By Gita M. Smith
Rhonda Farley’s arms were hurting. Big time. But whenever she tried to lower her muzzleloader for some relief, her hands would shake uncontrollably.
For nearly half an hour, her arms and hands waged a silent war until, ultimately, she resorted to wedging her left elbow into her hip for support.
All this for a buck whose rack she had not yet fully seen because it was playing peekaboo from behind a screen of brush and honeysuckle vines.
“It would disappear for several minutes at a time,” she said. “Just when I was sure it had slipped away, the buck would toss its head or flick its tail.
“This gave me hope that it was about to step into the open, so I kept my gun up and ready,” Rhonda continued.
“I’d look and aim, and then, once again, it would be out of sight.”
It was Nov. 26, 2012, opening day of the Buckeye State’s gun season. Rhonda was hunting the five acres behind the family home in Shelby County.
Her trail camera had photographed several does and a nice buck, and Rhonda was hoping that the one teasing her was the one she’d seen in pictures.
“I’d had one buck within 10 yards of me, twice, during bow season,” she said. “But the area was just too brushy. I was hoping gun season would allow me a shot.”
Rhonda had climbed into her 18-foot-high ladder stand at 6:30 a.m. Soon after sunrise, one of her neighbors shot, and that worried her slightly. She wondered if the buck from the photos had been taken.
At 9 a.m., however, she pushed that fear aside after noticing a deer with antlers following the well used trail skirting the property line in front of her.
“It was looking in my direction, so, of course, I couldn’t move, and my gun was in my lap,” Rhonda said.
Her pulse racing, Rhonda raised her muzzleloader, just in case. As she watched, the buck began assaulting a cedar tree. It even refreshed a scrape.
“The buck worked the scrape for several minutes,” she said. “It stood there for so long that I wondered if it was still there.
“It was east of me, and the sunshine glinted off antlers whenever it tossed its head. Then it would get real still,” she added.
After almost 30 minutes of testing her upper body strength, Rhonda was neither nervous nor excited. She just wanted it to be over.
“My breathing wasn’t heavy; my heart was not racing,” she said. “Finally, it started walking slowly up the trail, heading away from me.”
At one point, the trail turned parallel with Rhonda’s stand, and that’s when she picked a point slightly ahead of the buck.
“When it got there, I pulled the trigger. And when the smoke cleared, I saw the deer on the ground. He’d gone only 6 yards,” she said.
Thirty minutes later, she approached her deer as cautiously as possible. It was dead.
“I walked around and brushed the mud off the antlers. That buck was amazing, the biggest one I’ve seen in 14 years of hunting,” she said.
Rhonda took a picture of the buck and tried to send a text message to her husband, Scott, but her hands were still shaking and her fingers were suddenly fat. She managed to type: I got a buck I need your help.
Then she couldn’t stand it and called Scott to say, “I got a BIG deer!”
With mock sternness, he told her, “But I’m at WORK,” though he was actually pulling on his coat.
Rhonda decided to drag the buck 20 yards downhill to the trail that skirts the edge of her property. There, she started field-dressing it.
Scott first stopped at their house to get a camera. Soon after, he was photographing his wife and her half-dressed buck.
“At that point, I was exhausted and really couldn’t drag the deer any farther, let alone lift it onto the truck,” she said.
Scott and a coworker got that done, and then went back to work, leaving Rhonda to finish dressing the deer. Physically and mentally exhausted, she called her friend, Mark Henman, to come finish the job.
“He said, ‘Is it big?’ and I said, ‘Yes, kind of big.’ I took a picture of the deer and sent it to him.
“Then, as I was pulling out entrails, I heard a clunk in the bed of the truck,” she said. “I looked around and picked up a flattened piece of lead that used to be the round ball I loaded in my muzzleloader.
“I called Mark back because I had to hang the deer to remove the lungs and heart. He has a meat hook and hoist,” she added.
Although Rhonda’s buck was never weighed, it took four men to get the deer out of the truck and onto the gambrel.
Rhonda saved the flattened bullet as a souvenir. She’s considering its potential as jewelry.
Hunter: Rhonda Farley — Photos by Rick Busse
BTR Official Score: 170 3/8
BTR Composite Score: 190 6/8
This article was published in the July 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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