“A Little Will”

Special hunts and special bucks - it can be profoundly personal.

In years past, the first or second week of November would find me on a trip to Ohio to hunt with my two nephews, Mark and Steven. But as luck would have it, our schedules would not allow us to go last year.

My bowhunting in Georgia had started well last season with a nice buck taken in October. The hunt story of that buck appeared in the “Flies Like A Broadhead” article in the July issue of GON.

A good start, but I still had a buck tag to fill.

The day was Nov. 6, and the rut along with the moon phase were coming together to produce peak movement. I told my oldest son Josh that since I did not go to Ohio I was going to take off work on the 6th and hunt all day.

The spot I had chosen was not easy to get to. First there was a 40-minute truck ride to the Wilkinson County property, followed by a 20-minute 4-wheeler ride and a 10-minute walk.

That means up at 4 a.m. to be settled in the tree before daybreak.

I took my lunch with me and my fold-out cot to nap on instead of having to lay on the ground. I slipped up the tree that morning in my Lone Wolf climber and waited on daylight. I had set up in an area that had swamp chestnut oaks dropping, and I knew there were several does and yearlings feeding there. During the rut it’s always a good idea to hunt the food that’s attracting the does.

I hunted until 12 and had seen only one doe and a yearling and several hogs. I’ve learned to let the hogs walk when it’s big-buck time so as not to compromise a hunting spot. I decided to climb down and take a quick break to eat my lunch and take a nap back at the 4-wheeler. It’s really amazing how a quick nap recharges your system and gets you ready for the afternoon hunt.

I was back in the tree at 1:30 p.m. and sitting on ready. I took some Bowhunters Fatal Obsession scent and broadcast it around my tree a capful at a time. The moon was to be straight overhead at 4 p.m.

At 2 p.m., I caught movement coming out of the cane thicket in front of me. It was two big does coming to the swamp chestnuts to feed. Needless to say, I was pumped—only in the stand 30 minutes and already seeing deer. As I watched the does feeding on acorns, I heard something behind me that sounded like the wind was whipping up. I knew exactly what that sound was… a big group of hogs came trotting by and ran right toward the swamp chestnuts and ran my two does back into the cane thicket. Much to my surprise the hogs did not stop and feed but kept right on going into the same thicket the does did.

It was about this time my mind started to wander and daydream. In fact for the next two hours I did a lot of thinking and daydreaming. I remember looking at my watch at 3:50 and thinking, ‘Well, the moon should be straight overhead about now.’ Sure enough I looked up and saw a deer coming back out of the cane thicket where they had disappeared two hours earlier. Once again I felt good about seeing a deer. It was one of the does I had seen earlier coming back to feed again on the swamp chestnuts. She fed for several minutes, and then she started to walk toward my tree. She smelled where I had broadcast the scent and hung around to the point I just knew she was going to look up at any time and pick me off. But thankfully she just walked on by at less than 20 yards.

I saw another deer coming from the same way. I remember thinking to myself, “There is the other doe I had seen earlier.” About that time the other deer let out a loud grunt.

“Oh my, that’s no doe,” I thought to myself as I scrambled to grab my bow and stand up, all the while looking behind me to see where that first doe was. I didn’t have a clue where she went to as I turned my attention back to the grunting buck that was on her trail. The buck stepped through a patch of sunlight in the cane thicket he was coming out of. Then the sunlight hit his rack.

“OMG! That’s a stud of a buck.”

His rack looked like it was 3 feet off the top of his head and had junk on it. As the buck approached, I could not see him at all because he was lined up directly behind one of the huge swamp chestnut oak trees as he approached. But I could see his shadow cast on the ground, and that made him look enormous, not to mention he was grunting every few steps.

I thought to myself, “He will be less than 15 yards when he comes out from behind that big swamp chestnut oak.”

I drew my bow and just held it on that spot where he was going to step out. I can still hear those footsteps and grunts just like it was yesterday. As the buck stepped out, I was going to get him to stop, but I did not have to. He smelled the scent I had broadcast earlier and was locked on it.

The big buck was almost posed broadside while smelling the scent. I just raised the pin up into his body cavity behind the front leg and let the 125 Bipolar fly.

• • •

The last two hours that I had spent daydreaming and meditating, I remember thinking of friends recently lost—my buddy Royce Lawrence, and James Guthrie, who left this world way too soon, and most recently Larry Garner Jr., a great bowhunter. I could not get that picture out of my head. It was in the November GON that had just come out. Larry Jr. in that hospital bed holding the rack of “The Will Smith Buck,” a buck that was taken by his friend Jeff Foxworthy in late September.

I remember thinking and wishing that I would love to see and shoot a buck like “Will Smith.”

I then got to thinking about the word “WILL” and how many meanings it has. Will you be able to do this? Or do you have the Will to succeed? Or is your name Will? Or have you made out your Will? The word “Will” can be a noun, a proper noun, a verb…

I like it best used like this, “Do you have the Will to succeed? I also remember thinking of what my late father used to say. A man is never taller than when he is on his knees. And for me personally, the only way to feel closer to God is to climb higher in my tree. There is no better medicine or therapy for me than a tree stand and my bow.

As I sit here and write this story, my mind flashes back to when Matt Adcock and I attended the celebration service for Larry Garner Jr., and I got see his brother Glenn, who is also an avid bowhunter. Matt and I sat at the table with Travis T-Bone Turner, who I have known a long time, and his wife. Also, Nick Mundt, of Bone Collectors was there, and sitting right across at the next table was the Garner boys’ parents, along with Jeff Foxworthy and his brother Jay. I don’t believe I have ever felt more comfortable or welcome anywhere at such a large gathering, and large it was—a great testament to the outdoorsman and person Larry Jr. was. And although I had met Jeff before at Bass Pro in Macon, he and his brother Jay are some of the nicest, down-to-earth folks—fellow sportsmen who love to talk bowhunting.

• • •

In a split second the Nockturnal arrow nock disappeared behind the buck’s shoulder, and the broadhead buried in the dirt behind him. As he bounded off, I watched him stop at about 30 yards and pause. He turned and started back toward me as if he did not know what just happened. I then saw what every bowhunter loves to see, his back legs weren’t following him. At this point he realized something was wrong and stumbled sideways and fell over.

I looked at my watch, and it was 4 p.m. on the dot. It was about this time the ghost of Elvis showed up and invaded my right leg, and then my left leg, and then it migrated north. I sat down and tried to use my cell phone, but I was shaking so bad from the adrenaline dump I could not punch the numbers. I finally got to my contacts and was able to punch “Josh,” my son, who was at the taxidermy shop working.

When he answered, I stammered, “I jjjjjjjust shottttt a big buck!”

“Yeah right,” Josh replied.

“Nooooo really… I just killed a huge 8 with stickers! I just tagged out. I can see him laying there from my tree.”

“Well get down and send me a picture,” Josh said.

“That’s going to take a minute—my legs are not working very good right this minute,” I said.

After I got my facilities and utilities back on line, I climbed down and walked over to the downed buck. His rack was tall, chocolate, with good mass and numerous stickers. As I sat down and held that rack and admired that beautiful animal, I remembered looking up at that clear blue sky with a daytime full moon in the background, and I could not help but believe someone was looking down on me from above. And as I gazed to the heavens, I said to myself, this one’s for you Larry Jr. I then realized looking at those antlers there was an amazing likeness… the chocolate color, sticker points in the exact places.

I have just killed a “Little Will.”

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