By Rick Burden
Photos Courtesy of Rick Burden
I had been saving my vacation time from work for deer season, just like I have been doing every year since I became a rural mail carrier in central Oklahoma. When the 2007 bow season opened Oct. 1, it was so hot that it was hard to walk to my stand without being soaked in sweat. The mosquitoes were another battle.
I kept constant track of the forecast, hoping for some cooler days.
Finally, the weatherman called for a cold front ahead of the blackpowder opener.
My nephew, Dustin Doerr, has a nice place of his own, about 90 acres of river bottom covered with cottonwoods and willows. We decided to visit his place on opening morning. We got there before sunrise, discussed where we were going to hunt and went our separate ways. I abandoned my first spot when the sun came up because it was shining in my eyes.
About 20 minutes after I settled into my second location, I heard a shot. I texted Dustin on my cell: "Did u get 1?" He answered, "Yes, biggest 1 ever. 8 ptr."
I joined him to help. The buck was a nice one, and I was happy for him.
While Dustin was busy with the butcher and taxidermist, I was thinking about my evening hunt. I decided to visit our family's ranch - 640 acres of mostly pastureland, except for scattered timber and spring-fed creeks. I usually hunt the same spots, but I decided to look for someplace different that day.
I found an oak tree with low limbs. Green briars hanging from them made a perfect natural blind. I got under the tree and sat on the camouflaged 5-gallon bucket I'd brought. It was about 4 p.m.; sun right in my eyes, again; but, this time, I knew it wouldn't last.
About 5:10, a buck slipped up behind me without making any noise at all. When I finally glimpsed it, that quick glance was enough for me to register almost 12-inch-tall points and a 9-inch drop tine with some velvet on it.
I tried not to look at the rack after that. The buck was angling across in front of me as I raised my .50-caliber muzzleloader and made a grunting noise to stop it. The deer was about 50 yards away when I pulled the trigger.
A thick cloud of smoke blocked my view, so - oblivious to the briars shredding my legs - I rushed out from under the tree to see which way the buck had run. But I saw nothing. My stomach was in knots before I noticed the deer. It had fallen in a shallow ditch. All that was visible was part of its rack.
The buck wasn't dead, however.
I tried frantically to reload, whispering "Lord help me ... Lord help me ... Lord help me!"
I'd lost the little tool for removing the 209 primer, so I pulled out my knife and pried it off. I was shaking so badly that I spilled a fair amount of powder while restoking, but I got 'er done.
Although it probably wasn't necessary at that point, I shot the deer again to be safe.
I called my wife afterward, not realizing I was still whispering, and told her I'd just killed a big one, bigger than any that I had on the wall. I started counting the points, but I was still vibrating and couldn't. Seeing yet another drop tine, as well as a 5-inch sticker point off the main beam, didn't help me come to grips.
I didn't want to get blood in my mail-carrying Jeep, but my wife refused to drive her 10-day-old pickup along the overgrown road to help me.
Since I was not willing to leave my deer unattended, I called my brother-in-law, Eldon Griffin, who was happy to bring is flatbed.
When I finally got my buck home, I was calm enough to count its points. I wound up with 22 points (though three were not the requisite inch for scoring purposes).
Hunter: Rick Burden
Official Score: 197 4/8"
Composite Score: 214"
-- Reprinted from the Winter 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.