Friday the 13th will never give this bowhunter the heebie jeebies.
By Ed Waite
Photos Courtesy of Colt Rector
Colt Rector of Leesville, La., had been making the long drive to bowhunt in Illinois for about eight years. During those visits, he befriended several landowners in Edwards County and gained permission to hunt their holdings.In 2009, the 27-year-old asked his girlfriend, Hope Thompson, to go with him. They set aside two weeks, beginning on Nov. 1, to wrap their tags around some deer antlers.
Nobody said it would be easy.
“It was pretty hot the whole first week, and the hunting was very poor. The wind was always blowing from the south, and nothing was moving in the woods or fields during daylight hours,” Colt said. “We hunted long and hard, but didn't have any real activity to keep us excited, even well into the second week.
“Nine or 10 days in, we started seeing deer, including a couple of shooter bucks, but they never gave us a clean shot. We did manage to harvest does, but the bucks were still pretty elusive. To tell the truth: Hope and I were getting a little agitated, both with the weather and with each other.
“Late in the game, we decided we needed a change of scenery,” he continued. “I had talked to a fellow who told us we could hunt his land if we wanted. He said another guy also hunted it, but if he wasn't there, we were welcome. On Friday morning, we drove down there, only to find a truck parked at the man’s property.
“We didn’t want to ruin his setup, so we turned around and went back to the house where we were staying.
“I was really bummed out, and so was Hope. We talked for a while before I decided to grab a 5-gallon bucket and go back behind the house to sit for the remainder of the evening. It was too late to hang a stand.
“Hope couldn't decide if she wanted to join me. We had hunted back there a few times already and had seen nothing worthwhile. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the spot either, but I still had a doe tag,” he added.
Colt struck out for the back side of a bean field, and he sat on his bucket near the edge about 3:45. Soon afterward, he spotted Hope coming over the rise with her gear, headed his way.
“I called her on the cell,” he said. “She was unhappy about getting out so late, but I told her to just enjoy hanging out there for a few hours … ‘You never know,’ I told her.
“On the bright side, the wind had finally changed direction. I figured maybe, just maybe, the deer might be on their feet before sundown.
“Hope continued on down into the timber. She’d been in there for about 15 minutes when my phone rang. She told me she was watching a huge-bodied deer that had to be a buck, but she couldn’t tell for sure. It was too far off, and its head was lowered. ‘Keep an eye on it,’ I advised.
“A few minutes later, I heard her blowing her grunt call. Loudly. Turns out, it was indeed a buck; she was trying to get its attention, although it either didn’t hear her or wasn’t interested.
“Within a few more minutes, I saw a huge buck with a drop tine step clear of the trees into the bean field about 200 yards away from me. It had to be the same deer. Although the wind was in my favor, there wasn’t enough cover for me to get closer.
“Having stumbled across it while scouting, I knew the buck was following a scrape line, stopping at each one to freshen it. I also knew where it was going. I just had to get there first.
“I quickly ditched everything I was carrying except for my bow and started belly-crawling. I scooted as fast and quietly as I could, pausing only to check the buck’s position. In the time it took me to cover 200 yards, the buck had traveled 50 or 60.
“When I reached the edge of a little creek, I took advantage of the cover offered by honeysuckle and some persimmon trees to cross onto the deer’s side of the drainage. But then I stepped on and broke a stick. I froze, and the deer turned and looked at me. It stared for a very long time before returning its attention to the tree it was destroying.
“I guessed the buck would soon top a ridge and disappear over the crest en route to the honeysuckle on the next farm.
“It was quartering away from me at about 70 yards, not a good shot, so I got kinda greedy. While the buck was distracted with the tree, I crawled as close as I dared before running out of cover.
“The deer was on the move again, and I needed about two more feet to get a clear shot when it came out from behind some bushes. I took a couple of steps while it was moving, but the deer jerked its head up and looked right at me.
“I’d gambled and lost.
“The deer immediately whirled around and took off running. I got up on my knees, and then used my mouth to grunt as loudly as I could.
“The buck stopped in an opening, again at about 70 yards, and I was torn. I had a 70-yard pin on my bow, and I’d shot targets at that distance.
“I went for it, and I connected. The buck mule-kicked and took off running. It then jumped a fence and ran right out into the bean field.
“I took off running, too, because I didn’t want to lose sight of that deer. When I got to where I had shot it, the buck was about 100 yards out into the bean field and had stopped running. It was just walking, and its tail started shaking real funny. That convinced me I’d hit it hard. Soon, it just fell over,” Colt said.
“You just can’t imagine all the feelings that were going through my mind as I stood there watching it all happen. I felt it was the greatest day of my life because this was the greatest buck I had ever seen while hunting. Words just can’t describe the emotion.
I called Hope, half screaming that I’d shot a huge buck. Five minutes later, she was beside me. We could see it lying in the bean field, and she wanted to go right over there, despite my reservations.
“She said, ‘It’s down now … It’s not going anywhere … Let’s get over there!’
“Turns out, I couldn't have made a better shot. I was so on top of the world that I started circling the downed deer, shouting that I had S-M-O-K-E-D it, from 70 yards! I couldn’t get any higher. I live for this,” Colt said.
Hunter: Colt Rector
Official Score: 206 2/8
Composite Score: 223 6/8
-- Reprinted from the September 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.