Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Last-minute buck becomes trophy of lifetime – Second Place, Senior Prose

A rustle of leaves quickly shifted my attention to the creek bed
north of my stand. I struggled in vain to see beyond the thick
brush. Was it just another squirrel, or was it the buck of my

A snap of a twig and then a clear pattern of footsteps came
echoing through the woods. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of movement
coming from behind an ancient oak tree. All of the sudden, a pair
of massive antlers appeared, followed by a large bodied,
thick-necked buck.

This year’s archery season had certainly tested my patience.
High-school cross-country season prevented me from hunting
throughout October, so I had promised myself that the last two
weeks of the season I would hit the woods hard. 

And hit the woods hard I certainly did. I went out every weekday
after school and two Saturdays. I had several good opportunities to
take a buck, but as of Friday Nov. 13, I had not capitalized on any
of them.

I had seen a few smaller bucks, including a nice eight-point,
but I had not yet seen any of sizable proportions.

When I arrived home on Nov. 12 from my afternoon in the woods, I
realized that the next day would be the last day of the season for
me. The actual last day of the season I would be visiting a
college, and so I would not have an opportunity to get out. 

I debated heavily where to hunt the next morning. I had three
options, but I concluded that my uncle’s farm in Pughtown offered
me the best chance. I had seen numerous does and two legal bucks
during my few visits there, and I hoped that more bucks would be
moving through in search of a “hot doe.”

The next morning when my alarm clock sounded, I excitedly arose
from my bed and hurriedly gathered all my gear. I planned to stay
out all day, so I made sure I had packed plenty of food and

On the short drive to the farm, I debated which stand would
present me with the best chance of seeing a buck. From prior
experiences and trail-camera photos, I decided to sit in a ladder
stand along a swampy creek bottom.

The stand overlooked a beautiful mature, open woods composed of
abundant ancient oak and beech trees. 

It was the perfect morning- hunting spot. Oftentimes does would
follow the creek down to the oak flat and gorge themselves on
acorns, and I was hoping a rutting buck would be hot on their

The first four hours I sat on stand I saw nothing but a bunch of
playful bushy-tails.  I was beginning to think about moving to
another stand further up the creekbed when I heard the familiar
pattern of a deer walking through the leaves. 

As buck fever set in, my heart began racing and my hands began
to shake severely. The heavy-beamed buck slowly meandered down
through the creek bed about 60 yards away. He took his time,
cautiously weaving his way through the thicket. 

When he stepped into an opening about 35 yards away, I was
tempted to take a shot, but adhering to my better judgment I
decided to see if he would come closer. I lost sight of him for
about 15 seconds when he stepped behind a thick patch of brush.

I could only think that he decided to follow the trail to the
edge of a nearby field. Fear and disappointment quickly overtook
me. But then, a glimpse of movement caught my eye and I noticed he
had turned directly toward my stand. 

I quickly shifted my position so I would be able to get a steady
shot. He slowly closed the distance between us: 20 yards, 15, then
10. When he was even with the side of my stand, I put my sights on
his shoulder and let an arrow fly.

Immediately I knew it was a good hit. The arrow sailed through
his rib cage and then dug into the ground beyond. I watched
anxiously as he darted between trees and leapt over a small
creekbed into a nearby field. 

Suddenly his momentum ceased and he crashed into the ground. I
watched the spot where he fell for a few more seconds to make sure
he was down for good, said a quick prayer of thanks, and then
grabbed my cell phone and dialed my dad and my grandfather.

As I walked to the car to await their arrival, I reflected on
the morning’s events. Just a half-hour ago I was beginning to
succumb to boredom and now my heart was pounding hard with
excitement because I had just harvested my first buck. 

My many hours spent scouting and hunting had paid off, and in no
small way. My buck sported a 10-point rack with a 19-inch inside
spread. He sported 71⁄2-inch brow tines, G1s and G2s, and he even
had a 4-inch drop tine on his right side.

He was truly the trophy of a lifetime and to think, he was a
last-minute buck.

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