By Shawn Thompson, Ladoga, Ind.
I can still remember almost every detail of taking my first deer. I was 14, and used a Thompson/Center Renegade muzzleloader with the old round ball and patch. Looking back now, it’s hard to believe that was 26 years ago, but that moment created a passion for hunting that I still hold today. Some of the best times of my life have been spent in the outdoors creating great memories with family and friends.
I love opening morning. The sleepless night before is spent thinking through my hunting pack making sure I haven’t forgotten a single thing. Then as I settle into my stand for the day, waiting for the sun to come up, I am filled with anticipation of what I might see. I heard several shots around where I was sitting on opening morning of the 2014 season, but the only deer that I saw, two nice bucks and a couple does, were way off at the other end of the field. I never had anything close enough to get a shot at.
I took my 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter out to hunt several times, but was unable to get anything while they were with me, either. Between work and helping on our family’s farm, I spent every day that I could in the woods. I was seeing deer, but the Indiana firearm season came to an end and I still had not filled any of my tags. I was feeling defeated with how my season had gone when my wife decided to surprise me with a brand-new muzzleloader the week before our late muzzleloader season came in. Wow! I had a second chance to get back out and try to get a deer.
I went out to my old hunting woods earlier in the week and experienced the same old story: no deer at all. I had gained permission to hunt a new woods, and decided that I was going to give it a try and see if my luck would change. It was Dec. 10. I got my hunting gear on and started walking in. I hoped that I would see something and maybe get a doe for the freezer at least.
It was about 9:30 a.m. when I started to head back toward my truck. As I worked my way around a huge thicket I was amazed at all the rubs I was seeing. I knew there had to be a good buck in the area. When I came to the end of the thicket I stopped to check out the open field before walking out. Just then, as I looked to my right, I saw a huge rack sticking up out of the weeds about 30 yards away. I froze and knew right away that it was a monster buck.
I could not believe he was still standing there as I pulled the hammer back on my Traditions muzzleloader. All I could see was his head through the scope, and he was looking straight at me. I lowered the crosshairs to the bottom of the white patch below his chin and pulled the trigger. He dropped to the ground like a brick. I could not believe what had just happened. I was shaking so bad I almost couldn’t get the muzzleloader reloaded. I was finally able to get it completely reloaded, after fumbling with my speed loads and dropping the primer, and started walking up on him.
I was in total disbelief. It was the biggest deer I had ever seen. That’s when all the emotions started flooding in. I showed him to a friend of mine who started going nuts at just how big he was. Everyone who saw him just went on and on about how wide and heavy his rack was.
This will definitely be a season that I will remember for the rest of my life—not just because of the beautiful deer that I harvested, which gross-scored 177 inches with a 277/8-inch inside spread, but because of the time I got to spend with my kids in the woods. I have to give a special thanks to my wife, Nicole, for letting me pursue my passion of hunting. I also would like to thank the landowners for allowing me the opportunity to hunt their land and harvest this once-in-a-lifetime buck.
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