It’s a horrible tale, but someone has to tell it, and since it was me what supposedly got et up, I reckon I’m elected. It all started when Adam and I (well, to be honest, mostly Adam – but he’s young and strong) had to drag a big buck out of the woods – a long drag! After all the mullygrubbing was over, Betsy put a deer-dragging harness on our Christmas list.
Now, that drag strap is a wonderful invention: wide nylon straps come over your shoulders to clamp across your chest, and the tail-end harness hangs down to slip over the buck’s antlers. Beats the heck out of having to lean to one side to drag a big buck with your hands, not to mention saving you from a fatal back crick.
We got to try it out on a forkhorn I killed in the Delta, then on a nine-point and huge ten-point that Adam bagged in the hills. The first buck killed on top of a ridge, though, was the monster twelve-point I bagged on Cousin Jack’s place out at Big Hongry, on a day I was hunting by myself. After field-dressing the buck, I harnessed up to drag him out, and had gone a couple hundred yards (long enough to be whupped!) before the ridge ran out. I was really looking forward to starting downhill, figuring it would be a lot easier pull. Boy, was I ever right!
It was fairly steep where I stepped off the ridge, one of those high ones so common to Big Hongry. I noticed that the buck was pulling easier – matter of fact, that old mossyhorn was probably fifty pounds heavier than I was, and I could feel his antlers pricking my legs as he picked up momentum. I lengthened my stride to try to stay ahead of him. That’s when I learned how slippery pine needles are – a gap in my education from hunting the flat, pineless Delta all my life.
As my feet started to slip, I glanced fearfully behind me at the long, sharp, twelve-tined antlers. The buck’s head was propped on his front legs as he slid on his belly; I could see that if I fell backwards, I would be impaled. In a desperate attempt to escape punctured liver and kidneys, I flung myself sideways as my boots lost traction on the steep, slick slope.
I narrowly missed impalement, but had misjudged Mossyhorn’s momentum and weight. He continued to pick up speed headed downhill, only now I was being dragged by him! The harness worked both ways, and I lost my rifle trying to grab a bush to slow myself. There was no quick-release mechanism on the clamp across my chest, so now I was being towed headfirst down the hill by a buck bigger than I was, to which I seemed to be harnessed for the ride. My hat flew off, and both gloves were ripped away when I grabbed a sawbriar vine, which cut my left palm badly. My head bounced painfully off of a stump, so I covered my face with my hands to protect my eyes, unable to stop myself on this wild, humiliating ride. That’s when the blood covered my head from the cut hand. It’s also the reason I didn’t see, and fortunately concealed my identity from, the pair of hunters who were traversing the slope as we passed. But I sure heard their exclamation.
“GOODGAWDAMIGHTY!” screamed one. “That big ole buck’s done kilt him a hunter, and is draggin’ him off to eat!”
“Lord, if you’ll let me git home safe, I’ll take up golf!” prayed his companion. “Let’s git outa here, Fred!”
By the time Mossyhorn and I ended up in a pile at the base of the ridge, and I could get loose from that dadblame drag harness, those guys were long gone. I was too whupped to try to catch them anyway. Didn’t take but a couple of days for word to spread across Big Hongry about the Maneater, and golf courses were reported to be uncommonly full for the rest of the season. It’s been over a month, but I’m still picking pine needles out of my backside.
And I’ve almost perfected a quick-release clamp for that doggone drag harness!
The big buck seemed to suddenly appear out of the undergrowth, just his chest, neck, head, and antlers visible at the edge of the clearing. The wind was from me to him, so I reckon he scented me as he emerged, causing him to abruptly halt and scan the woods. Whilst he scanned to his left, I eased my Remington 30/06 up and slid the safety off. He obviously caught some of the motion, for he raised his head back to better eye my stand, his horns shining brightly in the sun.
Those antlers were extra white, polished by his activity I had seen on earlier hunts where he had attacked every little cedar tree within a couple hundred yards of where he now stood staring at me. His head went further up, and I knew I’d been made, but the crosshairs of the 2&1/2 power scope had already settled on the white spot where his neck centered his great chest. I pulled the trigger.
At the rifle’s roar, the buck whirled and disappeared into the foliage from whence he had partially emerged seconds before. I didn’t even pump the gun, slinging it over my right shoulder as I evacuated my stand. Out of several hundred deer I have killed, I’ve seldom had to shoot twice at one. Old One-Shot Bob.
Which had worked against me earlier that morning, just as it began to be shooting light. A big buck – he had to be, for me to see horns in the dimness – had stepped into a clearing and walked calmly across, as I raised my rifle, aimed at his front shoulder, and pulled the trigger. He paused briefly, then continued his walk and disappeared into the trees, apparently unhurt. I waited a few minutes for full shooting light, then got down and looked carefully for blood, hair, or any sign that I had hit him, continuing the search for half an hour, first at the spot where I’d shot, then the direction he had gone, then half-circles from where he’d disappeared. Not a sign that I’d hit him, which was unusual.
Then I remembered that, as I was going into the woods in the darkness, the top sling swivel had popped aloose – second time in 25 years – and while I had felt it go, and had managed to catch the rifle by the pistol grip, the barrel still took a nasty whack on a cypress knee. Maybe the scope was affected by that?
Nor was there blood or hair where this buck had been standing, so I followed the direction he had been going as he disappeared into the undergrowth, moving slowly and quietly in case he was wounded and down. That seemed to be the case, sure enough, for 75 yards further along, I suddenly saw antlers stick up, then go back down, only maybe 40 yards ahead. I eased to the side for a clearer view and stepped up on a log, raising my gun to look through the scope. Now I saw the antlers rise again, then go back down. I resolved to try a killing shot at the top of his neck next time he raised his head. He did, and I did. The Remington spoke again, and that part of the woods exploded with deer!
Two more bucks, both smaller than the white-horned deer I had shot at, had been standing in a little swag I’d not known about, with several does in whom they were apparently expressing a carnal interest. I thought I was finishing off a big wounded buck, not firing a warning round over a whitetail orgy! I was not ready for a small herd of deer to flush out of the swag and disappear into the brush.
Had to be the scope, I knew. I unloaded the rifle and left the woods, but when I got home I stepped into the backyard first and fired at a water bottle I set up on the Mammy Grudge ditchbank. Sure enough, at 20 yards, I was shooting 6 inches to the left! I reset and sighted in the scope, convinced I had missed 3 bucks.
And kept my mouth shut about it for a year.
Then I was hunting the same stand last week, and when I came out, followed a scrape line in a different direction than I usually take. That big white-horned buck had 10 points. He had circled, not gone straight, and was 50 yards from where I shot him. His backbone was still intact, a very long spine. Big Buck.
Follow up. Every shot. I didn’t, and wasted a 10-point buck. A sin.