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The Biggest Buck That Wasn’t

Jeff KramlBy Jeff Kraml

-- I live in the small town of Foley, Mo. I’m 41 years old, have two sons and three lovely daughters. Both of my sons are in the Marine Corps, and I don’t get to spend a lot of time with them now.

My youngest son, Jeremy, was in Virginia, training for his M.O.S. (military occupational specialty). We both were very excited to learn that he’d be graduating on Nov. 8 and home for opening day.

My wife and I set out about noon on Wednesday, drove all night and made it to Virginia about 4:30 a.m.  We picked up Jeremy at 11:30 and headed back to Missouri. We arrived home, exhausted, at 1:30 a.m. Friday morning.

He and I went to deer camp that night. Six of us hunt my lifelong friend’s 300 acres. On the eve of opening day, we all get together at camp for a wild game supper of fried crappie and grilled duck and backstraps. Having my son there made it extra special for me!
Jeremy and I were in our stand by 5:30 a.m. Saturday, and we didn’t have to wait long before the action started. Half an hour after sunrise, I saw a deer off to our right. It looked like a good buck. I told my son to get ready, but his view was blocked.

Since the buck was on the move and didn’t look like it was going to stop, I raised my gun and fired. Although I was excited to see the deer drop, we stayed put to make sure it was down for the count, which was a good thing. Much to our surprise, it did indeed regain its feet.

I fired again and hit it, but the buck ran into the woods.

That time, Jeremy and I got down then and looked for sign. After we found a good blood trail, we returned to the house so as not to push it. The tracking started about 8:30, and we had help.

We followed the trail for more than 150 yards through the woods, across an open field and down behind a pond and into the woods again. Its stamina worried me. I don’t like the thought of wounding any deer, let alone the biggest one I’d ever seen. I’ve been hunting all my life and usually don’t have to make more than one shot.

I told my friends that we should go back to the house and wait awhile longer. I knew the buck wouldn’t go much farther, if we didn’t chase it.

At 11:30, my friend Russell, the landowner, joined Jeremy, my daughter Heather and me in picking up the trail. Eventually, the blood disappeared, forcing us to spread out and scour the property. About an hour into the search, I was almost ready to give up.

But when we started up one of the fields, I saw another one of our hunters about 20 yards inside the woods. I walked over to him and asked if he had found any sign. He said no. At that point, I happened to glance down and, lo and behold, saw blood at my feet!

That spot was probably 100 yards from the last time we’d seen any drops!

I looked around for a second to get my bearings, and then I saw the buck standing just 50 yards away and staring at us. When our eyes met, it took off running for the field and so did I. The deer made it to the opening a couple of seconds before me, but I wasn’t far behind it.

I dropped down on one knee and made a final shot, which dropped it.

Soon afterward, everyone was there and celebrating.

After admiring the deer for a few minutes, I lifted one of its legs to start the field-dressing process. That’s when I discovered that my trophy 9-pointer wasn’t a buck at all; it was a doe!

When I saw that, I loaded her in my truck without field-dressing her. I wanted to get some good photographs to show the local conservation officer, Tim McDaniel.

The doe had been urinating on the glands of her back legs, and her neck was swollen just like a rutting buck’s.

--Jeff Kraml

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