Rack Magazine

The Last Two Minutes

The Last Two Minutes

By Dale Weddle

Tennessean’s pull-up rope was already tied to his bow when he quickly aborted his planned descent.

Military bases can offer some outstanding whitetail hunting if you’re willing to jump through the necessary hoops to gain access. Fort Campbell, which straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee border, has lots of hoops.

Matt Carrigan of Chapmansboro, Tennessee, worked the process to perfection last season, and the payoff was an 18-point buck that ranks among the best ever harvested by bow in the Volunteer State.

The U.S. Army installation is the home of the famed 101st Airborne Division. The base is close to Clarksville, Tennessee, and Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

A large portion of the 170,000-acre base is open to hunting during times when military maneuvers are not occurring within specific areas. However, there are strict rules and guidelines that must be followed.

Hunters are required to have appropriate licenses in possession for the particular state within which their hunting area is located. In addition, valid post permits are required for particular types of outdoor activities. For hunting deer, a $50 deer permit is required.

Hunters must apply daily for specific areas, must remain within those assigned areas, and must check in and out by phone. Firearms hunters must pre-register their firearms with the base.

The rigid process causes many hunters to forego hunting on military bases. However, for those willing to follow the steps necessary to hunt there, the reward can be a trophy animal.

“In 2015, I missed only one weekend of hunting on Fort Campbell between the time it opened for archery on Sept. 17 and the time it closed on New Year’s Eve,” Matt said. “I have some property leased for deer hunting, but I hunted there only six days because I know the quality of bucks on Fort Campbell.

“The beauty of the place is that you never know where a big one is going to show. It’s like a crap shoot. You may scout and find a good area, and then they don’t even open up that area to hunt and you can’t get back in it.

“When the season came in on the first Saturday in 2016, my brother hunted an area that looked promising. We both decided to put in for the area and go back and hunt it on Sunday,” he continued. “We were successful.

“I hunted the first two hours of the morning, and then walked around for two or three hours scouting for a place to hang my stand that afternoon. I found a soybean field that deer had been hitting and followed a fresh trail back off the field for about 200 yards until I located what looked like a staging area.

“The only good tree around was a poplar. It was in a draw between two trails. I was using a climbing stand and had to go up about 8 feet to get level with the surrounding ground.

“After that, I climbed another 15 to 20 feet. The tree was kind of in the open, but it had a thicket behind it. By 2:30, I was set,” he said.

“The temperature was around 85 degrees. I was hot after climbing the tree, so I took off my shirt to cool down. Afterward, I put the shirt back on. I had scent-blocking clothing and was using all kinds of scent control.

The Last Two Minutes“I was standing up and had my bow on a hanger. As the afternoon wore on, I was texting with my brother, Cory, and about four other guys who were hunting in other locations.

“Several does and two small bucks filtered out of the thicket and headed toward the bean field. I think I saw about 10 deer total. I thought about shooting a doe, but had a good feeling about seeing a buck.

“Soon, it started to get dark. I texted the guys saying I should have shot the doe. I attached my pull rope to my bow and was about two or three minutes from getting down. That’s when I saw the buck trotting toward me from the 2 o’clock position.

“It was coming from the opposite direction the other deer appeared, actually coming from the bean field vs. going to it.

“The buck was about 40 yards away. I could see it had a heavy rack that still had velvet hanging from it. I remember wondering how it even got through the brush with all of that on its head. A smaller 8-pointer was with it.

“When the big one got to 20 yards, I stopped it with a bleat. It was broadside, but behind a bush, looking my way. I thought it was over at that point. I actually started thinking about shooting the 8-pointer instead.

“Just then, the big one turned to head back up the trail. I bleated twice more, and it stopped. I had a lot of adrenalin going by that time, and I remember THINKING the deer was broadside. Afterward, I realized it was more like quartering toward me.

“I drew, anchored, put the pin on it and shot. The arrow went straight through and skittered away, and the buck disappeared into a nearby thicket.

“I had shot the buck with my pull rope still attached to the bottom part of the riser.

“After letting the bow down to the ground, I realized my quiver wasn’t attached. I just dropped it to the ground. I went over and found the arrow, and it didn’t have any blood on it. Just green slime.

“I almost teared up. Cory had been hunting about 300 yards away. I let him know what happened, and he came over and calmed me down.

“The buck had run about 80 or 90 yards before it went out of sight. By the time we got over there, it was dark and we thought that backing out and waiting until morning was best. I was pretty much silent all the way home.

“When we got home, I went over everything with Cory and my friend, Brad Potts. We thought I had probably gut-shot the buck. Brad was trying to help. He was even looking up articles on how to recover paunch-shot deer and sending them to me,” he said.

It was a long night, and the time crept by slowly the following morning as Matt waited for the check station to open. He pleaded his case for going back into the area with the people operating the check station, but was told that decision would have to come from a federal game warden.

He was given the number to call. When he telephoned, the game warden said he would have to check to see if anything was going on in that area. He also told Matt if the military was on maneuvers, he could kiss his deer goodbye.

“Luckily, the military wasn’t in the area,” Matt said. “When I talked to the game warden again, he gave me permission to look for the buck.

“I made it up there about 10:30. The game warden and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee went with me. Two of us started tracking from the spot I last saw the buck, and the Fish and Wildlife guy went ahead.

“Pretty soon, the guy in the lead yelled back and had located my buck. After that, it was just screaming, high-fiving and fist-pumping,” he said.

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

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