By Randall Lamb
-- It was a cold, dry morning in 1986. Leaves crunched under my boots as I walked through the dark woods, bow on my shoulder.
I was 24 years old, and it was just my second year of deer hunting.
In the distance a screech owl announced the arrival of a new day. It was a perfect morning for all woods creatures to be up and browsing.
I arrived at my tree stand and heard rustling in the leaves on the hillside behind me. Hooking my bow on a pull rope, I climbed into my stand, hoisted the bow and waited for full daylight.
As the sun peeked over the hill to my right, I heard a crashing noise in the creek bottom at the base of hill. The woods became silent. Something was up.
I slowly came to my feet and turned to the saddle to my left. I heard another crash, and then what sounded like a deer heading my way. I began trembling from head to toe, but not because I was cold.
I turned back to my right, and there stood a doe. As I raised my bow to shoot, I heard more crunching of leaves.
Trying to watch the doe and for the source of the sound at the same time was difficult. Then I saw horns rise above a thicket 60 yards distant.
A huge buck stepped out of the thicket and slowly walked toward the saddle, pausing from time to time to look over his shoulder. When the deer was within 20 yards of me, I pulled back my bowstring.
I loosed the arrow and instantly knew I’d made the best shot of my life. There was just one problem: As I was climbing down the tree, another hunter was walking up the ridge on the same flight path the buck had just taken.
He hunter yelled, asking if I’d just seen a buck. Yes, I yelled back, and that I nailed the deer right in the heart.
The hunter said the buck had run by him and that he had slung an arrow at him.
He held up the arrow. There was blood on the broadhead.
My heart went to my knees.
Minutes later, my old friend Willie arrived, wondering what all the commotion was about. I explained the situation to him.
In a calm voice, Willie suggested that we examine the deer to see which was the fatal shot. The other hunter had sent an arrow into the buck’s left side; I had shot into his right side. It would be easy enough to find out which shot was whose.
We walked around the hillside tracking the animal. Sign was plentiful. I felt like this would be a good time to say a quick prayer, which I did.
About 40 yards from where I’d shot, Willie bent down and picked up my arrow. “Good shot, clean and all the way through,” he stated.
About 20 yards farther around the hill, I could see horns sticking up out of a gulley. I hurried to the downed animal.
“Let’s pull him out of there and take a look at him,” Willie said.
We moved the buck, resting it right-side up. I could see that my shot had been straight through the heart.
Then we turned the deer over. There was a small cut high on the shoulder, a non-lethal wound.
Willie stated, “The heart shot is the one that killed this deer.”
“It sure did,” the other hunter agreed. He looked at me and said, “You have a fine deer here, young man.”
I tagged and field-dressed the buck, which has 14 points and weighed 225 pounds field-dressed. It took all three hunters to drag him out.
Author’s note: This story is dedicated to my friend and hunting mentor Willie J. Hoskins. He passed away, but his deer hunting knowledge and dedication to the sport still live in me.