For my dad, getting up early on a cold morning, layering himself in camouflage and then sitting in a deer stand or duck blind rates right up there with breathing. He lives for (and because of) it!
Half his wardrobe is camo, and I guarantee that he gets his money's worth out of it all. It does not make sense to some people why Dad and other hunters love to get up early in the cold weather and sit around in a deer stand for hours. Now, however, after seeing how it all paid off for my dad, his ritual is easier for people to understand.
For about a week, Daddy talked about some deer scrapes he had found while bowhunting. To me, they sounded unreal. During a walk through the woods, he had seen several about 30 yards apart. One was as big as a car's hood. Dad moved his stand closer to that one.
While bowhunting early in the season, Dad had seen only a couple of does and a small spike. That might've discouraged some people, but not him. He figured there had to be a large dominant buck in the vicinity.
On Sunday afternoon, Oct. 16, I was sitting at dinner when Dad called me. "You will never believe it, Savannah," he said. "I got a big one this morning!"
After he finished describing the buck to me – 33 points, 26-inch (outside) spread – I just couldn't believe it. I sat there in awe. I'm not the big hunter that my Dad is, but I have been enough times to know that this was a very big deal.
It all started early that morning when Dad woke up after a night of restless sleep. After messing around the house for a little while and getting all of his things together, he filled his Thermos with coffee and headed for the woods. It was a crisp 37 degrees, and the breeze barely registered.
He was climbing into his stand by 6:00.
It was a relatively quiet morning, aside from the same few squirrels he had been hearing all week. Earlier that week acorns and leaves had been dropping, making a lot of noise, but not on this day.
Dad didn't see anything for a couple of hours, but he was planning on staying put all day.
His "day" ended less than two hours later.
Around 9:30, Dad heard leaves rustle. He somehow knew it was a buck because of the way the deer moved. It was as if the deer wasn't afraid to be heard, whereas most does wander about on tiptoes.
About a minute later, Dad saw the top third of the buck's left antler ‚Äì four points, real close together. Were they palmated? Otherwise, the deer looked young. Dad could see only a small portion of its head and a little bit of body. The next thing Dad picked out was a drop tine on the buck's right antler.
About 45 seconds after he first saw the deer, Dad shot it right behind the left shoulder.
The buck ran about 75 yards downhill and up in a little gully before Dad heard the crash. He stood up in his stand, looked through his binoculars and saw the deer's nose sticking straight up in the air. It was done.
Dad took his time and got all of his things together before he got out of his stand and walked directly to the buck.
When Dad approached the deer, he first noticed how big the rack was. And he was surprised at how small the body was. Still, he needed help.
Dad knew that Cabott Coleman, a lifelong friend and hunting buddy, was about two miles away. So he walked back to his truck and drove over to get him. Cabott was so excited that you'd have thought he'd killed it. Cabott even joked that they were going to have to cut both the deer and four-wheeler up to get them out of the gully.
News spreads like wildfire in a small western Kentucky town. It seemed like everyone in the county and even from surrounding counties was soon talking about Dad's 33-pointer. Of course, the tales grew as they spread – to the point that much of the rumor ceased to be true.
A local man heard one of the twisted versions and shared it with Dad. The man was in a town not too far away when he overheard a couple of men talking about the 33-pointer. One of the guys said, "Yeah, I think they call the man who killed the buck – Bad News.'"
The local man, who knows my Dad pretty well, butted in and said, "Actually, I think his name is Dann Hughes."
Anyhow, Dad laughed off the incident. He even began calling his deer the "Bad News Buck" because of it.
Taking this buck hasn't slowed Dad at all.
"I am only 42 years old. I hope I still have another 40 years ahead of me, and I am going to keep on hunting," he told me.
A week after taking this deer, Dad was hunting deer in Illinois. During the last two weeks of November, he was hunting in Canada.
Daddy won't ever stop hunting. He loves it too much.
I won't be surprised if he brings home an even bigger deer sometime in the next 40 years. If he doesn't, though, he won't be disappointed.
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Hunter: Dann Hughes
BTR Official Score: 239 3/8
BTR Composite Score: 258 5/8
Location: Trigg County, Kentucky
Date: October 16, 2005