Rack Magazine



By T. J. Pugh

Missouri bowhunter has only seconds to contemplate which card to play.

It might’ve been dark when I headed out with my bow on Oct. 30, the first day of the 2010 youth firearms season, but I still felt like a giant pumpkin. As required during any of Missouri’s firearms seasons, I was wearing an orange vest en route to my stand near the southeastern corner of a winter wheat field.

That was the third morning in two weeks I’d hunted there. I was after a wide-racked, 150-class 10-pointer I had spotted twice in that field.

The south side of the field was pocked with giant tracks, and I knew deer passed through there in the mornings and evenings. So with a southwesterly wind in my favor and the morning’s temperature in the low 40s, I made my way back to that stand with high hopes.

When night gradually gave way to day, I saw the ghostly figure of a big-bodied and well adorned buck in the shadows about 70 yards distant. It was not the 5x5 I was after, but a good one nonetheless, and it was coming toward me at a slow trot.

With bow in hand, I stood to get a better look through the gaps between trees. Though not very wide, the buck’s rack carried a lot of mass, and there was something — another beam maybe — at the base of the right antler. I was sold!

I drew my Mathews bow and waited the few seconds for the buck to drift into my shooting lane. It was moving east, skirting the field’s edge on a path that would bring it right into my lap.

The distance was not going to be a problem, but the deer’s pace bothered me. It was moving fast, and I would more than likely need to stop it before releasing an arrow.

Just thinking about everything that could go wrong, however, was like having a head full of snakes. All the possibilities ran through my mind: What if I try to stop the buck, and it spooks? Should I just try to shoot as it passes by? What about the wind? If it gets too far past me, it’ll smell me. I had only seconds to reach a decision.

Ultimately, I pushed all doubts aside and just concentrated on the task at hand. As the buck neared my shooting lane, it slowed to a brisk walk.

PughWhen the buck entered my window, it began quartering away from me, presumably to cut across the corner of the field. Before I could release, the deer got a nose full of me.

Rather than bolt, however, it froze. I was somewhat surprised and unprepared for that, but I floated my pin over the vitals and gently squeezed the release. The quartering-away shot was perfect.

I watched as the lethally hit brute sprinted across the field to the north. The buck made it roughly 80 yards before expiring within sight in a matter of seconds.

Overwhelmed with emotion, I reached for my binoculars. I knew it was a nice buck, but with the early morning light and everything happening so fast, I never got a real good look at it. With the deer lying in plain view, I eagerly glassed my trophy.

I did not believe what I saw, at first. There seemed to be points and tines growing every which way. I automatically assumed there was something wrong with my binoculars, or that the excitement had momentarily gotten the better of me. So I cleaned the lenses, took a breath, relaxed my nerves and attempted a second glance.

That’s when it hit me: I wasn’t seeing things. What I’d pegged as a nice buck was actually world-class!

The next few minutes of my life are understandably somewhat of a blur. I had to have lowered my bow and somehow made it down the tree, but I do not remember doing so. Next thing I know, I’m running across that winter wheat field at a speed that would make an Olympic sprinter proud.

Out of breath, but somehow floating at the same time, I approached my buck. The feelings I had at that instant cannot be put down on paper. I’ll never forget it, but I don't think I'll ever be able to adequately describe them.

Hunter: T.J. Pugh
Official Score: 199 5/8
Composite Score: 213 1/8
Compound Bow

– Photos Courtesy of T.J. Pugh

This article was published in the July 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

Copyright 2016 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

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