Rack Magazine



By John E. Phillips

Virginia teen’s self-customized rifle gains its first notch during the 2016 youth season.

Thirteen-year-old Tyler Fewell of Esmont, Virginia, will always remember the stories his granddad, Peter Britton, told him about big bucks he’d seen. The man didn’t hunt, but he encouraged his grandson to do it by whetting his appetite with tales of big racks.

The boy’s favorite storyteller died in January 2016.

Before the state’s week-long youth hunt arrived the next fall, Tyler removed the butt plate from his brand new rifle’s stock. When that was done, he inserted a bullet charm his mother had given him.

The bullet contained a pinch of his grandfather’s ashes. Tyler wanted to carry his granddad’s spirit with him every time he hunted deer, an idea that could be illustrated by a passage in “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” by Thornton Wilder.

“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love,” Wilder wrote.

Mike Young is Tyler’s stepdad. Since the boy was 3 years old, he’s taken him deer hunting.

“A friend of mine owns about 47 acres 3 miles from our home, and I’ve been hunting there 15 years,” Mike said. “I’ve taken some 8-pointers, one 9-pointer and some does off the property.

“On Sept. 24, Tyler and I went to that land to hopefully get Tyler a deer. But the weather got so hot we returned home and decided to go back the next day.

“We enjoy venison. It’s a staple in our family’s diet. So I wanted Tyler to harvest any legal deer we saw,” he continued. “I never expected or could have planned for what happened after we got into our homemade ground blind that Sunday.”

Tyler and his stepdad had been in the stand for only 45 minutes when Mike spotted a monstrous buck about 80 yards distant.

“To be honest, I wished I’d had my gun and that the state’s rifle deer season was in, because I would’ve loved to take that big buck,” he said.

During Virginia’s youth week, youngsters can harvest a buck as long as they’re with an adult, and the adult cannot carry the gun.

Mike realized the only way the monster buck was coming to his house would be if Tyler, who’d been practicing with his new rifle, could stay calm enough to put his crosshairs behind the deer’s shoulder like he’d taught him.

“We were hunting about 20 yards off an old logging road,” Mike said. “I watched the buck, saw it was steadily walking straight down that road and should pass in front of our blind.

“We had the wind in our favor, and we’d been quiet getting into our blind and while in it,” he added.

“As that big buck came closer, I got nervous,” Tyler admitted. “I heard Mike saying, ‘Don’t look at the rack. Put those crosshairs right behind the deer’s shoulder.’”

Tyler knew the drill. He’d shot a nice 11-pointer when he was 11. He’d also taken a few smaller bucks and one doe before that. None of those deer were the size of the one walking toward him, however.

The suspense was killing Mike.

“I told Tyler, ‘Don’t you dare miss that buck, or I’ll beat you with the gun.’ I was laughing, though. Tyler knew I was kidding,” he said.

Meanwhile, the clueless buck kept coming closer.

Tyler remembered Mike’s coaching, the mantra of “Take your time, aim behind the shoulder, and slowly squeeze the trigger.” Before doing any of that, he just had to look at the buck’s antlers.

Mike finally whispered “Shoot!” when the deer was almost on top of them, and his stepson obliged.

“When the buck took the shot, it kicked up its hind legs and the front legs buckled. The deer hit the ground head first before regaining its feet and running toward our blind,” Mike said.

“Tyler and I thought the buck might run over us. But when it got between 40 or 50 yards from the blind, it finally dropped. Then Tyler looked at me and said, ‘I love you,’ with big tears in his eyes,” he continued.

“When the buck went down, I was excited because I knew I’d gotten him and had never seen a deer that big,” Tyler said.

While listening to his granddad’s stories about big bucks he’d seen, Tyler pictured those deer in his mind. Seeing an actual giant was absolutely overwhelming.

As Tyler and Mike walked to the buck, Mike realized it was even bigger than he’d thought. He had never seen such a whitetail in the wild.

When they reached the dead deer, the guys exchanged high-fives and hugs. Tyler said “I can’t believe how big it is!” over and over.

“Once I put my hands on that buck’s antlers, I knew my taxidermy bill was going to be expensive,” Mike said.

The buck was too huge for just the two of them to drag out of the woods, so they went to the landowner’s house to ask for help.

The family was still asleep.

“I called my wife, Tammy, and my daughter, Nya, and asked them to bring the zero-turn riding lawnmower up to my friend’s house,” Mike said. “I took the blade off the lawnmower and drove it down to where the buck was.

“All four of us pulled the buck up on my lawnmower’s platform where I usually put my feet. I then drove it to my truck, and we unloaded it there,” he said.

When the Young family arrived at the landowner’s house, he came out and announced, “I’ve been living on this mountain for 63 years, and I’ve never seen a buck that big here. I’m really glad you got him.”

This article was published in the April 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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