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Pinch Me If I'm Dreaming

Billie FordBy Billie Ford

-- I was working long hours and had little time left to hunt at the end of each workday. It was shotgun season in northwest Ohio, the most exciting time of the year to me.

I'd been hunting on my friend's farm for the past couple of years. This year, he had decided to go south for the shotgun season. Before he left, he told me he'd seen a great buck, "Good luck buddy," he said. "I hope you get the big one." 

It's funny how those words now seemed far-fetched. I'd been hunting this farm every afternoon and saw numerous does and small bucks, but not the monster he'd described.

I've hunted all my life and have taken some really nice bucks in the 150 and 160 range. I had seen many bucks over 170, but these dream deer always seemed to elude me, never offering a shot. II had no idea what was in store for me.

All day it had been raining and snowing. It was a blustery cold with a hanging overcast. I had the feeling it was going to be a good day. I left work in a rush and pulled in at my friend's barn where I was greeted by his grandson standing in the driveway and holding a shotgun. He said was going to hunt some geese. I thought, "Oh man, this isn't good." The deer aren't ever going to move with him blasting that shotgun.

I told him I was thinking of going home since it was pretty bad out. He said, "No, you'd better go hunting. I think big one might come out tonight." That's all it took.

I got dressed and was on my way to my tree when I did something I never do. I lit a cigarette and didn't load my gun on the way to the stand. I topped a hill, crossed a cornfield and approached the tree line. Standing there momentarily, I said to myself, "You'd better wake up and get rid of that cigarette, and put at least one shell in your gun."

So I did, and then sprayed myself with scent killer and started across the tree line. Standing on the other side of the line were five does. Scanning the field and looking to my left, I then spotted a huge buck. Holding his head high, he gave me a good look at his antlers, but there was no time to waste because the massive buck had also spotted me.

I dropped to one knee and fired. The buck jumped and ran tail-high like nothing had happened. For a moment I thought I had missed, but I've been hunting long enough to know better. I went over and checked for blood, but didn't find any. The buck was really easy to track, though.

When I got to a dry creek about 100 yards away, I walked down the bank and found a small spot of blood on a leaf. I figured the deer must have stuck himself with a stick or something because it was the first sign of blood I'd seen. I looked across the dry creek, and there he lay. After walking up to him and getting a closer look, I couldn't believe my eyes. He was big. He was better than that -- he was huge.

My first thought was, how am I going to move this deer? A friend's grandson arrived later to help, and we lifted the buck onto the back of a 4-wheeler.

The buck weighed more than 300 pounds field-dressed! The base of his neck right under his jawbone was 32 inches.

I thank my friend and his grandson for the best hunt of my life. I still can't believe what happened on that snowy December day.

--Billie Ford

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