The Short-Shirt Buck

Even in the hunting community, public embarrassment can be a very strong motivator.

It was opening morning of gun season in Indiana. Dad and I were on our way out to hunt for “my buck,” and from the first time we saw “him” I knew which deer I wanted. My younger brother killed a mature 8-point during the September youth hunt, and Dad killed a big 11-point during bow season, so I was feeling the pressure.

We got to the family farm about 20 minutes before legal shooting light and made our way to the elevated deer blind Dad and I built together. It was a cold morning, and I could see my breath. As it started to become light, Dad and I could see does all over the field. Dad got my attention and whispered, “Danny, over there!” As I looked to the south, crossing the field about 50 yards away, was the biggest deer I’d ever seen while hunting—a giant 10-point.

As the buck cleared the trees, Dad grunted to stop him. I was shaking badly. I raised my trusty .44 Rem. Mag. rifle, put the crosshairs on the buck—and fired. Unfortunately, I shot over the buck’s back and we watched him run off. We sat there for the rest of the morning but didn’t see any other mature bucks.

Dad and I went out to the same spot that evening and were covered up with does. We saw a 7-point, but I had my heart set on the big 10-point. We left the woods and came home. I’d entered a big buck contest that was over at 1 p.m. the following day, so Dad tried to wake me up to get to the woods Sunday morning, but I was so tired from Saturday that I didn’t want to get up.

Dad and I went to the big buck contest and I had to “face the music.” Following tradition, anyone who has entered the contest and missed a deer has to have their shirt tail cut off. So, after that we headed home, grabbed de-scenting showers and changed into our hunting clothes.

As we drove to the farm, Dad and I were talking about where to sit. I wanted to sit where we had seen the big 10-point, but Dad suggested we try the food plot. Dad and I made our way down to the food plot and jumped a couple of does as we were getting into the two-man ladder stand. It wasn’t looking good.

As the evening hunt progressed, we had 23 does in front of us on the small clover patch. And from where we were sitting, we could see into the neighbor’s CRP field. Dad whispered, “Danny, look: There’s some does over there—wait, look behind them!”

Following the four does was the buck my grandpa got a scouting cam picture of in velvet. He was a monster with three main beams on the left side, and almost too many points to count. Now, however, the rack was broken from fighting and he was down to 9 points—but he was still a monster!

The buck was busy chasing one of the does. The other does started to make their way to our food plot. It seemed like forever, but the buck finally left the neighbor’s property and followed the remaining does into our bean stubble. As I got ready, the does saw me move and stared me down. I was shaking so bad I couldn’t keep the gun steady!

I couldn’t find a steady rest for the gun because of the angle from which the buck was approaching, and when Dad noticed the gun shaking he moved his arm over so I could rest the barrel safely and steady the gun.

The buck never paid any attention to what the does were looking at and walked over to them, finally turning broadside at 45 yards. I slowly settled the crosshairs on his shoulder. I told myself: Take a deep breath. Relax. When the rifle roared, the buck just looked our direction and walked off about 20 yards and stopped. Dad and I were second-guessing the shot, trying to get another round into the gun, when the buck started wobbling … and dropped.

Dad and I high-fived, climbed out of the stand and went over to the buck. He was mine! We called Grandpa, who was on the other side of the farm hunting, and he came over to check out my buck. After discussing the hunt, Grandpa offered to give me a certificate he’d won for a free mount.

We were all so exited. I might not have won the big buck contest, and I got my shirt cut, but it was all worth it to have this deer. Of the three bucks killed on our property this year, it was finally my turn to kill “the big one!”

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