Greg Gagnard used trail cameras, grunt calls, rattling antlers, a boat, a bike and a little trickery to bring this swamp buck to the gambrel.
By Lisa L. Price
Photo courtesy of Greg Gagnard
In November 2008, Greg Gagnard of Marksville, La., started seeing the big drop-tined buck on his trail camera. Although the camera also picked up several 3 1/2-year-old bucks, the big dropper was the dominant one in the area, and the one Greg wanted.
Greg had faith in his stand site, for good reason. He'd gotten a belated Christmas present in 2007 when he dropped a 164 4/8-inch (gross) buck from the spot.
"I'd rattled and grunted for a couple of minutes, and about 20 minutes later, that buck showed up with attitude," Greg said. "I made the shot at eight yards, and the deer ran out of sight.
"I walked back to the camp and gave the buck about four hours," he added. "When I returned, I found it about 90 yards from where I took the shot."
Almost a year to the day, Dec. 28, 2008, Greg and his hunting buddies chose not to hunt because the wind was wrong for most of their stands.
Instead, they checked the forecast and decided to take off work around noon the following day, which promised the north wind they needed. It was a decision that would pay off for all of them in a big way.
The friends belong to a hunting club that has nearly 1,800 acres of hardwood bottom. All four of them - Don and Mandel Riviere, Greg and his brother Eldon - met at the camp and loaded up on their four-wheelers.
"My friend Don and I hunt the back side of our club, which would be the south end," Greg said. "About half a mile from my stand, Don parked his bike and rode with me toward my stand.
"When we arrived, I unloaded my bow and climbed into the lock-on, and then he rode my bike back to where he'd left his," he explained. "I did this because I knew that the drop-tined buck was bedding near my stand."
Greg waited about 20 minutes before rattling and grunting. Another 15 minutes passed, and he heard something walking through the water and mud behind him.
"Not being able to turn and look, I just stood still for what seemed like an hour," he said. "Eventually, I caught something out the corner of my eye, and there it was.
"At that point, it seemed as though it sensed something was wrong," he continued. "I heard the buck take a few steps, and then it was gone."
But Greg's hunt wasn't finished.
"About 45 minutes later, I saw a young doe to my left, skirting the deep, water-filled brake," he said. "As she approached, I caught a glimpse of another deer. It was Drop Tine, about 35 yards behind her.
"I was already prepared to shoot when he stopped, facing me," Greg added. "He was still uncertain about the area, and I wasn't sure if he had caught my scent."
Seconds became minutes, which felt like an hour or longer for Greg as he stood holding his bow.
"Finally, he began to walk directly in front of me," Greg said. "When he stopped 18 yards away from me, I let 'er fly."
The big buck leapt into the water and crossed the brake. Greg lost sight of him, but heard him crash, get up and then crash again.
"After about 20 minutes of hearing nothing, I got down and eased up to where he was standing when I took the shot. I had lots of blood on the ground and trees," Greg said. "I tried looking across the brake to see if I could spot him, but I couldn't. And my arrow was nowhere to be found."
The water was too deep to cross, so Greg started walking in the direction of the four-wheelers. By the time he got there, it was nearly dark. Don arrived shortly afterward.
"As Don approached, I could tell from the expression on his face that he'd also scored," Greg said. "We gave each other a big hug and began telling our stories.
"In order to retrieve my deer, I needed a boat," Greg said. "We decided to go back to the camp, get one and have a beer."
When they arrived back in camp, they learned that Greg's brother had also taken a buck. They swapped stories before heading out to retrieve deer. Eldon and another brother, Warren, went to get Eldon's buck.
"Don and I loaded a boat in our UTV and off we went," Greg said. "My deer was the farthest, so we went to it first."
At Greg's stand, they unloaded the boat and crossed the brake, finding blood and the deer at the same time. The buck had been double-lunged and had traveled about 30 yards.
"There was definitely no ground shrinkage on him," Greg said. "He was a dark-horned 10-pointer with a 6-inch drop tine."
After the two men loaded Greg's buck, they retrieved Don's beautiful 12-pointer. It had traveled 80 yards from the point of impact. With both deer in the vehicle, they headed back to camp.
"Eldon had a nice 8-pointer hanging when we returned," Greg said. "That's a day none of us will ever forget."
The next day, Don's 88-year-old grandfather, Mandel Riviere, dropped an 8-pointer with his rifle. For the group of hunters, it was the perfect way to end a very successful season.
• Hunter: Greg Gagnard
• Official Score: 161 6/8
• Composite: 176 5/8
• Compound Bow
-- Reprinted from the August 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine