April 24, 2023
By Clifford Neames
"It's him! It's him!"
Excited words sprang from Knocker Newton’s grandson as he spotted the target of their afternoon hunt. Graham, who he had nicknamed “Knuck”, was sitting at his side, and the ecstatic young man had his eyes on the enormous buck that had grown into a major obsession over the past few days. And Knuck was ready to close the deal!
The Newton family, like so many in Louisiana, is chock full of hunters. Knuck’s father, his grandfather, uncle Paul, and quite a few cousins all enjoy a full outdoor life. Hunting and fishing provide fellowship and plenty of great food throughout the year, cooked Cajun style of course! Each fall, they process deer, making their own sausage and keep the freezer full of other fresh game. So, deer hunting covers entertainment and some education, along with sustenance. And the young folks are involved in every aspect of it. Knocker says, “We don’t eat to live, we live to eat!” And life is good!
They also have a tract of land where they can all hunt together in Avoyelles parish. By choice, and rule, adults only bowhunt on that property. The kids are allowed to use rifles until they are 15. And they are encouraged to shoot mature whitetails 3 1/2 years or older. Over the years, Knuck has become deadly with his .22, honing his skills on squirrels. That marksmanship carries over to the high-powered rifle, which he uses to get his share of the deer taken on the parcel.
This quest began when a new buck popped up on a trail camera in full daylight on the last day of 2021. Knuck had been deer hunting hard all season, seeking a deer named “Booger.” But after learning his target buck had been killed on a neighboring property, he had chosen that day for a duck hunt. He had taken the loss well, accepting that “you don’t get a big one every year.” But he was not on a stand when this new deer had come through. And this wasn’t just another buck; this one was a giant. That news turned Knuck’s world upside down.
Imagine being a 13-year-old avid outdoorsman and missing the chance at a deer of a lifetime. He vowed that he would “not go back to school till that buck is dead!” However, after several days of serious watching and waiting, the deer had not made its way to him. So, it was time to hang up the gun. Knuck asked if he could hunt one more morning and check in late, but his parents overruled that plan. The holidays were done, the party was over, and school was back in session.
Knuck was back in class the next day. But he wasn’t thinking about anything except “Macho Man” — the name his dad had given the buck. He and a friend, Parker, spent most of their time talking about it, so there was little point to him being there. But his grandfather understood the assignment. He called Knuck’s father, Adam, to tell him he was taking his grandson hunting. Adam replied, “I need to ask his mother.” Knocker replied emphatically, “Too late. I am already at the school.” And that was that! An announcement came over the intercom. “We need Graham Newton to the office. He is checking out!” Knuck jumped up, racing toward the door as Parker said, “Call me to tell me what you get.” Next stop: the house for a quick change of clothes.
It was the typical warm, late winter afternoon you can get in Louisiana. You go to the stand knowing you may be fighting mosquitoes all afternoon, so Knuck put on some short pants, a camo shirt and rubber boots. He grabbed his .270 Win. rifle, and he was ready. But in his haste, he forgot his phone.
Knocker and Knuck got into a box stand at the edge of a field a little after 3:00 p.m. The stand was tucked in between some pines where the big deer had been caught on camera twice the day before, passing through at 9:00 a.m. and again at 4:00 p.m. cruising for does. Knuck had been in the wrong stand then, but with the deer being that active in one area, this could be the place. The plan was to intercept him on the next pass if he hadn’t found a hot doe and locked down. That’s biology, right?
So, the anxious studying began. The next hour seemed to drag by. And the view outside the box remained the same, no deer. Four o’clock passed without fanfare and Knuck was getting restless. The anticipation of laying eyes on the huge buck was making the waiting worse without his phone to keep him occupied. Knuck blew on a grunt call to add a little spice to the hunt.
A few more minutes passed, then he heard something moving outside of the box stand. Peering out of the window to his right, he spotted a big-bodied deer with huge antlers thrashing vines. “It’s him! It’s him! Macho Man is right there,” the young hunter exclaimed. The buck stood on the edge of the undergrowth just 45 yards away, preoccupied with taking out frustration and totally unaware that Knuck was watching him. He started toward the opening just as the rifle came up, rocking his antlers to work them through the thick stuff. Knuck drew down on the spot where he would step out, like this happened every day. Then the giant buck eased out nose down, and Knocker said, “Wait until he stops before you shoot.” Knuck,not in wait mode asked, “When?” The the rifle roared in the middle of the word, “Now!”
The slammer buck jumped and kicked at the shot, tearing out of the clearing. Pounding hooves crashed through brush. Then everything went silent. In seconds, it was as if the giant buck had never been there, and Knuck began violently shaking. His cool, calm and collected attitude was gone! After waiting to calm down again, the pair exited the box stand to recover the buck. Uncle Joe was on the property, in the process of hanging a trail camera. He heard the shot and knew there was only one reason his nephew would pull the trigger. So, he began making his way over there. As he got closer, he noticed a white belly. But he decided to let Knuck locate the deer before he said anything.
Macho Man had only made it a few yards into the brush, and Knuck found the giant buck without much trouble. As more of the family gathered, it was time for pics and phone calls, especially to Mom. It was her birthday, and this hunt was about to disrupt some plans. It was also making a huge buzz on social media as the images and word spread quickly. In a twist, someone even sent pics of the deer to Knuck’s dad while he was admiring the buck in the field. The huge rack has a total of 14 scorable points, over 37 inches of very evenly spread mass and five thick tines over 10 inches long, truly a Louisiana giant! Adding up the fractions put him at over 180 inches total. That’s math anyone could like. Remarkably, the big buck was only 4 1/2 years old.
Knuck entered the deer in two big buck contests in the youth hunter division, winning handily in both. But the real prize was sharing the experience with Knocker, a day neither say they will ever forget. I’d have to give it an A+, too!