Michael Rothman knows cold.
So convinced that, no matter how early his arrival, he was spooking deer out of a cornfield en route to his shooting house, the deer hunter from Bonnieville, Ky., decided to just spend the night in the box blind. It wasn’t as if there were a Scotty, a Samantha or a Jeannie who could beam, nose-wrinkle or head-bob him from one place to another.
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There might be worse ways to spend a Friday night in mid-December than curled into a fetal position inside a sleeping bag, teeth chattering like a woodpecker gone berserk, but he couldn’t think of any.
“I liked to have froze to death,” the 44-year-old chuckled. “And it was all for naught. When the sun came up, I didn’t see a thing.”
Eight days earlier, on Dec. 8, 2011, he’d retrieved a photograph of a dream-haunting buck from a cheap trail camera. That was his first season to use such a device, and he’d been cussing it almost since the day he strapped it into place.
The deer wore antlers resembling a den of timber rattlers, and the photo forever changed Michael’s opinion of scouting tools bearing memory cards. The visage also cost him a lot of sleep, even before his night of roughing it.
“I’d close my eyes, and all I could see was this deer,” he said.
Contributing to his restlessness, Michael couldn’t hunt the buck for several days. He works as a maintenance mechanic at Fort Knox, where he also serves as a “guide” for Unit 42 during special hunts. The state’s late blackpowder season opened that weekend, and he had to be on base.
Being a guide basically means he checks hunters’ paperwork, checks-in their deer and otherwise sits in his truck all day. It means waking up at 1:30 a.m., eating breakfast at a truck stop, and then going to the base. He cannot leave until 5:30 p.m. or later.
Michael thought about the strange whitetail roaming the 325-acre family farm the whole time he sat in his truck. He and his oldest of three daughters, Megan Thompson, were calling it a “monsoon buck” – their pet phrase for monster.
He was able to check his camera again on Dec. 12, while he and Megan hunted (she shot a 12-pointer). Much to his delight, the Monsoon Buck had wandered in front of the lens on Dec. 10 and 11, so he knew it had survived the opening-weekend crowd of orange-clad hunters in Hart County.
Michael took off the rest of the week to nurse a sore back, but he also planned to spend a few hours in the easily accessible box blind he’d built primarily for his daughters. That’s where he shivered and wound up cussing the snakes in his own head.
On a frosty Sunday, Dec. 18, he opted to visit Megan’s double ladder stand. He’d gotten a belly full of the box blind.
Four does passed the stand early. Later, while he was on the phone with his fiancée about a quarter ‘til 9:00, two more does stepped into view. A third deer was still back in the thicket. Michael originally thought it was one of the small bucks he’d passed up early in the season. But when the does ran off and it stepped clear of the trees at 60 yards, Michael realized it was the Monsoon Buck.
When the deer’s head passed behind a tree, Michael raised his .50-caliber T/C and shot. After the bang, the buck charged down a nearby ravine and Michael thought he heard it crash at the bottom.
“I shook for 30 minutes before I could get down and look for blood,” he said.
The buck appears never to have shed its antlers, which were still covered in velvet. Its testicles had not descended, meaning the deer had all the male parts, but only a penis was visible. The testicles – about the size of a pinky’s fingernail, were inside the body cavity.