By Wes Austin
Wes Austin stands beside his career-best Hoosier buck, a 12x8 that was well worth the long drive home on the eve of the state's 2006 gun season. Photo Courtesy of Wes Austin
Nov. 18, 2006, was just another morning to go deer hunting for me, though I'd had considerably less sleep than usual. Instead of counting sheep, I'd counted mileposts all the way from Mississippi to Indiana.
I have hunted Crawford County, Ind., for probably 10 years and harvested my share of trophy whitetails. There is probably no one who knows those woods better than I do.
I got in a couple of weeks of bowhunting that year before my job took me to Mississippi. I hunted morning and evening during that time and saw some really nice bucks, none of which were big enough to tempt me. I knew there were some great deer there.
After that, I took a job in Mississippi and had to abandon my hunting spot for the rest of the early bow season. But when November came around, I told my superintendent I was going back to Indiana to hunt for a week. I left late on Friday, Nov. 17.
I drove half the night, wondering what kind of bucks I would see on opening morning of the firearms season. After arriving home, I got my camouflage and shotgun ready. It wasn't long before my alarm was signaling it was time to go hunting.
I knew where I was going. I like to get in the woods half an hour before daylight to beat the neighbors, who ride their four-wheelers through the adjoining woods to their treestands. This usually pushes the deer to the bottom of the hollow where I like to be. It works like a funnel or a man-drive; the deer run straight to me.
That was not the case on this particular morning.
I arrived in the woods and got set up in my spot in the pitch black. Soon afterward, I heard two shots and wondered how in the world anyone could see what they were shooting at, since it was still dark. Then I heard the four-wheelers start up at the top of the hollow.
That alarmed and frustrated me because that was normally the direction from which all the deer appeared. Somehow, the neighbors had beaten me to the woods that morning.
The author's Crawford County, Ind., buck breaks the 200-inch mark when the inside spread is included. Smith Mountain Taxidermy did the honors. Photo Courtesy of Wes Austin
Dejected, I sat there and waited for sunrise. When dawn broke, however, the fog rolled in and shrouded everything. I couldn't see squat.
About half an hour later, the fog began to lift and I spotted a doe coming over the bank about 30 yards from me, which was about as far as I could see through the haze. She walked toward me and bawled, occasionally stopping to chew the mineral-rich creek bank. Eventually, another doe appeared behind her, and then one more. I watched carefully, hoping they might not be alone.
The rear doe kept looking behind her, but it was more of a casual gesture than one of concern. But I pegged that wrong.
With no real warning, a shooter buck materialized out of the fog on the same path the does had taken. I wanted it from the moment I saw it.
I lifted my shotgun as the buck calmly walked toward the three does. I was waiting for a broadside target. And when the big whitetail turned, I slowly pulled the trigger.
The buck jumped and ran down the hollow until it disappeared in the fog. Even so, I was confident I'd made a good shot.
When I got down from my treestand to take a look, I soon discovered that my buck had traveled a mere 40 yards before dying in the creek.
When I grabbed those antlers and counted the points, I was speechless.
My 20-pointer wound up being the biggest buck ever taken in Crawford County.
Hunter: Wes Austin
Official Score: 182 5/8"
Composite Score: 201"
-- Reprinted from the July 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine