This first-time bowhunter knew it was her day to shine.
I’ve had a thing for numbers all my life, and my favorite number has always been 10. When Gary Chancellor and I got engaged in the spring of 2009, I knew Oct. 10, 2010, would be the perfect wedding date. Gary was quick to kick that idea to the curb, saying there was no way he was going to get married during hunting season. He had no interest in a lifetime of trying to fit an anniversary into the midst of hunting plans. We eventually decided on another date, and my thoughts of 10/10/10 soon faded.
That was until I was on the phone booking a cabin for the 2010 hunting season. Gary and I had done some footwork and organized a group of friends to hunt in Kansas. I booked a 12-day trip starting Oct. 1. When I realized we would be in Kansas on my special day, I immediately sent Gary a text: “Do you realize we are going to be in Kansas on 10/10/10? That’s going to be the day I get a monster buck.”
I was especially excited about hunting season. When I met Gary in 2007, I was completely against killing “poor innocent animals.” I tell people I was just shy of being a card-carrying member of PeTA. As I became educated about the sport, I realized bowhunting was not only very rewarding, it was also challenging. I started with smaller game, hunting hogs and javelina in our native state of Texas. I sat with Gary and watched him hunt deer, and I was ready to graduate to my first buck.
The first day of our hunt, we were very optimistic. A cold front had come in, and we expected the deer to be on the move. I climbed into my stand in a woodline with a cornfield on one side and CRP field on the other. I saw a couple of does and yearlings, but no bucks. Days two, three and four were the same. The cold weather was replaced by unusually warm temperatures, and our hopes fell.
Then, on day five, things turned up a notch.
I heard deer making their way out into the cornfield to my right. I tried to see through all the leaves, but visibility was awful. One thing I did see were the white antlers of a Kansas buck. I didn’t get a clear view, but I knew he was a shooter.
As I followed him with my binoculars, he walked into a small clearing. I had about three seconds to see he was an 8-pointer with long tines and average mass, but a huge, mature body.
My heart began to beat like never before, and I couldn’t control my breathing. It was impossible to keep my binoculars steady as I followed him through the leaves.
What was wrong with me? Was this the infamous buck fever everyone talked about? It sounded like Darth Vader was hyperventilating in the stand with me. “Chill Out!” I told myself. “He’s 100 yards away, you can’t see him anymore, and he might not even come this way.”
Despite my attempts to calm down, my heartbeat just got faster right along with my breathing and shaking.
At that point, I knew the buck had gone the opposite direction and would not be returning. I started to think, “What if he had walked into my shooting lane? Would I have been able to pull my bow in this condition?” I reached for my bow, took a deep breath and pulled back. It didn’t budge. I giggled, rolled my eyes and tried again. It still didn’t move.
I spent the next 15 minutes pretending the buck was heading my way. I took a deep breath and pulled — nothing! I thought, “Maybe there’s a locking mechanism I never noticed.” I have been shooting this Mathews bow for almost three years, and I know every inch of it. I know darned well there’s no locking mechanism, but that was easier to believe than to think I was so worked up I couldn’t draw my bow.
At nightfall, I climbed down and waited near the edge of the field for Gary to pick me up. I was completely over the buck sighting now and tried to draw the bow one last time. I still couldn’t budge it. I was embarrassed to have to explain to my husband why I needed him to turn my bow down. When I told him I got my first taste of buck fever, he said, “It’s good stuff, huh?” I have to admit, I couldn’t wait to get it again.
The temperatures began to hit the 90s, and the deer just weren’t moving. There was nothing on our cameras, and my lone buck sighting was not enough to keep up the spirits of our fellow hunters. The morning of day seven, everyone except Gary and I headed back to Texas. We had traveled too far and were determined to make the best of our 12 days.
It was a cold morning as I put on my lucky undies and my coveralls and laced up my boots. “This is it,” I said, as I clapped and rubbed my hands together. “This is the big day.” I made my way over to the mirror to powder my nose. “I gotta look my best for the picture.”
“What are you talking about?” a groggy Gary asked.
“It’s 10/10/10,” I said. “Today’s the day I get my monster Kansas buck. I had seen Gary’s “you’re crazy” look before, but I was having too much fun to let up.
I got into my stand at about 6 a.m., a full hour before daylight. As soon as I got settled in, I heard footfalls. First, there was a single deer standing right under me. I imagined it must be a huge buck as I listened to him enjoy an acorn breakfast. Soon after that, I heard the crunching of leaves as another deer walked by. They were so close I could hear them breathe. It was enough to make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Not being able to see them was torture, but it was so dark I couldn’t see my own hands in front of me. Minutes later, I heard more acorns loudly crunching about 24 yards in front of me. I thought there might be just enough light that I could make something out through my binoculars. I slowly lifted them and strained to make out the source of the crunching. Standing 24 yards away were two of the biggest bucks I’d ever seen.
The silhouette on the left had the smaller rack, and I watched as he reached up into the leaves and tore away acorns. The silhouette on the right took my breath away. He chose the fallen acorns. I couldn’t make out his individual tines, but his body was huge, his beams were heavy and he was as wide as the day is long. They each had a half dozen acorns and went on their way. I just sat there in disbelief.
Finally, at 7:15, I could see my sight pins and was ready to smoke the next buck that came within range.
By 7:30, nothing had. Then it was 8:00, then 8:30 and 9:00. Still nothing. At 9:30, I picked up my phone in disgust and sent Gary a text. “Here’s the plan: Get out of your stand and very quietly come to mine. I saw where those bucks headed and maybe we can put a stalk on them.”
I received a quick response. “Getting down now.”
Immediately, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of movement. “OMG! That’s a buck!” It was the kind of buck that could be 120 yards away and you would look at it with your naked eyes and say, “Yep, that’s a shooter.”
My fingers moved like lightning as I texted Gary. “BUCK! NO! STOP!”
I grabbed my bow and clipped on. The buck was walking on a trail that went right under my stand. A thousand questions started running through my mind. Should I stand up or stay sitting? Should I take the shot straight down as he approaches or after he passes? When should I draw? Do I remember the ranges to the spots I picked? I inhaled deeply and let the air out loudly enough to hear the soothing sound of the breath escape my lips.
I turned and looked at the buck again; he was still coming. I immediately looked away. I knew I should keep my eye on him, but I was afraid buck fever would take over again. Every few seconds. I took that loud soothing breath and checked the distance between me and the buck.
Finally, he was at 20 yards. I kept my eyes only on his body as he made a left-hand turn to circle directly in front of me. I couldn’t have placed a target in a more perfect spot. I started to draw back, and he stopped. I waited. As he walked behind the acorn tree, I drew.
As the buck stepped out, I followed him with my pin. Next, I let out the quietest grunt possible. He stopped and my arrow flew. “WHACK!” I smoked him! I saw blood pour as he ran out of sight.
“I did it!” I screamed in my head. “I smoked him! Perfect shot! I smoked him!”
I grabbed my phone and called Gary. Amazingly, he had seen the whole thing from his stand 100 yards away.
“Can you see your arrow?” he asked.
“Hold on,” I said. I reached for my binoculars to look for my arrow. My hands where trembling so badly I couldn’t see a thing. After two tries, I gave up. “I can’t see anything,” I said. “My binoculars are moving too much. Ha Ha!”
I descended from my stand and retrieved my arrow, broken in half and covered in blood.
After following a heavy blood trail, we found my buck about 300 yards away. I’ll never forget my husband’s first words, “What have you done?”
For a second, I thought I had made some sort of awful mistake. To my relief, his next words were, “What have you killed? He’s huge!”
I put my hands around the antlers and couldn’t believe it. The buck had a live weight of more than 300 pounds. We put a tape on him and came up with 158 1/8 inches.
After all the hours of practice, all the scouting, setting stands, early mornings and having to travel with five men, I had my hands on a once-in-a-lifetime trophy buck.
Now I hold the record for the biggest buck in our camp. The guys say I’m spoiled rotten and ruined for life. I tell them it was just my lucky day: the 10th day of our hunt, on 10/10/10 at 10 minutes to 10 a.m.
Coincidence or des-10-y?
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• Shot Placement and Recovery: What to do before, during and after the shot to improve recovery rates. This article was published in the September 2011 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.