posted on August 22, 2010 15:15
By Mike Handley
If you can imagine what it would be like to unlock the doors of a giant retail store on Black Friday, when the thrumming crowd outside is like crude threatening to burst a deep-water well’s rigging, you might understand why experienced antler rattlers always keep their rifles or bows within a wrist flick’s length.
Whether intimidated, self-assured or just plain cautious, a buck might take his sweet time investigating the mock brawl, but, more often than not, he’ll arrive in very short order. And woe be unto the hunter who has his hands full of noisemakers when the bull of the woods charges through that opened door.
I once thought that scenario was limited to rattling. Even the numerous times I was caught holding a grunt call or bleat can didn’t convince me of the need to have my bow or gun at the ready while uurrping or wah-ing.
The notion took full shape after talking with Dale Larson, one of the sharpest knives in the deer hunting drawer.
I suspect most hunters have heard of Dale. Long before he began writing magazine articles or appearing on television shows, he arrowed one of the largest whitetails ever to draw a breath. Bunches of them, in fact.
The Kansas behemoth that launched his career (and cost him the lease where he’d been managing for these kinds of bucks) was “Dagger,” the former world-record Irregular by compound bow -- taken three seasons before Mike Beatty’s Ohio bruiser knocked it out of the top spot.
Grunting lured the giant whitetail to his string on a rainy Nov. 7, 1998.
Dale glimpsed the buck when it was about 90 yards away and getting farther. Being a firm believer that one shouldn’t sound like a 500-pound buck-a-saurus with lungs the size of LaCrosse boot boxes, he first offered up a couple of soft “tending” grunts. By then, he’d lost sight of the deer he suspected might be the drop-tined buck he and his family had nicknamed Dagger.
A bit apprehensive, he tried again with as much gusto as he dared, and then he was ready to take only a story back home to his wife, Connie.
“As I was putting the call away inside my rain suit, I saw movement 25 yards in front of me. It was Dagger, and he was coming on a dead run,” Dale said. “Although I knew better from previous calling experiences to be ready for action, I was not prepared for the deer’s fast and aggressive response.”
Dagger ran and stopped directly underneath Dale’s stand, while the man’s bow was still drooping from its hanger.
Fortunately for our hero, the buck never looked up. Had Dagger seen or winded the hunter-turned-mime, or had it simply run away as fast as it had arrived, the story would’ve had a very different ending. It should’ve never walked those last 20 yards, its back to the hunting machine in the tree.
The rack tallied 264 5/8 inches without the spread. It’s now No. 3 among bow-taken Irregulars.