expect no mistakes, and I give it 110 percent ... After all my preparations, I could not believe that I had made such a stupid mistake with my glasses. I was so mad at myself!"
Rattled over the lapse of judgment, Peggy watched as the buck and its girlfriends walked another 50 yards from her. When the deer reached a row of pines, they winded the huntress.
"They knew something was not right, but they couldn't equate it with danger," she said.
"All three deer turned and walked back out in front of me, stopping at about 50 yards," Peggy continued. "The buck stood for what seemed like an eternity.
Photo Courtesy of: Peggy Gantz
Although I was having trouble focusing, I mustered all my concentration on making a clean shot. And before I squeezed the trigger, I asked God to help me either to make a good shot or to miss the buck altogether."
Before the smoke cleared, Peggy was convinced that she'd missed. It didn't feel right. Dejected, she wanted only to go home and lick her wounds, even if they were limited to her pride.
"As I got out of my blind, the buck stood looking back at me. I was so aggravated at myself, I just hung my head," she said. "And when I looked back up, the buck had vanished."
Peggy walked back to her house. She told her husband, Larry, that she did not deserve to hunt the last few days of Indiana's season. But with his encouragement, she was back at it the next evening. Or at least she meant to go to the blind.
"Our field dips into a small valley. When I reached that point, I saw my buck lying right there and ran to it. My heart sank when I discovered that coyotes had beaten me to it," she said.
"I stood sobbing over this magnificent buck," she continued. "I will never understand how I - a seasoned hunter - let this happen. There's no excuse for my not looking for my buck after I shot. If I'd not lost my concentration that evening, I probably would have seen my buck fall."
Hunter: Peggy Gantz
Official Score: 184"
Composite Score: 203 1/8"
-- Reprinted from the November 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine