Hunting In Heaven

Reader Contributed | October 27, 2021

By Hannah Baxter
Many people call themselves hunters, but anyone who knew Terry Baxter knew he was the real deal. His love of hunting and the outdoors stretched far beyond a hobby, it was his way of life. Terry, my father-in-law, had hunted since he was a little boy. Naturally, when Terry became a dad, his two boys Scoot (Terry Jr.) and Worm (Nicholas), were raised in a world of camouflage, rifles and the outdoors. My husband, Scoot, especially shared his dad’s passion for hunting. It was a well-known fact among family and friends that Terry and Scoot were “unavailable” during the months of October through January. Babies, weddings and family gatherings would all have to wait—there were deer to kill!

Terry Baxter with the last deer he killed, taken during the 2020-21 season.

One early August weekend this year, Terry went down to deer camp in preparation for the upcoming season. We all hunt the Ugly Creek Hunting Club in Hancock County. Terry had acquired another spot on the 1,500-acre property and there was a “big-un” on camera he was after; a big-bodied 9-pointer with a large but uneven rack. He spent that Friday afternoon on a bobcat clearing out a large area for his new plot with plans to plow and plant it the next day. Saturday morning, however, Terry woke up sick and decided he’d have to cut his weekend short. Terry packed up and headed back home to Pendergass.

On Aug. 28, 2021, Terry went to be with Jesus at just 51 years old after a long, ruthless battle with COVID. We were, and still are, completely devastated. It’s still hard to believe he’s gone. The tremendous loss of Terry affected so many people. Scoot was left to grieve not only the loss of his daddy but also the loss of his lifelong hunting buddy just months before opening day.

With the help of Terry’s dad and longtime family friend, Vant, the boys worked together to finish what Terry had started. Through blood, sweat and lots of tears, they plowed and planted the area Terry had cleared for his new plot. They placed his tower stand where they knew Terry had wanted it. The boys kept his feeders full and cameras checked. And by opening day, Terry’s food plot at his new spot was glowing green with wheat grass.

Determined to keep his legacy and love for hunting alive, we decided to spend opening day of gun season together as a family at deer camp. We had camo hats made with a leather patch that read “Hunting in Heaven, Terry Baxter.” It was rare we all made it to deer camp at the same time, and it was sure to be an emotional weekend. There was just no better way to honor him than at deer camp, on opening day, together.

I shot my first deer last season—two large does. I shot them with my husband’s rifle, a pristine Sako 308 he had just recently purchased. I instantly fell in love not only with hunting, but with my husband’s Sako. Terry was at camp that weekend and was so proud of me. He came over to me grinning ear to ear, threw his arm over my shoulder and said, “You’re a real Baxter now!” Terry knew how much I loved the Sako. He joked with my husband, Scoot, that he needed to give me the Sako and go ahead and plan on finding himself a new rifle. Scoot laughed and insisted he was crazy.

I spent this opening day hunting in a tower stand on my own for the first time, with MY Sako 308. As a way to honor his daddy, Scoot spent opening morning in Terry’s tower stand overlooking the area he’d cleared just before he fell sick. The weather on opening morning was beautiful and the day did not disappoint.

Around 8:45, a large buck stepped out of the woods and into the plot after a doe. Scoot was able to take him with his dad’s 7 mag. He was a large buck with five points on one side and four on the other. It was THE 9-pointer; the big-bodied buck with the uneven rack Terry was after. I heard the shot from my stand and instantly texted Scoot. “Who was that? That was close!” He text me back a couple minutes later, “I just killed him, baby!” Scoot killed his daddy’s deer, with his daddy’s rifle, from his daddy’s stand. The buck scored 126 inches and weighed 210 pounds; it’s the heaviest deer killed on the property to date.

Scoot Baxter with the 9-pointer he killed on opening day while hunting his daddy’s plot, using his daddy’s rifle and sitting in his daddy’s stand.

I know he walked that specific buck out in front of Scoot opening morning, and I know he chuckles every time I throw my Sako 308 over my shoulder. Terry always said nobody in the family would ever kill as many deer as he has. He harvested and mounted a total of 23 bucks. They line the walls of his shop,0 and boy, is it a sight to behold! One day, when we see Terry again, I am certain he’ll laugh his loud, infectious laugh, smile his big, vibrant smile and say, “The only reason you killed more deer than me, is because I had to quit.”

We miss Terry every day; it’s still hard to believe he’s gone. Deer camp is a little more quiet now, and it just feels like something is missing there. We will never understand why God called Terry home so young, but our weekend together at deer camp was a gift. Terry revealed himself in so many ways and now we know for certain that Terry is plowing the fields of gold, harvesting the biggest bucks and still hunting in Heaven.

The picture was taken at camp when Scoot brought the deer back to show his momma. They are in front of Terry’s camper and were admiring his harvest. Hannah randomly snapped this picture, but the sunlight is in the shape of an Angel. “We are convinced that was just another way of Terry showing himself to us that weekend,” said Hannah.

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