By William Westcott
-- Where do I start? I guess back some years ago to fill you in on a little of my background. I had an accident in the winter of 1987 that left me confined to a wheelchair. Since then I have gone back to a local junior college and received a degree in computer science, after starting out in electronics and switching to computer drafting. I graduated in 1990, and have steadily worked ever since.
While I was going to college back in 1989, one of my friends that I had met there came up and asked me if I had ever thought about going deer hunting since my accident. I told him that I used to before my accident and hadn't really thought about it much. Well, he told me about this man that had access to 256 acres down by the lake and had treestands large enough to seat a couple of wheelchairs in them. He said that he went the year before, and I could go this year if I wanted to. I took him up on it since I figured if you get someone to want to help you like that, better take advantage of it and go.
About daybreak, my friend, who is in a wheelchair on the ground, had spotted a deer coming across the field, but couldn't tell what it was. I spotted it in the scope and downed pretty nice 6-point buck.
The next year, I got to talking to one of my buddies from church and he wanted to take me out hunting. I had another good year and got a doe the last day of the season. I found I liked being able to provide some good meat for my family, and I was really enjoying this hunting thing in a different way.
Well, the next year my bud and I went again. Around 7:30 or 8:00, some cattle came up behind me, and while I was sitting there watching the calves romp around behind the truck, thinking that there sure aren't going to be any deer out with all these cattle around, I found out I was wrong!
As I looked back along the hillside and checked things out, I spotted a nice
6- or 8-point buck standing in the brush looking right at me. But the angle was a problem since I had to turn in the seat to be able to get a shot. I had to lift myself twice in the seat to get turned enough to even get a look at him in the scope. As I'm doing this, I'm thinking he's going to bolt away. He didn't, and I got a shot off, hitting him right in the chest.
The hunts I've described so far have all been from a wheelchair and have been successful. Little did I know that the best was yet come.
I changed jobs and with that met a whole new set of friends. My other buddy and I still go every opening day out to his place, but his boys are getting big enough to hunt with him so the space is kind of limited now. One of the new friends that I met at work, Bret, really likes to hunt - I think a lot more than just the average hunter. We're talking about a guy that gets three to five deer legally each year.
He came up to me in March of 2002 and asked if I had ever put in for one of the controlled hunts that they have in the state. I didn't even know what he was talking about, but I wanted to find out more. I called the number, got the info to fill out, sent it in and waited to see if I had been drawn for any of them.
About the first of September, I was able to log-on to the website to see whether or not I was drawn. Bret, my friend from work, had me put down for Cookson Hills because he had hunted there the year before and he kind of knew the area.
We had almost a two-hour drive from where we live to get to Cookson Hills, so we had to get started around 3:30 to get there before daylight. We arrived around 5:15 at Cookson Hills and drove through the check in station. I told the ranger my name and he found me on the list, checked my name off and then told us something that I almost couldn't believe. He said that if we were around the check in station around 8:30 or 9 to come on in and they would have breakfast ready. You ever heard of a hunt that served breakfast? I sure hadn't and Bret was as surprised as I was.
After driving several miles, we decided to check out the breakfast. My oh my, did they have it all together. Biscuits and gravy, sausage, scrambled eggs with toast and jelly. What a treat. Here I was expecting a cold bologna sandwich that I had brought or whatever Bret had packed to tide us over through the day.
After breakfast, I heard one of the park rangers talking about where he had seen several deer tracks around a big chinquapin oak tree up on a food plot.
We had been up there the weekend before and knew about that particular food plot. We decided to drive around in the part of the park we hadn't seen, and by chance, we might jump something and then try that food plot later that afternoon. We went several more miles, came back for some home-cooked chili and stayed there enjoying the day and resting.
We left around 2:30 to head up to check one food plot and see if I could find a good hiding spot. When you're in a wheelchair, things aren't impossible, it just takes a little more time to get them figured out. We went up one of the steepest, washed out trails I had ever been on to get to the top of this food plot. I'm sure glad the tailgate was up on the bed of his little S-10 pick-up or my wheelchair might have slid right out the back. After arriving at the top, we looked for the chinquapin oak tree, and sure enough, there it was about midway in the food plot.
We sat there for nearly two and a half hours and neither of us had seen a thing except for a few hens that came clucking through the food plot. About this time, I turned to Bret and vented my frustrations.
We sat there for about another hour and a half when Bret whispered, "buck."
When I spotted this buck, I nearly dropped the gun. It was the biggest racked deer I had seen in my life. I'd seen tame deer in Yellowstone Park that didn't have this kind of rack. I handed the gun to Bret and lifted myself up as high as I could out of my chair to twist as far to my right as I could. When I sat back down, my chair made a noise and this beautiful creature stopped and raised its head toward us, but then went back to grazing. I thought my heart stopped when it was looking directly at us.
I watched that beautiful buck take one more step. It was turned perfectly for about a 90- to 95-yard shot. I got it in my sights, held my breath and squeezed off the one and only shot I would need. My shot hit the deer in the shoulder and it dropped to the ground.
Bret decided to make sure he was down for good. With my chair chocked in from behind with two big rocks, I couldn't move. As Brett got closer to the buck, I heard the excitement building in his voice. He started counting the points as he got closer and I heard him yell, "Nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen!"
I wanted to get across that field to see my trophy buck.
Bret jogged across the field to tell me he was headed down the hill to get the truck. After what seemed like an eternity, which was only 8 or 10 minutes, he came back up the hill, removed the rocks from behind my wheels, helped me back through the weeds to the pickup, and loaded me in the truck.
Across the field, I could see the outline of the buck as we approached. Bret circled so I only had to hang my legs out the door to grab the buck by that beautiful rack so he could get a picture of me with my buck. Talk about a Kodak moment -- this was one that I'll never, ever forget -- not only with photos, but the images engraved in my mind.
When we got to the station, the game warden took one look at the deer and the rack on him and took off running toward his truck. I had gotten out of the truck in my wheelchair and couldn't figure where he was going. His helper said he had never seen anything this big taken from there and he wanted to get his camera to get some pictures. He wasn't gone very long and then we got him weighed in and after that field-dressed. My buck weighed 187 pounds, and 140 after he was dressed.
Not only had the game warden taken several pictures, one of his friends came by with a video camera and got him on it also. It was more than just a Kodak moment.
Seventy-five days after I got him, we were able to get him scored. He had a few deductions because he had two split points on one side, so the buck ended up with a 150 1/8 points, but he had no deductions with BTR. Needless to say, I was and am more than pleased that I was fortunate enough to ever in my life time to get one like this.