By Mike Handley
Rena Altman’s coworkers know she’s married to an addict.
That became perfectly clear last fall, when her husband, Dave, called her workplace. High as a kite, he badgered a secretary into patching his call through to her.
“I did it,” he said, a three-word sentence almost too much for him to utter. “The big one.”
Like most addicts, Dave takes no responsibility for his actions.
“It’s my wife’s fault,” he says.
In April 2009, Rena and her sister, Robin, were walking in a field close to their Pennsylvania home and came upon a shed antler.
“My wife took a picture of it with her phone and sent it to my niece as she and I were getting ready for a bass tournament,” Dave said. “She asked, ‘Should I bring it home?’”
“It was huge,” Dave said. “I couldn’t wait for them to get home so I could see it in person.”
Dave spent the next several weeks looking for the antler’s mate without success. He even dreamed about the buck.
But he didn’t really go out of his way to hunt it.
On Oct. 10, 2011, he found a promising spot for a trail camera near a pair of scrapes and a nice rub line. Although he planned to continue bowhunting his regular place, he wanted to see what might be using the new area.
“I retrieved the camera on Oct. 17,” he said. “I was eating dinner later that evening while looking at the pictures, and I discovered three shots of this buck and called my wife to come over and have a look.
“THAT’s when I got serious about hunting this big boy. I moved my treestand the next day and hunted there every minute of every day I could get in the woods. I even took a week off work,” he added.
He had the buck within easy bow range during one outing, but there was just too much vegetation in the arrow’s path. He wound up letting it walk.
On the Tuesday morning following the state’s gun opener, Dave was in his deer stand by 6:30. It started raining soon afterward, but the wind eventually died and the rain turned to a light drizzle.
As the visibility improved, Dave noticed another hunter leaning against a tree. Wet and frustrated, he decided there was no sense in staying.
When he stood up to stretch about 8:30, he saw antlers. Moments later, he was peering at the buck and its familiar rack through his .300 Win Mag’s scope.
Squeezing the trigger came automatically.
He called his wife while kneeling beside the behemoth.
“I told the secretary that it was an emergency and that I HAD to speak with my wife,” he grinned. “The woman relented only because my voice was shaky.”
Dave’s 18-pointer from Jefferson County is the runner-up to the Pennsylvania state record for Semi-irregulars felled by a rifle. It’s No. 14 among all (free-roaming) entries from Penn’s Woods.
Ed Waite’s story about this 202 7/8-inch (composite) buck will soon appear in Rack magazine. I’ve omitted lots of details.