By John W. Konkel
The first minute of my election-day 2012 hunt, and an 8-point buck was on the ground just 10 yards from me! A neck shot had dropped it, and for a freezer hunter like me, this was a pretty nice buck.
Little did I know, however, that this basket-racked 4x4 would soon be dwarfed by another.
I had hunted on Saturday, the muzzleloader opener, without any luck. That afternoon, another member of our FHA Hunt Club, Billy, told me of a giant buck he’d missed during bow season, about half a mile from where I was hunting. He’d found his bloody arrow, but no blood trail and no deer.
On Sunday, a family friend and church elder, Jerry Killmon, prayed with me that I would harvest some deer. His prayers have worked so often over the years that we have dubbed them deer-slayer prayers.
I worked Monday. That night, my 13-year-old son, Seth, prayed with me that I would get a deer the next day.
It was a crisp 35 degrees at daybreak on that gorgeous Tuesday. I was set up back in the woods under a blown-down oak tree, with my back to a large pine thicket. It is low and thick back there, and when the oak had blown over during Hurricane Sandy’s visit to Accomack County, its limbs created a perfect ground blind underneath.
Even better, a light northeasterly wind — perfect for that spot — was blowing gently in my face. And it wasn’t long before the 8-pointer strolled into my lap.
Because it was so early, I decided to keep hunting. If I could harvest a mature doe, I’d have my daily limit of two, and I could work on our house project that afternoon. I was so thankful for the 8-pointer that I felt a little funny praying for another deer, but I did anyway.
Around 7:45, I looked to my left and saw the hind leg of a large deer that had just walked through my shooting lane. A few seconds later, I saw the deer’s body through the underbrush. It was walking in a semicircle around me, and as I caught a glimpse of antler, I thought, It’s another 8-pointer!
The deer then turned like it was going to come in and check the dead buck lying 10 yards to my left. I waited, but it never came to me.
It has always amazed me how an animal that big can pass through the woods unseen and unheard, and that’s what happened next. All of a sudden, the buck was walking left to right in front of me, only 30 yards away.
That was my first real look at its enormous rack.
When the buck stopped broadside in a narrow opening, it had taken one step too far. Rather than risk a bad shot, I watched the giant leave. I grunted, bleated and prayed fervently, but to no avail.
I was so concentrated on the buck that I’d failed to notice two does approach from my left. When I did, they were feeding 20 yards in front of me.
When both lifted their heads and stared hard to my right, I followed their eyes and saw a third doe about 60 yards from me, standing in my shooting lane. A few yards behind her and standing beneath some holly branches was the giant buck.
I could see its chest, neck, head and most of that gorgeous rack. It was no doubt trailing the doe, and she was slowly feeding her way into the pine thicket behind me.
Figuring it would follow the doe into the shooting lane, I decided I’d better get my scope on it. I’d lost sight of deer in thick woods like that by taking my eye off them, and I was determined not to lose sight of this one.
Looking through the scope, I realized I had an open neck shot. My hunting mentor, Bennie Tatum, had taught me to take neck shots whenever I could. He pointed out that there’s no tracking, and it ruins almost no meat.
I looked back at the doe in the shooting lane and considered waiting for the broadside shot, but the thought came to me clearly: Take the first good shot.
Resting my elbow on my knee, the crosshairs didn’t quite settle the way I wanted them to. I remember thinking, I’m only going to get one shot at this deer, and if I miss, I’ll never see it again.
I took a deep breath and tried to settle them again. I was close, but still not aiming where I wanted.
When the buck turned its head to the right, the window grew even larger; I had more of a target. So I whispered a little prayer, let out a half-breath, and then slowly squeezed my .50-caliber rifle’s trigger.
White smoke filled the woods in front of me, and white tails were bouncing every which way. I leaned forward to look under the smoke and saw a beautiful sight: white belly hair!
The 295-grain bullet had collided with vertebrae to drop the buck in its tracks.
I was speechless when I saw the buck up close, and I quietly whispered, “Thank you, Jesus,” over and over again. What a deer!
The buck’s live weight was 215 pounds, its rack easily the largest I’ve seen in 25 years of hunting in Virginia.
I wasted no time in calling my father to share the good news. I had actually introduced him to deer hunting about 15 years earlier. That was the first time in more than a decade that we had not hunted together on election day.
Dad was as excited as I was.
I then called my wife. Since we home-school our five children, she agreed to bring our three sons to the woods to help me drag the deer.
I also sent a photo of the buck to Billy, and he texted back: “Dude, look to see if there is an arrow wound to his left side.”
Sure enough, I found entrance and scabbed-over exit wounds where the expandable broadhead had passed through the back of the deer’s neck.
When Laurie and the boys arrived, we took lots of pictures.
A good friend and fellow club member, Mark Hill, saw Laurie’s van parked at the field’s edge. He and another friend, Chuck Arthur, soon joined us for the celebration.
I later learned that several club members had been hunting that buck for years. Many of them shared stories of no-cigar encounters. One guy gave me a 2011 trail cam photo of the buck. Another gave me the deer’s left sheds from 2010 and 2011.
The sheds are a bit smaller, but impressive.
I am just thankful that the Good Lord shined His light on me that day, allowing me to harvest two bucks, particularly this incredible whitetail.
Hunter: John W. Konkel
BTR Score: 177
— Photos Courtesy of John W. Konkel
This article was published in the August 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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