This year was the first one in three that I've been able to hunt due to military deployments. I knew joining the Army would put a damper on hunting, but I was willing to give up something I love and join the one percent of America's population and fight next to my brothers and sisters in arms. While deployed, I read magazines, follow each deer season via the internet, and watch as many hunting DVDs to keep me as close to deer hunting as possible.
I took a week of leave during the opener of the Indiana gun season -- the peak of the rut -- hoping to bag just a doe as it had been so long. I was joined by two lifelong hunting buddies for a five-day trip in southern Indiana. I had no care in the world what I brought back just being back in the woods and witnessing God's creations at work each morning and evening was enough for me.
Carrying a gun to the woods to do something I 'd long missed, was much more soothing than carrying a rifle for protection in the heart of war. I was able to see a lot of deer on that trip and my wish was granted -- on the fourth morning of our trip, I tagged a 60-pound doe. Not much but enough! The trip soon came to an end and I found myself back at my parents place with three days of leave left to spend much needed time with my eight-month pregnant wife and family.
The morning before I was set to head back to Colorado for duty, my wife let me sneak out for one more morning hunt just a mile from the house.
Using my Summit Viper stand, I climbed a tree that proved to be tough trimming. The branches fought me all way up, and I finally settled in as daybreak crested the horizon.
The woods had already came to life and my only thought was "I'm too late and making all the noise trimming branches, I'm probably not going to see much."
Five minutes into my hunt, I heard leaves crunching and spotted a healthy doe making her way up the trail towards me. I grabbed my CVA muzzleloader and just as I eased in to take the shot, I decided to wait and see if a big ole' rutting buck was following.
No longer did the thought cross my mind, I spotted a buck 40 yards behind her. I had no care in the world how big he was as three years of not hunting was long enough and this was going to be a very special and sentimental trophy.
He stood down the trail facing me and the doe stopped about 10 yards from my tree and sensed something was wrong. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her "you're busted" stare and she spooked, bolting 20 yards and started that wary stomp.
The buck didn't move, but instead turned and lifted his head to lick a branch. Now quartering to me, I settled the crosshairs of my Nikon and slowly squeezed the trigger.
I hit him squarely and after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, he found his final resting spot 65 yards from my tree!
I was extremely emotional and thanked God for allowing me to be a part of this beautiful land and the beautiful animals he put here on this earth and for protecting me and for the chance to be in that position once again.
After I thanked him as much as I could, the texts were being sent out! The next person I thanked was my beautiful wife for the opportunity and supporting me through everything, from deployments, to understanding the love and passion I have for deer hunting.
I climbed down to meet my hunting partners in the cut cornfield so we could check out my buck together. It was a special hunt and they played a huge part in my success. Anticipation ate me alive as we finally met up and made the 150-yard walk where he lay.
He is my biggest buck to date and a buck of a lifetime. A mainframe nine with a split brow tine and two more scorable kickers, he scored 161 1/8 inches. He had mass that carried out to each tine tip. The base of his left side was 5 3/4 inches, and the base on his right side was an even six inches. He field dressed 188 pounds.
I also want to thank North American Whitetail, for the magazines and your website. For keeping the fire burning at my toughest times and for keeping the sport so many love alive. Most probably don't understand just what your articles do for some of us so I'm here to thank you personally for what you do. I'm very thankful and proud as you can imagine!
Editor's Note: SGT Fletcher has returned to Afghanistan where he serves as a Calvary Scout