By Travis Mitchell
-- I hunt at Yellow Creek, a hunting club located in a hardwood bottom below Millwood Lake Dam just outside McNab, Ark., and is 20 miles from Texarkana. I have been a member for 24 years. We hunt duck, turkey, deer and the fishing is off the charts! This is the best place on earth. I can't wait to get there and hate to leave. This is truly a special place.
Early Saturday, Dec. 2, 2006, and did not see a thing. I came back to the cabin and waited until noon before going out again. Driving down the shooting range road and past a pine thicket, I slowed my ATV to look down the lane. I didn't see a thing. Then, I turned to look down the road toward a field. After I stopped the wheeler, I looked through my binoculars and saw a deer.
Lifting my rifle, and switched my Swarovski scope on 12x. There it was, a buck -- just milling around. I threw my left leg over the gas tank, squatted down and used the ATV's handlebar to brace the rifle. Then a doe appeared and moved very slowly through a gap in the landscape. I kept my aim on the gap for short period of time. As I was about to give up, a giant buck moved through the opening.
Before I could get a good shot, they disappeared. At that point, I did not wait longer. I started the four-wheeler, headed for the gap and stopped. The area has always been a great place for deer and turkey. I walked around the area, checking every tree for a 100-yard circle for a future setup. I settled on a ground blind, which I had hunted several times. I really wanted to pattern the deer since I now knew there was a huge deer in the area even if I could not find it.
Once my weekend was over, it was time to get ready to go back to work the next morning. I thought about the huge buck all week. I left work Thursday and headed for Yellow Creek. I woke up and went to the deer draw at 5:30 a.m. I picked a stand in the field close to my ground blind.
As I drove down the road, the ice in the puddles cracked. The sound had to scare every deer for 10 miles. I stopped close to my ground blind and walked through the woods, taking the long way around toward the field. I saw a buzzard circle and go down. I thought that was strange, so I fixed on the point and went for it. It was a dead hog but on the way through the trees and thicket, was the biggest rub on a huge tree about 4 1/2 feet from the ground. This rub was not just on one side, but all around the tree. This got my blood flowing.
Then I noticed other trees that were torn up around four or five trails. It had to be the big buck I spotted the previous weekend. I truly like finding great deer signs better than anything. I figured the smell of the hog about 100 yards away would push the deer to come out at the end of the field down the lane of my stand. The oats were somewhat frozen, and deer really don't like the grass when it is like that.
I decided to walk through the woods to see what else was new in the neighborhood. The walk always warms me up, and I love cold crisp mornings on my face. The fog headed for the ground, but the sun burned it off by 10 a.m. Still, I saw no deer. I decided to go back to the cabin and wait until noon. That hunt met with little success, but the evening would turn out to be a different story.
At 3:30 p.m., I started for the same field, knowing that the deer would be on the move. I was on the stand about 3:50 p.m. About 4:30, two spikes emerged and then a doe. Twenty minutes later, three large does came out and grazed in the field. Then around 5:05, an 18-inch, 10-point buck came out with another large deer, which stayed back in the woods. I waited on the other buck and talked myself out of shooting the 10-pointer.
I went back to the cabin, ate and went to bed early. The next morning, I headed back to that area, after I was fortunate to draw the same stand I'd been hunting in the past few days. I didn't have any luck during the morning hunt, so around 3:30 p.m., I went back out and saw the same spikes and doe from the day before.
That afternoon, three large does came out and started grazing, and then they looked back into the woods. I moved the scope over and swept the woods. I saw a large deer coming toward the edge of the wood line. The deer walked out into the open, and I noticed its dark, wide horns. When it turned to look at the doe, I could see its massive rack.
That day, two other Yellow Creek hunters were hunting close to my stand. Ronnie was looking through his binoculars when the huge deer came out. He told Robee that there was a giant deer in my rifle's sights. As Robee glassed the deer, he saw it jump high in the air when I took the shot. Robee told me the buck jumped 10 feet off the ground, but I know he gets excited really easy so I figured he accidentally exaggerated. However, both of them saw the entire event transpire.
I waited for all of 3 minutes and realized that darkness was coming, so I walked the lane toward the woods where the buck went in and waved my orange hat to let them know I was passing through. I went in the woods about 10 yards and there was my trophy. I went over to the deer, lifted the massive horns and hollered, "You guys won't believe this!"
Ronnie and Robee climbed down from their stands and met me at the woods' edge. When they saw the deer, they acted like this was a team effort. I knew better. Ah, deer hunting and being around friends; it just doesn't get better than that.
The buck grossed 191 6/8 with 61/2-inch bases and a 26-inch main beam with 19-inch spread. We take big deer in our dreams, but on Dec. 9, my dreams became a reality.
Hot Springs, Arkansas