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Trophy of the Heart

By Kyle A. Gerow

Kyle A. GerowIt was Thanksgiving Day in Sumter County, S.C., November 2001. My son Erik and I wanted to squeeze in a morning hunt before company arrived for dinner. It was a cold day and the last week of the rut. I thought the bucks would be moving.

Erik and I got out to the woods about an hour before light and were settled in a stand about 30 minutes prior to shooting light.

I opened a handwarmer for Eric just as it was getting light enough to shoot. He was 12 at the time and really good about sitting in the stand and being quiet, but he had a heck of a time staying warm.

At about 7:20 a.m., I saw some movement at the end of a shooting lane about 130 yards distant. Although that part of the lane was deep in the shadows, I could tell it was a decent buck.

I whispered for Erik hold still and brought the .270 around. He didn’t hear me the first time and was holding his bright white handwarmer up where it could be seen. I whispered louder, and he finally saw the deer. All of this happened in the few seconds it took me to get the scope on the buck.

Just as I brought the crosshairs in line, a second buck stepped out behind the first. He also had large antlers, but he never stopped. I went back to the first buck.

I only had time to put the crosshairs behind his shoulder and fire. The whole process from first sight to shot took less than 15 seconds, so I never had time to take a good look at the buck’s antlers.

Erik and I hurried down to the end of the lane. We could see tracks where the buck had been, but no blood. As I continued to look, a large knot began to form in my stomach. There had not been time to rest the rifle on the edge of the stand. I had just shouldered the rifle and fired.

After several minutes of searching, I was really beginning to question my shot, but then Erik said he found some blood. I went to look, and sure enough, there were a few spots on a vine.

About 10 feet into the trees I found more blood on a small sapling, and 20 yards farther was my buck. He had crashed into some wild blackberries and was almost standing on his head.

Buck fever finally hit me as I counted his points. He was a 5 by 5 with an extra point on his right brow tine. I couldn’t believe it, 11 points!

Erik helped me pull him out to the shooting lane, and we walked together to get the truck. It meant so much have Erik there with me. If he had any doubt about becoming a hunter, it was erased that morning.

Even running out of gas on the way home did not dampen our spirits. I nicknamed the buck “Bubba” and had him mounted. Now I show him off every chance I get.

I hear a lot about how an 11-point, 150-pound deer is small compared to the monsters taken up north. Still, the detractors marvel at his antler mass. I had the antlers measured not because I expected any records. I just wanted to know what he scored. It turns out he has a total of 129 inches. I believe it is the 27th biggest buck ever recorded in Sumter County.

I read once that trophies are defined not by their ranking against record deer, but by the area they come from and by how much that individual deer means to the hunter. Someday I may take a deer with larger antlers, but it will be tough to beat the memory of having my son at my side as I took my first trophy whitetail.

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