By Jacob Koehler
Photos Courtesy of Jacob Koehler
I started deer hunting 24 years ago, after I got married. My wife's entire family hunts deer. Until then, I had not even thought about deer hunting. At that time, my wife's grandfather, Walter Boldridge Sr., was still around. He was great - especially at the end of the day, when we would all meet back at his place to swap stories.
He got around on a walker, and, later, though he had been in a wheelchair in a nursing home, he was always ready to go out with the rest of the guys when hunting season started. I tell you about him because he really made the hunt fun.
My father-in-law, Walter Jr., is the same - always ready with a story. But as any hunter will tell you, you do not have to actually bag a deer to have a great time hunting them.
Many of my memories are of just the different people with whom I have shared hunts. I really loved listening to my wife's grandpa. As I said, he could paint a great picture with his stories. He would also tell you where and how to set up, but many of his directions were sometimes hard to follow. He would talk of old logging roads and landmarks to look for in a particular strip of timber that were no longer there.
It is one of these very places where I got my first deer, a spike. It came up an old logging road. I was very proud of it.
About a mile from that spot was where I got my first really big buck. It had a 9-point rack that was tall, wide and heavy. That was about 10 or 12 years ago, and I never had the antlers measured, though I think they'd fare well.
The memories are wonderful to relive, but it's my latest and biggest deer to date that is the point of this story.
Everyone always dreams of getting a monster buck, and I had those dreams, too. Did I ever think mine would come true? No, especially not the kind of buck you see in magazines or record books. But it happened, thank God; it happened!
We had freezing rain right before the season started, making the terrain very difficult to navigate. We saw only a couple does the first week. After that, the weather started to get a little nicer, but it was still very cold. My father, who is 76, was with me. He started hunting deer the same time I did, and we have hunted together every deer season since.
The area we wanted to hunt on Dec. 7 was where I got my first deer. Nobody had been back there much during the week. It was out of the way, yet there was a nice cornfield there, so we planned to go in and watch that evening.
I was actually ready to pick up and call it quits when I looked out across the field toward where that old logging road comes out that my wife's grandfather had told me about, and I couldn't believe what I saw. A huge buck and a doe stepped out of the trees. I took aim with my .270 and fired, while my father shot at the doe.
Although both deer ran back into the brush, we were pretty sure we'd made good shots. Still, we waited a few minutes before going to check.
With hearts racing, Dad and I eventually crossed the cornfield to where we last saw the deer. And when we got about 10 yards in, we found them not far apart. My heart was practically beating out of my chest the moment I laid eyes on my buck. I never imagined it was so big.
I was so excited that I did not even count the points, at first. It wasn't until I'd gone to the truck and back that I wondered how many points it had. I counted 15, including a pair of drop tines - one decorated with a piece of dried velvet.
Of course, that's when the work started. I drove the truck up as close as possible, but Dad was unable to help much. I had to call my wife, and the first thing she wanted to know was why was I breathing so heavy.
After I told her the story, she called her cousin, Mike, to come out and help. By the time he and Phil Campbell, another cousin, arrived, it was very dark. We had to load the deer by flashlight.
The funny thing is that when my wife called Mike, he knew exactly which buck I had shot. He'd seen that deer earlier in the day, but he couldn't get a shot at it.
It's great that my dad was with me to share that moment. I often think of my grandfather-in-law, Walter Sr. I believe his spirit is still with us as we hunt each year, and I know he is looking down with that big smile he always had. He's probably telling the story to everyone up there who will listen.
Hunter: Jacob Koehler
Official Score: 201 2/8"
Composite Score: 221 6/8"
-- Reprinted from the November 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.