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The One that Didn’t Get Away

James Wheeler, Jr.By James Wheeler, Jr.

-- My family has owned a 47-acre piece of property for years, and we’ve all hunted it at one time or another. We’ve been pretty lucky, taking a few deer every year, usually small bucks and does.

My grandson, James, shot his first buck with a bow at the end of October. It was an 8-pointer that weighed 160 pounds, so we were all pretty excited about what else might be out there.

My wife, Dorothy, and my daughter, Andrea, have been hunting the family property pretty heavily for the previous six years. We all saw a particularly large track throughout that time, but nobody ever saw the deer that made it. The track was so big that my palm wouldn’t even cover it.

We figured it was a big buck, but we just couldn’t get any visual evidence. It was like he was teasing us.

I retired last year and was able to be in the woods a lot more often. I went out in the mornings and on and off throughout the day. I finally got a look at the big buck. It was more than 125 yards away, but there was no mistaking that he had an impressive rack.

On Nov. 12, I had gone out early before daylight to set up and wait. It was during a drizzling rain, and I was questioning my sanity in being out there when a few does came through.

Figuring that was all the action I would see, I was just about to pack up when I looked up one more time and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was HIM. He had finally made a mistake. The buck walked right under my stand, so I took the 10-yard shot.

I knew it was a good hit, but I had all day and there was no point in hurrying anything. I went home to dry out, and that’s when it started to sink in that I had done it — I had shot the big buck. I began to shake and had to sit down to keep from falling down.

I called Andrea, and she left work to come help me track. It was quite a sight: Dorothy, Andrea, my son-in-law James, my granddaughter Arin and my great granddaughter Elizabeth all out tracking this buck.

The rain made tracking almost impossible, so Andrea called my niece, Anita, who has a boxer, Ty, who is trained to track deer.

I had never seen anything like watching this dog track my buck. He would go in circles until he caught a whiff of the blood, then he’d go out in a circle about 10 feet farther to find the next drop. When the trail got easier, he just stayed on it. The dog would get about 20 feet ahead of us, and then he’s stop and wait for us to catch up before continuing on.

After about 10 minutes, Ty led us right to the buck.

We all just stood there staring, most of us with tears in our eyes, at this huge buck that had eluded us for years. It ended up being a 15-pointer, with a few smaller points broken off. I was shaking so badly that I couldn’t field-dress it, so Anita asked if she could do the honors.

Andrea sent the picture to the local papers, and you wouldn’t believe the friends and relatives who called wanting to hunt on the property. I had to say no since there were already four of us hunting the 47 acres, but it was amusing, anyway.

After this, I don’t think any other deer will compare — this was my once-in-a-lifetime buck. We’ve seen another 8-pointer and a few 6s and a 4-pointer, so we have something to look forward to for this year. Maybe it will be someone else’s turn to get their buck of a lifetime.

--James Wheeler, Jr.

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