Did this hunter’s son return from the grave to help him tag a big 8-pointer?
By Gary Moore
If you had told me in late 2003 what the New Year would bring, never could I have prepared myself for the incredible season and the events that were going to unfold.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you about my son. His name was Eli Neece, and our relationship began when he was a small-framed 9-year-old who already had an unusual passion for the outdoors. Most people would say he was my stepson, but I preferred to call him my son.
As in all father-son relationships, there were good and bad times, ups and downs. But we both cherished the commonality of our passion for the outdoors. I tried to teach him the importance of being an ethical outdoorsman. He had a natural respect and love for wildlife and hunting.
I saw within a few short years that he had the desire, the hunger and ability to become a great outdoorsman. His knowledge of woods and water, that comes from spending so much time there, was incredible at such a young age. It was only a matter of time before I found myself asking him about the best place to hunt or where he thought the bucks were crossing. I am very proud of the man he became.
I plainly remember the familiar excitement in his voice when we discussed the upcoming turkey season in the spring of 2004. We were both patiently waiting for our annual reunion on opening day.
March 1, 2004, was just a typical Monday morning for me before I received a call from my wife explaining she had found our son and his home completely consumed by fire.
It was obvious to everyone that knew him that he was larger than life and always happy, but gone quickly and tragically overnight. This was a concept I could not understand, but I came to realize this was the easy part of dealing with the incomparable ordeal. The hardest challenge of the long journey was putting life back together.
That spring turkey season was not the same. I found myself uninterested and not able to keep my mind on anything but the horrific incident. Then deer season rolled around. Not really caring if I downed a big buck, I forced myself to keep up the collective passion for the hunt that we shared from our years together.
During bow season, I saw a huge 8-pointer that I could not bag, but I explained to my wife that if Eli were here, he would be able to outsmart the brute. So I figured I would leave it at that.
In the early hours of Dec. 3, 2004, however, I was unable to sleep and just felt I needed to be in the woods for a few hours.
Just after daybreak in the thicket behind my stand, I heard a deer moving in my direction. I took out my call and gave three soft grunts. The last one brought the buck thrashing through the brush.
The long tined 8-pointer I’d seen during bow season stepped out within 50 yards of my stand. When I squeezed the trigger and the deer was actually on the ground, I once more felt the passion of the sport my son and I always cherished. Back at the house, I told my wife that Eli was with me and this one was for him.
After getting the pictures of the harvest developed, I noticed a clearly visible foggy haze just over my right shoulder in one of the photos. As my wife and I gazed at it and cried, I told her that was the day my son and I went hunting.
This article was published in the November 2005 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.