It’ll take more than broken bones and bruises to keep Ken Carnes indoors during deer season.
On Sept. 9, 2012, Ken and his brother, Troy, walked into the woods to do some scouting, pruning and to move at least one ladder stand. Only Troy walked out of there.
Ken was on the 28-foot-tall ladder stand. He had just stepped down two steps when the rope holding the top of the stand suddenly broke and the stand began tipping. The startled hunter was left with the choice of either bailing or riding the whole mess to the ground.
He chose to test his wings.
“I had messed up and taken off my safety chain,” he admitted. “When I jumped, I was about 25 feet off the ground. I grabbed for a limb on another tree, but didn’t get it and ended up landing feet first.
“I busted my left ankle, had a bone protruding from the skin, broke my right ankle and right wrist, and fractured two vertebrae in my back,” he added.
Troy was about 50 yards away when he heard the commotion and rushed to his brother’s side. He immediately called their father, Kenneth, and asked him to call an ambulance and wait to direct them to where his sons were.
The ambulance took Ken to Augusta, where he was put on a MedEvac helicopter and flown to the University of Cincinnati Hospital. Doctors there treated and repaired his injuries for the next five days.
Ken was wheeled out of the hospital on Sept. 13, sent home with the promise that he’d be under 24/7 supervision.
The hunter from California, Ky., was as consumed with not missing the Nov. 10 opening of gun season as he was with walking again. Walk he might, but hunting was iffy.
By the time Ken made his first trip back to the doctor for a two-week check-up, he was already asking about deer hunting on opening day. The doctor answered, “We’ll see.”
Two trips later, on Nov. 5, Ken was on crutches with a right wrist, full back and left boot braces. Nevertheless, he asked the doctor about shooting a rifle, assuming he could be driven out to a stand somewhere. The answer, that time, was, “Go ahead.”
The excited hunter went home and started making plans for the rifle opener. That excitement grew when, a couple of days later, some neighbors mentioned they’d retrieved trail camera photographs of a huge whitetail.
One of the cameras was set up on the property behind his father’s farm. The other was on ground beside it.
In planning for the opener, Ken talked his dad into transporting him out to a corner he’d always deemed “sacred ground,” a place he considered a buck’s core area, a place reserved for only times of desperation.
When the day arrived, the Carnes enjoyed a hearty breakfast before heading afield.
“Dad helped me with my clothes,” Ken said. “It was warm that morning, so we dressed lightly. Then he and Troy took some pillows out to a four-wheeler for me to sit on, and Dad drove me down this hollow to a place we call the Third Pond.
“Dad had a chair for me. He sat me down and got me situated, and then he hid the camo-colored ATV behind a big oak.
“I was hunting with a Remington .270 topped with a 3x9 scope. I could see a field going back to some small trees, and the pond sort of created a funnel area into some cover where I had glassed does that summer.
“Dad moved off about 40 or 50 yards to my right. I could see his orange hat,” Ken continued. “Troy headed out to another area.
“After all that time cooped up from the injuries, it was just great to be outside and breathe the fresh air,” he said.
“About 7:45, the stillness was suddenly shattered when Dad shot, and I saw a doe run across the back side of the pond and fall. I thought to myself, I guess my day is done after that shot.
“Dad stayed put, however, and it got quiet again,” Ken continued. “Maybe a minute later, I saw this buck. He had his head down and seemed to be following the trail of the doe Dad shot. He was easily the biggest buck I had ever seen.”
The giant deer had popped out of some thick stuff about 40 yards from Ken, moving quickly on the other side of the pond. The rack had points going every which way, and its body was huge. It took all the resolve Ken could muster to remain calm.
“When I first saw that buck, I pulled the gun up,” he said. “All I could see of the rack was the left side. When I got the crosshairs on the deer and whistled, it hesitated and I squeezed the trigger.
“At the shot, it just hunched up and took off running. I could tell I’d hit it. After going about 40 yards, it just plowed up the ground. It lifted its head up twice, and I kept the scope on it. Finally, its head dropped for the last time.
“I hollered for Dad, and he got up and came walking over and asked, ‘Did you finish her?’ It was then that I realized that the buck had come at me completely outside of Dad’s line of sight. He had no idea what had just happened.
“‘No, she’s right there,’ I told him, pointing to the doe. ‘The deer I shot is about 40 yards over that way,’” Ken said.
Troy joined them moments later. He and Kenneth dragged the giant buck down to where Ken could get a good look at it. The three hunters were slack-jawed over the size of the rack.
Ken began calling the deer Ol’ Gator Head because of the odd drop tine.
Ken has since made steady progress and is walking unassisted again.
“God was good to me twice last year,” he said. “He helped me survive that fall, and then allowed me to take this magnificent animal.”
Hunter: Ken Carnes
BTR Score: 230 6/8”
– Photos Courtesy of Ken Carnes
This article was published in the November 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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