Unlike most other hunting stories that begin in the woods, mine starts in my basement with a few cedar boards and a wood burner.
During the summer of 2015, one of my to-dos before deer season was to create a sign for our hunt club. We wanted a sign members could pose in front of — you know, like you see on hunting TV shows and at famous outfitters around the country.
To make the sign, I connected several cedar boards, carefully traced the outline of the Slippery Hill Hunting Club logo, torched the wood for a rustic look and added an outdoor varnish for protection. With the sign completed, I anxiously awaited my opportunity to pose next to it with a nice buck.
A few months later it was opening weekend of rifle season in Talbot County, Georgia. The morning of Oct. 18 was unseasonably cool and fairly windy — no mosquitoes, even!
I settled into my stand before daylight, thinking about the previous day's trail camera check. Just after daybreak, a huge buck had cruised through where I now was sitting. Unfortunately, I'd chosen a different stand that day.
I felt I now was in the perfect spot, facing north about 25 feet up in my Summit Viper. My stand overlooked a narrow creek bottom surrounded by thick cutover. As darkness turned to daylight, the action began. To my right, I heard leaves crunch and sticks break, the very sound every hunter yearns for.
Five does came right down the creek bottom at a brisk pace, directly in front of me. I knew the rut was still a few weeks out, but I hoped the cold snap had the bucks fired up early.
"The grunts gave way to fierce snorts. I still couldn't see anything, but I knew whatever was going on in the woods was heading in my direction."
A few hours passed without further action. I heard few shots, even in the distance. I was starting to get groggy when, around 9:00 a.m., I thought I heard a faint grunt.
I sat in silence, listening for another sound. A few minutes passed, and I then heard what I knew for sure was a buck grunt — and it was closer!
The grunts gave way to fierce snorts. I still couldn't see anything, but I knew whatever was going on in the woods was heading in my direction. A flash of brown and a glimmer of antler in the sunlight were the first visual indications of a buck. The action was about 100 yards away, still in the thick stuff. Then I heard the sound we Southern hunters rarely ever hear in the wild: antlers crashing. I thought, Oh my Gosh. There are multiple bucks . . . and they're fighting.
By that point, my adrenaline was pumping wildly. For a moment, I thought I was hunting the rut in southern Illinois or western Kentucky. No way could this be happening to a regular guy hunting in central Georgia.
Then I spotted one of the bucks. He was about 75 yards from my stand. I'd seen him on my trail camera: a mainframe 8-pointer with two abnormal points. I readied my bolt-action Remington 78 Sportsman .30-06, topped with a Redfield Revenge scope. I took a breath and squeezed the trigger. Boom!
The deer stood there for a second or two, and then proceeded to trot down the creek bottom toward my stand. Not knowing if I'd made a good shot or missed, I racked another round and made a "meh!" sound to stop him. Boom! This time he was DRT (dead right there).
Before I could even react to what had just happened, I saw the other buck, with a much bigger rack, running toward the downed buck. The bigger buck had his head lowered, neck swollen and hair standing up, as if he still were looking for a fight. Well, thanks to my .30-06, he lost that fight as he stopped right in front of my stand. He fell 10 yards from the first buck into the creek.
At this point I was shaking uncontrollably and was in no condition to climb down from my stand. I'd just killed my biggest buck to date — and then had beaten that record 10 seconds later. The second buck was a symmetrical, mainframe 10-pointer with a kicker on one of his bases.
After the dust and my nerves had settled, I realized both of my buck tags had been punched on opening weekend! As I stood over my two downed bucks, I was in awe. I then looked to the sky to thank God for what had turned out to be an amazing hunt.