Tennessean remembers buck fever, huge antlers and losing a friend
By Scott Scribner
Tennessee’s deer season arrived; it started like most, with excitement, anticipation and me hardly being able to wait to see what kind of deer our family would harvest.
In October, my Dad was driving to work when he spotted a very good buck with a unique left side to its rack.
He and my stepmother only have about 10 acres to hunt, so seeing a monster buck was big news, although we’ve taken a few decent bucks there in the past.
I figured I’d never see that big one, so I didn't give it much more thought.
On Friday, Nov. 2, I had the day off and told my father I’d be hunting and would keep him posted.
I saw a few does and small bucks during the morning, but nothing I’d fling an arrow at. Little did I know what the afternoon hunt had in store.
About 15 minutes after I’d set up, I noticed through the thick leaves several deer walking a trail on the neighboring property, and coming my way.
I decided I’d let an arrow fly at a doe if the opportunity presented itself.
Suddenly, I could have sworn I heard a cough in the woods behind me. I’ve never heard a deer cough, so I wasn’t sure what it was. A few minutes later, I heard it again. This time I knew it was coming from a deer because I saw them moving in the distance.
Sure enough, the coughing had to be coming from one of the deer coming down a trail on a small hill toward me.
Too bad it was only a yearling buck because it came with 20 yards broadside.
Then I noticed another deer, a little 7-pointer, walking the same trail, and another buck, an even bigger 9-pointer.
I thought, oh yeah, I'm gonna let an arrow fly at this buck!
It would've been my best bowkill to date, so I mentally prepared to take the shot. That’s when I caught movement from the same direction.
I realized each buck that appeared kept getting bigger and bigger, and this next one could be a giant, so I waited to see what might appear on the hillside.
When the buck my dad had told me about stepped out on that hill, buck fever hit me like a ton of bricks!
I had my bow up and ready, but for every step it took toward me, I shook even harder. Leaves had to be falling from that tree!
As I tried to calm down, the huge buck started down the same trail, but suddenly took a hard left on another trail.
Luckily, I’d cut a few shooting lanes on that trail but would have a difficult 48-yard shot.
Through the tears of excitement and buck fever, I decided not to take a chance of wounding this incredible deer.
As it walked away, I texted my dad to inform him what I’d seen.
I waited until it was completely dark before leaving, for fear I’d spook this deer out of the county.
Later, I told my father I’d seen the biggest deer of my life. Mind you, this is coming from someone who lived in Wyoming for 18 years and spent time guiding with my father and late grandfather. As a hunter, I’d never seen anything this big.
The next day was opening day of muzzleloader season, and I planned to hunt with my best friend Chris on another tract of land.
That day was eventful. We saw plenty of deer had small bucks chasing does everywhere, but my mind was on the monster down the road.
Later, I was glad I went with Chris, because it was the only the time we’d be able to hunt together because of circumstances with his wife Heather’s battle with ovarian cancer.
Chris’ priority was Heather, but she felt good that day, or at least she said so, and encouraged us to go ahead.
On a side note, Heather Dean Roland lost her battle in January, which was a crushing blow to us all, but I remember her selflessness when Chris wanted to go hunting.
That night on the drive home, Chris told me he was going to stay home with Heather the next day which I understood completely.
I called dad, and we planned to go back to where Chris and I were the day before. When my alarm went off, he texted me he wasn't feeling well enough to drive, so we decided to see if we could get the monster buck behind his house.
Under my breath I said, I doubt I'll see it, but okay.
Dad ended up getting a decent buck that morning. We checked it in and brought it to a processor so we could hunt again in the afternoon since he still had three doe tags and I had my buck tag.
We arrived to the woods a little late that afternoon, so Dad hung close to the house in a stand we’d put up, and I went up to a buddy stand in the middle of the property, very close to where I’d seen the monster a few days before.
It was getting late and I was about to text Dad to tell him I was going to hit the grunt call when all of a sudden I heard him shout, “He’s coming your way!"
As his voice echoed through the woods, I grabbed my .50-cal and looked to my left. Sure enough, the big buck was trotting down the same trail as it had a few days earlier!
My heart was literally beating out of my chest, but this time I was able to get a shot off. When the smoke cleared, I saw him kicking on the ground.
As I was reloading, the buck stood and began to walk away.
I was so shaken up, I made a poor shot, discovering later I’d nicked its brow tine. When the smoke cleared, the buck was still standing there.
I reloaded, took my time and made this shot count. The buck fell over for good.
“Oh, YEAH!” I yelled as loud as I could.
“Did you get him?” my father shouted.
With tears in my eyes, I replied, "Yes, I did, Dad!"
When we finally got to the buck and put our hands on it, it was the best feeling in the world.
I gave that animal all the respect I could, thankful for the harvest.
We took a few pictures and loaded it in the back of the truck, then drove to my in-laws so my wife could see this magnificent animal.
I called my buddy Chris and told I’d come by after my buck’s check-in.
When we arrived, Chris was super stoked, but the best part was seeing Heather smile like she did. Sadly, it would be the last buck she would get to see.
On the way to the processor I called Dad and told him I had a name picked out for this buck.
He said, “What’s that? Freaknasty?”
I said, “No, Michael Waddell already took that one. I’m calling it Bruce Willis, because it was a die hard.”
We agreed the name suited the buck well.