By Braden Arp
-- It has been three years since the news came that three weeks is all we could expect and the best we could hope for. It's pancreatic cancer, the doctor said, and there is nothing that can be done.
Instantly, the lives of my brothers and sister were changed and would forever change after the events that would follow. We could have accepted the verdict in our minds and hearts; however, we all have a faith in something that no sickness can encompass.
There are times in our lives when our faith and inner being are strengthened so strongly that it seems as if you can see into a man's soul and watch life being breathed back into his body right before your very eyes. Needless to say, pancreatic cancer wasn't the final outcome.
Three years have passed since we heard the news. The Ol' Man has since been getting back into the hunting game little by little and this year would prove to be the most successful of them all and a victory for everything that remains pure and good.
After a couple of years of small game hunting and stints of fighting brush and briars, he was ready to pursue what had eluded him for some 30 years, which was a trophy white-tailed buck. Now I realize that there are far more important things in life to consider, but it wasn't about that. It wasn't a life decision or a feat that would change the world as we know it, but to him it would be an accomplishment that would shout boldly from the peaks of a mountain that took three years to climb.
As deer season approached, we had numerous conversations about a new area that a friend had been scouting in western Kentucky. This was surely the place for a hunter to have a likely chance at a great buck. With the fast pace of work and little league sports, I was out, but my dad was in.
A couple of bowhunting trips had produced the sightings of monster bucks through the CRP fields. Muzzleloader season produced an antlerless deer and more sightings of monster bucks in the distance. It would take the perfect morning to close the distance for a shot. It never came. With rifle season a week away, the Ol' Man made the preparations necessary to increase his chances at harvesting a trophy whitetail.
On opening morning of rifle season, the bucks were chasing does and excitement would explode out of the thicket. A long look down a roadbed gave sight to a really nice 8-pointer weaving its way in and out of the underbrush. Just as the buck dashed into a thicket, another buck stepped out. There was no doubt that this was the shooter buck.
The buck walked directly away from the box blind and just before turning into the thicket, it stopped leaving a perfect broadside shot. There was no time to think. There was only time to react. In the silence of a crisp fall morning, a shot rang out from the muzzle of the Ol' Man's rifle. The buck jumped and bounded back into the woods. It was a clean miss. An opportunity on a great 140-class Kentucky whitetail had come and gone in the blink of an eye.
After a brief lunch and some time to relax, he was back at it again, but this time in a different location in an area that had been hunted the week before. It had already become headline news around camp that a buck was spotted with eight points on one side during the previous week's muzzleloader hunt.
With excitement boiling over, the afternoon kicked off with a young buck chasing a doe through the CRP field. All of a sudden, a crashing came from out of the thicket and out stepped a beautiful buck. The buck was 200 yards away and didn't seem to be getting any closer.
With the recollections of the morning's events fresh in his mind, he decided not to shoot. The buck stood for what seemed like an eternity. Confidence seemed to be mounting up in the Ol' Man's mind. He has made this shot before. As he studied the buck through his scope, he noticed he was steadier than ever.
"I can make this shot," he said to himself.
The buck stopped just before leaving the CRP field. The Ol' Man steadied his rifle, released a deep breath, and took the shot. The buck jumped and ran maybe 30 or so yards before crashing into the thick undergrowth on the edge of the CRP field. The buck was down. Thirty years of chasing a trophy class buck had finally come to an end.
As he reached his buck, he saw the eight points rising above the undergrowth of the field. The opposite side would have four points perfectly spread. The Ol' Man sat beside his trophy and enjoyed the moment. It was a second chance at a beautiful Kentucky buck. How fitting.
I'm sure we've all been blessed with second chances, be it in life or simply in the pursuit of a dream. Be what it may, to the Ol' Man it wasn't just a trophy. It was confirmation of his return.
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