By Mike Handley
Brian Bevil didn't need a designated hitter on Nov. 11, 2007, to hit a home run. The 36-year-old Texan, who delivered 67 strikeouts in two and a half seasons with the Kansas City Royals, proved that he's quite capable of knocking it out of the park, even as a southpaw.
Of course, he wasn't in the batter's box with a Louisville Slugger.
He was in a deer stand with a rifle he normally shoots right-handed.
He came away from that hunt in Nebraska with a true giant of a whitetail, feeling as if he'd just pitched a no-hitter in the World Series.
The retired pro ballplayer still travels from Texas to Kansas City every year to join Shane Halter, a former teammate, in the deer woods. They usually hunt a Missouri farm owned by another pal, Barry Wilson. In 2006, however, Barry and Shane acquired the hunting rights to some farmland in Otoe County, Neb. The following season, Brian and Shane's brother, Frankie, were invited to hunt there.
"Upon our arrival, we met with some of the locals who were familiar with the area we were going to hunt. One of them told how he'd just missed a monster with his bow two days earlier," Brian said. "The hunter said the deer had a huge 12-inch drop tine on its left antler. He'd had the deer at 40 yards, broadside, but he shot just over its back."
News of that sort was music to the buddies' ears.
Between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. on the second day, Brian thought he'd messed up.
As he was walking the 50 or 60 yards from the main road to his 15-foot ladder stand, he spooked something, hearing only the sound of leaves rustling. When he reached the tree, he saw several deer running through the woods to his right. At least one of them was a buck with impressive sun-bleached antlers.
Figuring he'd blown his chance, he climbed into the stand anyway.
"I was discouraged, convinced I'd run all the deer off," he recalled. "I saw nothing for the next two hours."
About 5:30 p.m., Brian heard leaves crunching as well as multiple grunts over his right shoulder - fairly close to where he'd seen the deer running when he arrived at the base of his tree. His stand was on a timbered ridge flanked by deep and brushy gullies.
"I could hear the bucks grunting as if they were a mere five yards away, but the cover was so thick in there that I could catch only glimpses of them," he said.
Still, he was able to determine that three bucks were chasing the same doe.
"I could tell one of the bucks had good mass, and the rack was tall," he said. "But if I was going to be able to shoot, I'd have to stand and turn or shoot left-handed. I chose not to stand out of fear I would make some noise and scare them off, so I got ready for a left-handed shot."
The deer were in a low bowl-shaped area. It wasn't until the larger of the three bucks slowed down to a walk that Brian could see enough of its rack, the right side, to decide he wanted it. At that point, he began looking for shooting lanes.
"I found an opening in the brush in front of the buck and waited," he said. "When its shoulder came into the picture, I squeezed the trigger.
The deer fell immediately and never moved again.
"The other bucks kept chasing the doe as if nothing had happened," Brian marveled. "It was as if I'd done them a favor by getting big boy out of their way."
Confident the enormous whitetail was down for the count, Brian didn't wait long to get an up-close look.
"As I approached, the deer kept getting bigger and bigger," he said.
"When I picked up its head, I saw the huge drop tine and knew it was the same deer the unfortunate bowhunter had missed just days earlier. I had no idea it was the monster the guy had described. I never saw the entire rack before I shot, and it's probably best I didn't."
• Hunter: Brian Bevil
• Official Score: 214 6/8
• Composite: 235 6/8
• Modern Rifle
-- Reprinted from the August 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine