Third Year - Could This Be the Charm?
The story spans at least two seasons... and we think possibly more.
Larry was fairly early in his deer hunting career and was hunting a small farm with my brother down in south central Georgia.
This farm is noted for some good bucks - but true "show stopper" bucks are hard to come by in this area.
Larry had some sucess early in his career and then like most hunters, ran into the "doldrums" of hunting... where seemingly small mistakes cost him dearly on bucks that we will never really know how big they were - because they were not taken.
Our first clue that a genuine monster was living on the farm was when the landowners wife reported late one year that she saw a "really big buck" run over the pond dam one afternoon as she was driving the golf cart....
We never saw the buck and since we did not have anything other than her report, it was hard to conjure a good image of what she really saw - not that we doubted her... she does not hunt but does sit in the stand at times and she has seen some good bucks.
The pond dam sits adjacent to the swamp and just behind the pond, there is a network of beaver dams that really causes the swamp to widen out. There are also very thick woods on this side of the swamp, with an incredibly well defined line where the woods open into the swamp proper. The thicket has several very old skidder paths that were there when the current landowner bought the land around 1980 or so...
This area has been a favorite hunting spot for us for well over fifteen years but Larry sort of took it over as "his spot" and since there were so many good areas, no one objected.
Move forward to late September of the following year and Larry is just inside this thicket bowhunting - on one of the skidder paths... the area is loaded with new scrapes, as the bucks are just starting to get revved up during the end of this month.
In the early morning hours, Larry hears a deer making it's way through the thicket and it sounds like it is moving right along the path that will take it no more than twenty yards from his stand...
The deer approaches in the dim light of early morning - Larry can see the outline of the deer but not the rack - although he can tell it is a buck... it is too big to be otherwise...
The buck pauses just back in the shadows and for one reason or another, hangs up and will come no further... this almost cost him his life.
He stands.... waiting... for moments on end... five minutes... then perhaps ten... Larry is standing in the stand with bow in hand and is wracked with different emotions... both hoping the deer will move forward and praying he does not choke!!!!
A thin, watery daylight starts to show Larry what is 30 yards or so away - Larry catches glimpses of very tall antlers that move left and right as the buck looks around. Now the emotions in Larry run even higher - this is a giant buck with no doubt!
We can only surmise that perhaps he knew something was wrong or that he was just simply doing what bucks do... they do not get big by being rash and with no receptive does immediately available yet maybe he was just passing the time - who knows?
Feeling the onset of some wicked buck fever, Larry relaxes his grip on the bow and looks down to readjust his feet on the stand to get a more secure position... in just this second, the buck does in fact start walking forward... Larry glances up to see a genuine beast of a buck - now already well out into the shooting lane and moving along at a decent walk.
Qucikly as he can, Larry raises the bow and takes aim... releasing as soon as he feels he is on target... the arrow appears to pass right through the lower part of his lung area - the buck jumps in the air and is gone in a flash!
Trembling now with released adrenaline, Larry can hardly wait to start his tracking duties... but he waits... 30 minutes... and then an hour.
Finally, he climbs down to look for the arrow - and immediately finds it... not a speck of blood on the arrow... to this day Larry can not tell us which pin he shot off of - the buck was at about 18 yards and we think he shot off of the first pin - which is appropriate but he must have just aimed too low.
Devastated, Larry relays his story to Ronnie - but in this instance Larry just states that it was "about a ten pointer and big as a horse"!
Now, move forward to the full rut of the following year - 13 months later.
Halloween approaches and this is THE magical time for this portion of the south.... anything can and often does happen in the two week period around this children's holiday!
Larry has moved to a stand that we have hunted for years - it is no more than 100 yards from where he missed the buck with the bow the year before... but it might as well be 100 miles away... the thickets are so dense down in this area, you have to come in from a different portion of the hill to reach this second stand.
The stand is out on the edge of the thicket with a good, clear view of the more open area of the swamp... black water flows in several runs of the creek here - but you can not really see back into the thicket from this stand... it is just too dense.
Larry settles in long before daylight and the only sounds are that of the water gurgling through some of the choke points in the creek and an occasional "who cooks for you... who cooks for you all" from an owl...
This solitude is brought to a screeching halt as the crashing of deer is heard back in the thicket... along with some deep, guttural grunts!
Back and forth they go... limbs snapping, leaves rustling and with the sound of the grunts thrown in... Larry is riveted to the stand... it is still too dark to see anything and soon the sounds fade as they move further down the swamp - toward Larry's other stand!!!
Darn the luck, Larry thinks... should I have hunted the other stand?????
The question is answered less than fiteen minutes later - daylight has now invaded the swamp and Larry sees movement out in the open area of the swamp... a lone doe is trotting alongside the small embankment that is the edge of the creek bottom... Larry instinctively knows there is not a good reason for her haste... unless she is either scared of something.... or perhaps being pursued by something - hopefully, a buck!
Further down the swamp - more movement now.... antlers.... Larry knows he is a shooter the instant he lays eyes on him... it is a massive buck (but the pieces have not started to fall into place yet) and he is hell bent on catching the doe - who has not passed almost directly under the stand and is out of the picture, as far as Larry is concerned!
The bucks comes on now - stiff legged and doggedly determined.
I would love to tell you now, Dear Readers, that the buck came flashing past and Larry shot him on a dead run and dropped him in his tracks.
He did not.
The buck came to within 20 yards of the stand and stopped.
On Larry's left side.
The easy shooting side for a right handed shooter - as Larry is.
150 grains at roughly 3000 feet per second - from 20 yards away - is about as close to a slam dunk shot as you are going to get in the world of big buck hunting - but that is exactly what happened this late October morning.
I am sure the buck never heard the sound of the rifle - in fact, Larry said that he did not offer a single response. The shot took him high on the shoulder at a wicked "quartering to" angle and he simply sank to the wet, black dirt of the swamp.
To this day, we are simply in awe of this buck. He is easily the best buck we have ever seen or taken on this farm... not the biggest bodied - but if he lacked anything in body size, he made up for it in antler dimensions.
A basic 5x5 with a crab claw on the end of his right main beam, he is the stuff of which dreams are made - at least in this part of Georgia.
Larry believes this is the buck he shot at the year before - and the landowners wife states that the buck she saw was not quite this big - but that was also almost 24 months earlier.
All of this happened within a 200 yard circle... so we think that while it was three calendar years in the making - we feel that the third time was the charm!!!