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Evelyn Pionessa’s 160-inch Colquitt County Buck

Hunter's Journal September 2011

Reader Contributed | September 10, 2011

By Evelyn Pionessa

It was a cold and windy December day, and there was fresh hog sign in one of the food plots. My husband, Jerry, wanted me to accompany him hunting in hopes of killing some of the hogs. To be perfectly honest, the thought of getting dressed for the cold and windy conditions wasn’t thrilling. However, Jerry convinced me it would be fun. His plan was for us to sit together in a double stand and possibly both of us harvest hogs. As always with hunting and nature, you have no control over the circumstances. 

The food plot and stand were located between a blackjack ridge and an outer edge of a creek swamp. We saw a couple of small young bucks, but they left abruptly as if spooked. We were certain it wasn’t from us. Our thoughts were a hog or maybe a larger deer had startled them. We could hear something walking in the dry leaves of the blackjacks, which I thought was a deer. Then the two young bucks reappeared not as nervous. Then we heard sounds of clicking and clacking, antlers hitting tree branches, walking sounds and again leaves crunching. The sound was getting closer and coming from our right.  Jerry elbowed my ribs, but to not hear the noises you would have to be deaf. Then Jerry elbowed my ribs again. Jerry could see deer legs. The third elbow to the ribs was my signal to get ready. Originally, Jerry was to shoot a deer, and I was to shoot a hog.  I’m a little slow in preparing to make a shot, but this time was going to be different.

Right after the third elbowing, this monster deer stepped into the opening. His gait was that of a moose walk. Jerry, along with his lease partner and our sons, manage this lease for trophies only. It only required a glance on my part to recognize him as a shooter.

For me, the rest on the front of this stand was too low to use while sitting in the seat. Jerry had coached me earlier to adapt by sliding off the seat into a crouch to use the rest. Immediately I slid off the seat, crouched behind my rifle, clicked the safety off and realized my mitten gloves would not allow for pulling the trigger. The mitten would not come off, so I put my hand to my mouth and used my teeth to remove the mitten exposing my fingertips. It seemed like an eternity before I was ready to cheek my rifle and align the scope on the buck. During these few seconds, Jerry was studying the buck through his binoculars. Realizing I had removed my safety and was ready to shoot, he said “It’s him. Shoot him, wait for him to turn broadside.”

 

For the past three years, they have been watching this buck on the trail cameras. Two years prior they found a shed of his, but no one has ever seen him. Only twice has he appeared on the cameras during daylight hours.

This magnificent buck was walking straight away from us. He turned slightly to the right but not enough for a shot. He was still walking, and I was worried he might walk out of sight. Then he turned quartering away to his left. The whole time I had him in the scope, and when he turned the crosshairs were behind his shoulder and ribs, about midway of his body. The recoil from the shot knocked me backward, so I didn’t see the buck’s reaction.  The last sight I saw was him running straight away.

Jerry thought I missed. He said there wasn’t any reaction from the deer when I shot, no jumping up, stumbling, leaping, nothing. He just ran away as if spooked. I was certain my shot was good, but now I was second guessing myself.

Jerry instructed me to hush, so we could listen for him falling or any other sounds. As we sat there, my concern was I might have wounded this unbelievable animal, and he might suffer. Praying for a clean miss or a kill shot, the last thing I wanted was to maim him. My mind started reliving the shot. Did I let out half of my breath and squeeze the trigger, or did I jerk the trigger? If I jerked the trigger, it would have pulled the shot to the right, possibly hitting him in the back or right side.  On the other hand, did it pull to the left and nick his left shoulder? Waiting is the tough part. When I shot, it was by total instinct, no talking to myself with instructions, just reactions only.  In the past, I’ve talked to myself about how to pull the trigger and scope placement. I’m usually alone when I hunt, so Jerry’s presence must have provided confidence.

Jerry wanted to wait a few minutes.  I didn’t look at my watch at all. I don’t know what time it was or how long we waited. About the time we were ready to get down, the two small bucks reappeared. They sniffed the ground where the big buck had been standing when I shot. Jerry knew they must have smelled blood, but my lack of experience didn’t reveal that thought.  Therefore, we had to wait a little longer for them to leave again, but then, finally!

It seemed to be an eternity getting all of our things out of the stand and us on the ground. We left all of our gear except the rifles and walked to the location of the shot. Sure enough, there was a good amount of blood on the ground. I thought it was muscle blood, more concern on my part thinking shoulder shot. Jerry kept his thoughts to himself; however; later he revealed his thought was heart blood.

My instructions were to stay put. Jerry did not want to blood trail up on a wounded deer and worry about my safety or being in the way in case he needed to shoot. Another eternity, Jerry walked out of sight, then a rack, clack sound. It took a split second for my brain to register that Jerry was chambering a bullet. That made me nervous and hopeful all at the same time.

In a few minutes, another eternity, Jerry reappeared with no expression on his face. He should play poker. Then he walked up, hugged me and whispered that I was the luckiest woman in the world. I asked a dozen questions, but he came straight back to get me. We gathered up all of our gear and made the walk to the truck. We then drove to where Jerry had found the big buck.  Walking up to this buck all I could say was, “Oh my gosh!” I must have repeated that 10 or 15 times. His antlers seemed to be waist high on me. He was magnificent! A beautiful symmetric 10-point rack, 26-inch main beam, 21-inch inside spread, 5 1/2-inch bases with 9 1/2-inch G2s and 10 6/8-inch G3s. Ground shrinkage definitely did not exist. The shot was perfect; it went straight in and hit the heart.

The excitement lasted all day with photos, phone calls, deer processor, measurements, taxidermist and more showing of photos.

The buck ended up netting 160 3/8 Boone & Crockett inches and was No. 7 on GON’s 2009 Fab-40 list.

I’m just thrilled to have taken a buck of a lifetime and to have shared it with Jerry. He has teased all of his friends that it takes true love to let your wife shoot your big buck you’ve been watching for three years. Jerry’s company in the stand was awesome, and the fact he is an adept woodsman and tracker was icing on the cake.

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