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.
When 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
– 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.