Second and Third Chances: TTHA Member Story
August 2, 2016
Editorial Staff (286 articles)
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Second and Third Chances: TTHA Member Story

On Dec. 6, 2014, my 15-year-old son Matthew and I climbed into one of our box blinds at my mom’s ranch with a .243, a pair of binoculars, a grunt tube, and anticipation of seeing an old eight-point buck he had chosen to hunt. The buck is actually considered a cull on our place, but he had heavy mass we’d been salivating over since seeing the trail camera pics. The buck appeared sporadically on the cameras, and there would not be a pattern to this old guy. He did seem to like the ladies and was always spotted with a pair of mature does.

We had seen several small young bucks come in, along with a few more does. Matthew’s heart stopped when a 23-inch wide 10-point buck chased a doe into the feeding area. Matthew tried fruitlessly to convince me this was the buck before I could get a good look at him. I had been watching this buck from the blind and from our trail cameras for a couple years and knew he was only 4 1/2 years old.

The big 10-point fed when Matthew said, “Well, I guess the buck isn’t coming.” Not more than two minutes later I looked out the window to my left and saw antlers coming through the thick mesquites. I told Matthew, “Big buck coming from the left!” I could hear Matthew starting to breathe hard with excitement.

I said, “Calm down and just let him come into the feed for a good shot.” That’s when the buck stopped in his tracks and stared at the big 10-point from about 100 yards away. His ears went forward and he turned left and started walking straight away from us. I told Matthew to get up and take a shot at the buck out the left window because I didn’t know when we would see this buck again.

Matthew and I moving around in a 5×5 blind at the same time was quite a trick. Matthew is only 15, but stands almost 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 290 pounds, and I’m almost the same size. We looked like two bears wrestling in a mini fridge. Matthew finally struggled to get the rifle out the window. He told me, “He’s in the brush.” I told him to pick an opening in the brush where he could hit the neck and take a shot. The shot rang out as I watched through binoculars. The deer didn’t even flinch as Matthew reloaded, but then the buck decided he had enough and sprinted off into a huge tree filled draw. Matthew was extremely disappointed because he had never missed a buck on our place and we had to return home that night.

Try, Try Again

We hunted on Christmas Day, but Matthew and I made sure to hunt from the blind where he had missed the big eight-point a few weeks prior. We saw plenty of deer and many good bucks, but not anything we were after. My other son, Austin, had taken a huge 12-point buck early in the rifle season and resigned to hunting rabbits. My oldest son, Dylan, also hunted, but was more excited about shooting his new recurve bow.

On December 26, Matthew and I climbed into the deer blind and got situated about 4 p.m. On our way to the blind I had sprayed two of the scrapes near the feed with the buck urine that came with my TTHA membership. The rut was winding down for us, but I’d seen some bucks still working scrapes and sparring among themselves.

About an hour later, several young bucks came in along with the same menagerie of does with fawns, but no monster eight-point. At approximately 5:40 p.m. Matthew announced we should wait about 15 more minutes then call it a night. Not one minute later, déjà vu struck again. Matthew said, “Big buck, Dad! Big Buck!” in as much of a whispered tone as an ecstatic 15-year-old could make. I looked where Matthew indicated with my binocular, but only saw a couple does trotting through the mesquite bushes. I said, “All I see are does,” but Matthew said, “No, Dad, behind the doe!” I looked farther back and saw the huge old brute throwing his head back and side-to-side as he trotted after the does.

The buck came into the feed area as Matthew breathed hard with excitement. The buck’s body size looked like an old Missouri mule. He railroaded all the other deer off the corn and began to feed. I had to hold Matthew off the trigger a couple times so the buck could clear the other deer. Finally the buck turned left broadside and Matthew touched the trigger.

The shot rang out and the buck lifted his head and looked around left and right. “Miss. Reload,” I said. I heard panicked mumbling as I looked down. Matthew had ejected all the shells from the rifle in his excitement and horror of missing. I took the shells, reinserted them into the magazine, and gave him back the rifle. I looked through my binocular expecting to see the flagging white tail of failure in the distance, but saw the buck frozen in the same spot instead.

The other deer had run away, but he stood looking right and left. Matthew put the sights on the buck, and squeezed off another shot that dropped him. After a few high-fives we approached the buck. The buck’s mass was great all the way through his antlers. Thank goodness we had our winch to get the buck into the back of the truck. As we drove home the next day, I thought to myself, “Sometimes second and third chances can make for better memories than immediate success.”—Steve Groeschel

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