Louisiana's Bayou 'Backup Buck'
April 01, 2011
Steve Lewis had planned on hunting ducks on Nov. 24, 2009. Fortunately for him, poor weather conditions forced him to resort to a backup deer-hunting plan'¦
Steve Lewis' northern Louisiana buck tallied a net score of 206 2/8 inches as a non-typical. Photo courtesy of Steve Lewis.
Thanksgiving week in 2009 was a week Steve Lewis had been looking forward to for months. As a result, it was no surprise that the minutes and hours had been dragging by for the Marathon Oil Company employee in the days leading up to a much anticipated week of duck hunting on Corney Lake, located just 20 miles from his Haynesville, Louisiana home.
At long last, Lewis' vacation time arrived and after spending a day getting his duck hunting gear in order, Tuesday morning, November 24, finally arrived.
"I woke up early that morning as I always do before going on a hunt, stepped outside to check the weather and what I felt was disappointing and not what I expected," Lewis explained.
"It was warmer than normal. There was a light rain falling with a breeze blowing, and my hopes sagged. This was not a good day to be sitting in my duck blind.
"I knew we needed a good cold front to push the ducks down to our part of the country, and it hadn't happened. The warm conditions with temperatures approaching 70 degrees that afternoon meant that I'd waste a morning waiting on the ducks that very likely wouldn't be coming.
"However, I noticed that colder weather was scheduled to blow into north Louisiana by late in the week, providing conditions more ideal for duck movement," Lewis continued. "So I decided I'd go to Plan B."
That plan, according to Lewis, was to see if the deer might be moving ahead of the approaching front. In his mind, the ducks would still be sitting on Arkansas ponds waiting for cold weather to push them farther south.
"My son, Tyler, is a serious deer hunter who utilizes trail cameras to attempt to nail down deer movement, as well as see just what deer are in the woods where we hunt," he noted. "Tyler's cameras had gotten images of a couple pretty good bucks -- an 8-point and a nice 9-point -- and I decided that since the ducks probably wouldn't cooperate, I'd go sit on one of our stands, hoping that maybe one of the bucks would make a move."
Lewis and his son hunt on private property near their Haynesville home, property he described as being heavily wooded with mixed pines and hardwoods and with small creeks and thickets dotting the area.
"I had been sitting on the stand less than an hour when something caught my eye," Lewis recalled. "In the early morning mist, I could make out the form of a deer walking in a thicket along the edge of a hill in front of me. The only thing I could tell about the deer at first was it had its tail sticking straight out like I've seen a yearling do. I didn't get too excited, thinking I'd just sit and watch the yearling and see if maybe something else would be following.
"I eased my rifle up and looked through the scope and thought to myself, 'That's a pretty big deer.' Then I got a glimpse of antlers. I thought it was likely one of the two bucks my son's camera had captured and I decided it was probably good enough to take if I could get a clear shot."
According to Lewis, the buck stopped to make a scrape under a holly tree, but most of the body of the deer -- as well as the rack -- was behind brush, obscuring the vitals and leaving Lewis with uncertainty as to the characteristics of the buck he was looking at.
"When he stepped up and started making the scrape, I could see his shoulder between two trees. Although I couldn't make out what kind of rack he had, I could see enough of the mass to let me know it was good enough for me to take it. I put the scope on the piece of shoulder I could see and squeezed the trigger. At the shot, I saw the deer take off really fast."
Lewis said he was watching another shooting lane toward which the deer had run. He put his scope on the lane and waited for a second shot but the buck never crossed. This gave Lewis hope that the deer was down before he got to the lane.
"I sat awhile in my stand, reliving the moment and thinking all kinds of negative thoughts as to why the deer ran so fast and why my Weatherby .270 short mag didn't drop him on the spot," Lewis said. "The fact that he didn't cross the next lane gave me hope. I waited as long as I possibly could before climbing down and seeing what I could find where I shot the deer.
"I saw where he dug up the dirt when he ran after the shot, and I found blood. Thankfully, he ran less than 100 yards before falling."
What Lewis saw when he walked up on the buck was something surreal.
"The first thing I said was, 'Thank you, Lord,'" Lewis said. "The second thing I said was, 'Where in the world did a deer like this come from?' It looked like one of those bucks from Kansas you see pictures of. I'd never seen anything like it."
"When I was able to collect my wits just a bit and count points, I called my son on my cell phone, telling him he wasn't going to believe it but I just shot a big buck with 18 points. At first, Tyler didn't believe me but said he was headed my way when I called him back. I told him I'd made a mistake. There were not 18 points on the rack; there were actually 19 points. I had missed the drop tine.
"What amazes me is that we've hunted this land several years and have had cameras out. This buck never showed up on any camera, nor had anybody reported ever seeing him. It was just unbelievable."
"With all the thick cover in the area where I shot the deer, I would imagine he could hide out and spend his life in there without ever being seen," Lewis said. "I've hunted deer for some 35 years and have
killed some fairly good deer, so I don't really get too excited when I get a deer. I'll take one occasionally if it's a pretty good one, but I just enjoy being out there and watching them.
"I once killed a big 9-point buck in the same general area several years ago and it was the same thing -- I had found some cedar trees 5-6 inches in diameter where the buck had rubbed the bark off. I'd never seen nor heard of this deer, and I'd hunted the area for the past several seasons."
"The rut is going strong in this part of Louisiana around Thanksgiving each year, and I imagine I wouldn't have seen the big buck except for the fact he was out looking for a hot doe," Lewis said.
The buck's body size was no comparison to his rack. The deer weighed only 170 pounds and it was obvious he was in full rut.
By the time Steve and Tyler got the deer home, some phone calls had been made and word spread like wildfire.
"People I'd never seen nor heard of began showing up, taking pictures and asking questions. It's something I'd never expected," he added.
The buck was taken to Simmons Sporting Goods in Bastrop, Louisiana, which hosts one of the South's largest big buck contests. The results were truly eye-popping.
"When they told me what the score was, I'm sure I just stood there with my mouth open; I couldn't believe it," Lewis exclaimed.
The buck green scored as a non-typical a whopping 216 7/8 inches. The antlers featured a 17-inch inside spread, heavy mass and long G-2s and G-3s. As a special feature, the rack carried with a 7 1/2-inch drop tine.
Lewis' assessment of his accomplishment on a day he thought he'd be duck hunting?
"I love to hunt and I thank the Lord all the time for the opportunities He has given me to enjoy the outdoors," Lewis said. "I feel especially blessed to have been sitting in the deer stand instead of fussing and fretting and sweating in a duck blind that morning. My experience just goes to show that you never know what is walking around in these north Louisiana woods."