When I climbed into my treestand in Screven County, Ga., on Nov. 17, 2012, I couldn’t have predicted my hunt would end by taking a buck with one of the most unusual set of antlers I’ve ever seen.
I’d been sitting in my stand about 30 minutes when a young spike appeared. Ten minutes later, I saw what appeared to be a deer disappear behind a large, fallen pine tree about 150 yards to my left. Another 15 minutes passed when a deer emerged from behind that same tree.
It was very far away, and the view through the scope revealed it was a large doe. Then I noticed three smaller heads looking out behind the doe. I watched as each of them stepped into the clearing.
I was enjoying watching as they peacefully grazed, but everything changed when another figure entered my scope. It had antlers. Big ones!
Nothing was the same after that.
My heart was beating so loudly I could hear it, and I barely held the gun steady because I was shaking so badly. I just knew I was going to scare the buck off with my heavy breathing, but I couldn’t help it.
I had no shot. The buck was too far off. I would have to wait and hope it came closer.
All five deer disappeared behind another large set of bushes farther to my left. I could see where they would come out, though, and it was closer, but it would still be a long shot, about 100 yards.
As soon as they emerged onto the grassy road over my left shoulder, I would take the shot. I twisted way around to my left in a position where I couldn’t rest the gun on the shooting rail, so I had to hold it up and steady the whole time.
One deer emerged, followed by the other three. The buck was still in the bushes. He would be at the perfect angle for a good shot, but for only a second or two.
Then, there he was. He emerged at an angle, his head facing me, his body behind him. The doe and young deer moved down the lane away from me, and I expected he would turn and follow them at any moment. If I was going to take this deer, I was going to have to do it in the split second he turned.
I eased the safety off, put the scope on his heart and squeezed the trigger. At that moment, I honestly believed I did not hit him because I saw the doe and fawns run to the right while the buck went to the left.
I bolted the empty shell out of my Winchester .270 and put it in my pocket, while I made a visual lock on where I last saw the buck.
After searching a while, I was about to give up hope and face the reality that I had missed when I spotted a large brown body laying in broom grass.
Never in a million years would I have expected to find what I did. This deer had antlers unlike any I’d ever seen.
It wasn’t the size of the antlers that amazed me, it was the texture — like a cactus.
I called my dad and described the buck to him. He knew immediately which deer it was because he’d watched the buck for three years on his trail cameras. My dad said he was glad I’d taken this deer because he had thought if the buck died of old age, we’d never get to see his crazy looking antlers.
Even though I took an extremely ugly deer, I am proud. Later, while we were cleaning it, we discovered what had happened to turn this buck a cactus buck. There was a buckshot pellet in his groin area, which we believe to be the reason for the rack’s anomaly.
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