December 13, 2023
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That’s a fine deer, Chris Lunsford thought to himself. The deer Chris was referencing was walking in front of another buck Chris was trying to shoot. The buck was still young, not a shooter yet, but he did sport two drop tines. In a few years, he might become something special.
This encounter was the beginning of a journey Chris could not have imagined, and the buck’s unique behavior over the next four seasons made the quest to tag him anything but a sure thing!
Chris hunts when he has free time from the obligations of family and work. He likes to target specific bucks and stays after them. He planned to keep tabs on this one and take it once it reached maturity, but that wasn’t going to be an easy thing to do. The buck had a knack for vanishing every year right when the hunting season began. He would also return like clockwork on New Year’s Eve, then leave again a day later.
“I started calling him Houdini,” Chris laughs. “The first year he did that, I figured it was a fluke. The next year, when he did it again, no one believed me!”
By year three of the chase, Chris was getting frustrated. The buck frequented an area at the end of a field where the wind blew right into a bedding area. There was an imaginary line Chris could not cross, or the hunt would be blown.
“And he was still totally nocturnal, only around for a few days each year, and getting to be enormous,” Chris adds. “I really wanted to kill him!”
When New Year’s Eve 2022 rolled around, Chris was at a party. Although he was expecting a photo from Houdini that day, it did not come until the next day. Typically, the buck gave him one photo and was gone again. Chris was beginning to think the buck would die of old age.
“By the 2023 season, I had decided to go all-in on this deer,” Chris says. “It was time for a new plan!”
Chris decided to hunt the early velvet season, and another buck came out that was too good to pass up. Then he got photos of Houdini that night, and he knew it was time to pursue the buck hard. When the regular archery season opened, Chris moved in on Houdini, well past his imaginary no-go line.
His camera was in place over a major trail there, but hot weather and other things kept Chris out the woods for nearly all the first week. Rain moved in, and his wife said to him, “Go hunt for the next two days, I will handle everything else!” That was all Chris needed to hear.
Following an all-day rain, Chris set up in his saddle again. About an hour after he got settled, he heard something down in the woods and spotted movement. Two bucks were coming into the acorns. “I remember telling myself, ‘Those are the bucks that are always with him,’” Chris says. Then Houdini appeared!
The big buck hung back at 60 yards for 15 minutes. Chris says he prayed that the Lord would help him get the buck, and a few minutes later, that prayer was answered! Chris got his dog to help with the recovery, but the giant had not gone far. Chris had to work hard for Houdini, but it’s safe to say this phenomenal southern buck is worth it!