My Last Hunt With John

On The Shoulders Of Giants With Andrew Curtis

Andrew Curtis | November 29, 2023

Blogger Andrew Curtis (left) with Diz and John and buck that John recovered.

“I’m not finding anything, but I think I hit him, right?” I looked to my friend for reassurance.

“It sure looked like he was hit to me, but I couldn’t see him well when you shot,” my friend, Diz, responded.

We were both feeling sick as we searched unproductively for blood. It was prime time in the deer woods in Lee County, the week of Thanksgiving. Diz and I had sat together that morning in a two-man ladder stand overlooking a powerline when a beautiful, heavy, dark-racked 8-point came into view. Diz had brought his bow, while I had my rifle. The plan was if a buck came within bow range, then Diz would shoot first; that’s exactly what happened. When the buck stopped in the tall grass, Diz let his arrow fly, and we both watched in dismay as his arrow disappeared into the grass below the buck’s chest.

Knowing that something was amiss, the buck bolted down the powerline, slowing just before entering the planted pines on the other side. I threw up my rifle, found him in my scope and squeezed off a round. The buck took off again and was out of our sight in an instant.

After 30 long minutes of waiting, we climbed down and went to the spot we last saw the buck. We found nothing to indicate a hit. Then, Diz’s older brother, John, who had been hunting on the same property, came walking up and saw that we were upset.

“Why are y’all so sad?” he asked.

“Because we both missed an awesome buck!” we nearly screamed.

John smiled his patient smile. He was so cool and calm.

“Well, somebody hit that deer. I heard the impact.”

“You did?” I asked incredulously.

“Take me to the spot where he was when you shot,” he instructed.

John got down on his hands and knees and began to scrutinize the ground, meticulously picking up straw, leaves, grass and anything else he could get his hands on. Diz and I, impatient as we were, foolishly sped on ahead of John in search of the buck. After an hour of searching, Diz and I sat down in the pine rows, our backs to the trees.

“Well, I guess it was a miss. That sure was a pretty deer,” I sighed, leaning my head back against a pine trunk.

Then we heard someone hollering.

“Is that John?” I asked.

“Yeah, sounds like him, but he is way over there. He’s not even where that buck ran. Wonder what he’s hollering about?” Diz pondered.

We made our way over to John, and he was standing in some tall grass with a grin.

“You hit that deer,” he said, his smile widening.

“You found some blood?” Diz asked as his voice began to rise with excitement.

“I found the deer,” he said with a laugh.

Running the rest of the way, I gazed down at the awesome 8-point that I had given up hopes of finding.

“Sometimes, you gotta slow down and really look. Just be patient,” John said. “This buck circled back around. Y’all weren’t even going in the right direction.”

We laughed and took pictures, and the occasion was one that I would never forget. I certainly learned a valuable tracking lesson in the deer woods, but the main reason that it sticks so well in my memory is because it was the last hunt I spent with John.

A short time later, John drowned in a duck hunting accident on Lake Seminole.

Suddenly, all the memories and connections I had with John took on a much more powerful significance in my life. My mind searched and strained for those memories I had with John. And I found plenty.

The deer season after John’s accident, I carried my rattling antlers to the woods, and as I hit them together, I remembered… that rack came off a fine 8-point that John had shot long ago. I was a little kid then, but I had begged and begged John to give me that pretty set of antlers. He finally handed over the rack with a smile, and said, “I hope you kill a big buck with these.” Bewildered, I asked, “What do you mean?” He laughed and said, “rattling horns!”

Well, those antlers became my rattling horns, and I lost count of the number of bucks those tines lured in to me. I thought I would never part with them, but then I had an idea. Maybe I could let go of just one of those antlers.

One day, I untied the short rope connecting the two antlers, took one antler out to my work shed, placed the teeth of my hack saw just beyond the brow town, and sawed cleanly through. I never looked back. I then set out to transform that piece of antler into something really special.

Several months later, I had a gift for my friend, Diz. On a piece of cedar was mounted the main antler serving as a knife holder, and in the holder sat the knife I had made sporting the fine antler base as the handle. It was beautiful to me, but giving it away was easy. It was going back to the family from where it came.

What about the other antler? Well, that one is still in my hunting bag (now tied to a shed antler I found), waiting to rattle in yet another buck.

Thank you, John.

Andrew made this knife for Diz. The antler came from Diz’s brother John, who drowned in a hunting accident on Lake Seminole.


On The Shoulders Of Giants With Andrew Curtis

Andrew graduated from UGA in 2006 with his undergraduate degree in Animal Health and from UGA’s veterinary school in 2010. His passion for fishing and the outdoors began when he was a young boy spending time with his grandfather at Lake Oconee. Now he enjoys passing on what he has learned to his two young boys at their home on the Alapaha River. Turkey hunting and south Georgia river fishing are among his favorite pastimes, but his main interests involve mentoring kids in the outdoors while spreading the Word of Jesus. Andrew has discovered the joy and power in writing and hopes to benefit others through his words.

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  1. [email protected] on December 1, 2023 at 12:27 pm

    A touching story- thanks for sharing!

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