This is the third in a multi- part series of columns about memorable deer that stand out from decades of whitetail hunting.
Sometimes, the ones that get away leave memories just as intense as the ones we bring from the field.
Back in the mid 80’s, early Fall, I was scouting around the edge of a field on a friend’s property, looking for a good setup to bow hunt. I noticed a bumper crop of apples on a big old apple tree. I started to walk down past the tree to the edge of the woods, but stopped when I saw a deer feeding under the tree. Luckily, it had its head down and hadn’ t seen me. I stopped and hunkered down in the high grass. When the deer raised its head, I could not believe my eyes. It was the biggest buck I had ever seen. More than 10 big points and other sticker points. He looked like a magazine cover. When he dropped his head to feed again, I slipped away.
When I came back a couple of days later to do some more scouting, I found there was a heavily used deer trail that followed along the edge of the field a few yards from the woods. There were no good trees to hang a portable stand, or place a climbing stand in the area I thought I needed to be. There was another apple tree, partially dead, that I could get up in. From there, I could shoot my bow in one direction, so that’ s where I decided to make my ambush site.
About 8 o’clock on the first morning I sat in that tree, I saw a big 8-point moseying along the trail. He was com- ing right to me. He was bigger than any deer I had ever taken with a bow. When he got almost to where I needed him to be, he paused and looked back. The huge buck I had seen a few days before was following about 40 yards behind him!
I had to make a decision. Should I risk letting what would be my best ever archery deer pass, on the chance the dream buck would keep coming? Or should I take my shot on the big 8, if a good opportunity presented itself? Well, the big 8 took a couple of steps, offering me a perfect shot, and I put an arrow into his vitals. He barely made it out of the field. The dream buck simply disappeared.
I never saw him during gun season, or the rest of the Fall. Then during muzzle loader season, in December, I was sitting along the opposite side of the same field. A vehicle drove down a logging road on the neighboring property. The woods erupted with deer! More than 20 deer ran by me, including three or four bucks. Some were close and in plain view, but they did not have my attention. Because just under the brow of the hill, more deer passed by, including the dream buck. He never offered a shot, but I could see his unmistakable rack of antlers rocking back and forth as he loped by. He had made it through gun season!
My next and final en- counter with this unbelievable buck, a few days later, earned him his name “Old Lucky.”
It was the last day of muzzle loader season. I was sitting back under an opening in the side of a big hollow tree watching a line of huge buck rubs, which I figured – hoped – were made this same buck. Suddenly, I heard the neighbor’ s three or four small dogs start barking. Deer came pouring through the woods, including my buck! I was sitting with my elbows on my knees, making a solid shoot- ing position, when he stopped about 15 yards in front of me. The front sight was steady on his huge shoulder. Snap! The cap fired on my old muzzleloader, but did not ignite the charge. I managed to get another cap in place. Unbelievably, the buck ran to about 40 yards and stopped. Snap! Pause. Boom! The next cap fired, but the charge delayed before igniting, causing me to miss cleanly.
I never saw him again. We didn’t have trail cameras in those days, so I don’ t even have a photo of him. But if I live to be a hundred, I’ll be able to close my eyes and see Old Lucky plain as day.
Wade Shambaugh has lived in Morgan County his whole life and is a lifelong outdoorsman.