A buck in the hand is worth a whole herd of pigs in the brush.
By Kevin Graves
I had been on the job as director of chapter development for the Buckmasters American Deer Foundation for just over two months when I got a call from South Carolina resident Sherry Tobin about our Project Venison program. Being new to the position and eager to hit the field, I made arrangements to meet with Sherry in mid-August 2004.
Following a 45-minute commute through the swamps and farmland of Calhoun County, I arrived at the home of Sherry and Joe Tobin. It was located in a pristine South Carolina swampland called Muller Swamp, adjacent to the Congaree River.
Sherry and I discussed Project Venison and the abundance of wild hogs in the area and the devastation they were causing to the habitat around her home and on their adjoining property. We also swapped stories and laughs about personal mishaps we had experienced while in pursuit of trophy whitetails. As the conversation ended, Sherry kindly invited me to return the following week to join her husband, Joe, on a hog hunt. I graciously accepted the invitation, not knowing it would be the most memorable hunt of my life.
Just over a week later on a warm, muggy afternoon, I returned to Muller Swamp. Little time was wasted before Joe and I departed for the woods. As we were loading our gear, he expressed his confidence in my chances of taking a boar that afternoon, which made it much easier to cope with the extreme heat one faces hunting in South Carolina in late summer.
As we traveled through the property heading to the stands, I felt compelled to get clarification on the guidelines for the hunt. This was important to me because Joe barely knew me and deer season in this part of the state had opened a few days prior on August 15. Therefore, I asked, “I understand that I was invited here this afternoon to harvest a hog, and I am completely comfortable with that, and only that, but if a buck does appear, should I refrain from shooting?”
Joe, obviously pleased that I would ask permission, replied, “Well, I don’t think you will see any deer this afternoon because we have seen very little activity lately due to the hogs. But if you see what you feel is a worthy buck, you have my permission to take him.”
I responded with gratitude and assured him that I would not harvest a whitetail unless it was one worthy of the wall. Joe just smiled.
Arriving at my stand, I was impressed with the craftsmanship and quality of the tower Joe had built. I proceeded up the ladder with Joe whispering which direction to monitor and the scenarios to anticipate. He then stated he’d return just after dark, and I settled in.
I chambered a round in my 7mm rifle as I stretched my legs and took in the surroundings. I admired the landscape that included a hardwood draw on the edge of the swamp on one side and a high bluff that bordered the dense cutove on the other. Ahhh, I thought, My first hunt of 2004!
After waiting patiently for some time, I heard something moving through the cutover. I slowly positioned my rifle in the window of the blind in anticipation of something crossing the road directly in front of me. Once in shooting position, I peered over the top of the scope to see a stray dog exiting the cutover and walking down the road away from me. I couldn’t help thinking that dog probably didn’t help my situation.
Meanwhile, I glanced over my left shoulder to see a majestic buck in full velvet standing in complete solitude in a narrow shooting lane at a distance of approximately 60 yards. Utterly amazed, I wasted little time and took a better look at it through my scope. It was larger than anything I had hanging on my wall at home and certainly the largest I had seen in the field.
The buck was facing me directly, and as I waited for a better shot, I began to count points. Unfortunately, my math skills began to collapse under the pressure. Every time I got near 10 points, I would have to start over because there still seemed to be more points to count. Could there really be more than 10, or was my mind playing tricks?
The deer sauntered toward me and began to turn ever so slightly. The daylight was slowly fading, and I had to make a move before it vanished into a thicket and left me sitting there trying to get my arithmetic together.
Concentrating on remaining composed, I talked myself through the process of taking a precise shot. The buck was just shy of 50 yards as I squeezed the trigger and watched it disappear into the dense cutover without any indication of a crash.
Before I could even register the sequence of events in my mind, my radio sounded. It was Joe. “Did you get a hog, Kevin?” he asked.
“No, sir,” I replied.
Joe paused. “Well what did you shoot?”
“A buck, sir,” I answered.
“Well, how big was he?” Joe queried.
“I stopped counting at 10 points,” I said. There was a moment of silence, then Joe said he was on his way.
When Joe arrived, I was standing in the dark under a star-filled South Carolina sky. We found no visible sign to pursue in the location where the deer entered the thicket. Joe and I searched the briar-choked cutover following the trails as I assured him that the deer was hit. As we split into different directions, I heard Joe in the darkness yell, “Oh my goodness! I did not know we had any bucks this large around here!”
When I made my way back to Joe, he was standing over the trophy. This beautiful buck was carrying a mainframe 10-point rack with four kickers. I was speechless, and I must confess, two strangers became friends that night in the darkness of Muller Swamp, celebrating the most incredible hog hunt I never had.
This article was published in the December 2005 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.