By Lisa L. Price
Photos Courtesy of Brad Thurman
Indiana hunter Brad Thurman was sure the magic of the day was about to pull a disappearing act ...
The bedded buck flicked an ear and lifted its chin a couple of times as if nodding, checking for scent. Brad's belly-crawling through the meadow ceased, leaving him in an awkward position. He let his eyes roll right to see what had caught the buck's attention.
Brad had already crawled about 100 yards, low as a lioness in the grass, using one pressed-down furrow left by an ATV. Since daybreak, he'd watched the buck, first chasing and then bedding with a doe about 200 yards from his treestand.
Three hours later, with the deer lying in the same place and the wind perfect, Brad had decided to make a move.
"It had been a magical morning, with deer everywhere. At one point, another buck had gone nose to nose with the bedded one, and I thought they were going to fight," Brad said. "But as long as that doe stayed there, the big guy wasn't moving, which is why I figured I could get closer.
"I eased down from my stand and started crawling," he added. "Every so often, I'd peer through my scope to make sure the deer was still out there."
Brad was hunting with a muzzleloader, and he wanted to close the distance to 100 yards or less. He'd gone about that distance when his day started to fall apart. Some hunters driving alongside the long, narrow meadow had caught sight of something moving in the grass and stopped their truck.
"They must have seen me stalking something and had stopped to figure it out, but the buck didn't seem too concerned," Brad said. "But just as that was happening, somebody else came driving a quad on the other side of the meadow, and a big German shepherd was chasing it.
"I'm thinking, 'This is nuts!'" he said. "This can't be happening."
Brad was starting to feel that he'd remember 2005 as his unlucky season. Although he loves blackpowder hunting, his passion is bowhunting. In the archery season, a buck had caught him moving a stand.
"I had moved the stand, and then I saw a limb that needed to be trimmed. So I climbed up on the stand to reach it," he said, "and here comes a nice 8-pointer. My bow was on the ground. And the deer busted me, as well as the new stand location."
Blackpowder season, however, began on a better note.
"I was in my own little world the day I saw the big buck," Brad said. "It was beautiful, warm and breezy. The rut was raging. And bucks were everywhere."
People were everywhere, too, it seemed. With distractions and noise on both sides of him, Brad quickly wormed his way another 20 yards to an old fencepost, rose to his knees, and used the post to brace his T/C Contender.
"All of a sudden, the buck stood up, and time stopped," Brad said. "As soon as it stood, it was quartering away from me, so I squeezed the trigger."
Remember that old country song with the refrain, "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all?"
"I didn't have the safety off," Brad continued. "So I hit the safety, took a breath and kaboom!"
Things got even more tumultuous after that. When the smoke cleared, Brad saw that the doe had leapt to her feet and was now being pursued by a 6-pointer. The two were running pell-mell right at him, eventually speeding past at 10 yards. Thoroughly rattled, Brad used a speed-loader to get ready for a second shot, if needed.
At that point, the guys from the pickup truck came over, and one of them said he'd seen the buck fall. He took Brad to the spot, but they couldn't find any sign.
"I went back and started following the blood trail, but I lost it," Brad said.
"The guy left, and I started zigzagging around, trying to figure it out.
"Finally, I sat down beside the fencepost and put my head in my hands," he said. "I was feeling really low. I thought I was going to lose that deer."
When he looked up, however, the angle of the sun was such that its rays were glinting off a mass of antlers not 40 yards from where Brad sat.
"I just about staggered to my feet. I was so happy and relieved," Brad said. "I'd had chances, missed, been busted by deer, and thought I'd been about to be busted by a bunch of people. And then here was this awesome deer, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.
"One of the neatest parts of the whole experience was taking it to a place called The Sportsmans' Cove to be checked, and then to the processing place, and having everyone wanting to take pictures of it," he said. "I kept thinking, 'This just doesn't happen to a guy like me.'"
Oh, but it did.
Hunter: Brad Thurman
Official Score: 182 6/8"
Composite Score: 202 4/8"
-- Reprinted from the August 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.