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The Fourth-Quarter Buck

Johnny CokerBy Johnny Coker

-- Chambers County, Ala., is known for producing really good bucks, but it wasn't shaping up to be a very good year. The hunting club I joined was a dog-running club. I’m not fond of hunting deer with dogs, but I didn’t have enough funds to lease a better property.

A friend and I just wanted a place to hunt, so we decided to go for it. One section of the property, a 50-acre cutover adjoined by a big creek, was unpressured and not traveled by off-road vehicles. It had a big creek along the front and private land on the sides and back -- just the place I was looking for.

The guys thought I was crazy for crossing the creek, but I knew this was the spot. I placed a 10-foot tripod stand on the hill just across the creek where I could see the entire 50 acres.

In the weeks ahead, I took a few spikes and does, but no big bucks. The days got really long.

Around the end of December, the weather started getting really cold, and you know what that means. Things were about to get a little crazy. I saw 6-pointer and a small 8, but by the end of the month, not one shot had been fired.

On New Year's Day, something told me to go hunting in the morning, so I did. It was 35 degrees outside, and the bucks were going crazy. It was on a Monday, so there were no dog hunters on the property. I was in my stand well before daylight.

I saw several small bucks chasing does, but no big ones. Then around 9 a.m., a nice 7-pointer and a wide 8 walked onto the cutover and commenced fighting. I decided that if they didn’t kill each, I would take the 8-pointer.

When the fighting stopped, I got my .270 ready, put the riflescope on the 8 and pressed the trigger.

It was a very long shot. The buck just looked around like nothing had happened. I let another one fly. Nothing again, so I sent another bullet downrange. The buck just trotted off. Well, that’s one for the guys. Now I’m crazy and I can’t shoot!

I walked to the spot where the buck stood. There was no blood, no sign of a hit. If the guys knew this, I would be in for some bad last days of the season. I decided to go to the truck to get some rattling horns and my trusty Remington 870 shotgun.

With smoothbore in hand, I returned to the spot, sat down on a stump and began clashing those horns like you see on TV. Before I could put the horns down, here came the 7-pointer, followed by the 8. I grabbed the shotgun and got ready. The 7-point ran 10 steps from my stump. I could hear the other buck breathing hard, so I got ready. The 8-pointer also stopped at just 10 steps. With my gun already up, I pulled the trigger, and the 00 buckshot found its mark.

What a story. No one in the club could believe it. The crazy guy killed the best buck ever in the club. The deer was a brute, weighing 205 pounds and sporting a 30-inch neck.

But the season wasn't over. I returned to hunt the spot on Jan. 26 and took a mainframe 10 with two stickers. Seems I wasn't crazy after all. 

-- Johnny Coker

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