Hunter: Grace Seay
Points: 8 (4L, 4R)
The story begins in the summer of 2014 when we began getting pictures of an extremely large, wide 6-point buck. I estimated that he had a 20-inch inside spread. Over time, we began to have our hearts set on Grace shooting that buck. We had many photos of him before and during the season, but most of the photos during the season were not during legal shooting hours. It seemed that he was moving very little during daylight. We only saw him one time that season, in December 2014 at approximately 150-175 yards through fairly dense woods. And we just didn't believe it would be an ethical shot, since Grace had never practiced at those distances and our chances of finding "first blood" if he ran were not good simply because it would be so difficult to identify the spot where he was standing. We continued to get trail-camera photos of this buck after the season ended, so we knew he had survived. In the summer of 2015 we had no more pictures of a big, wide 6-pointer, but there was a very wide 8-pointer showing up on the same two cameras where we had so many pictures of the wide 6 the year before. After comparing the photos and looking at the shape of the antlers, we became convinced that this was the same buck. Unlike the previous season, this buck disappeared for a significant time during the 2015 season, and I feared that someone had killed him. Then we started getting photos again, including some photos near one of the locations I have set up to hunt with my daughters. I began getting pictures of him near that hunting location once or twice a week, sometimes during legal shooting hours, sometimes not. On the afternoon of December 19, we hunted in a shooting house near where we had been getting photos of this buck. The area was a travel corridor, had some good oak trees and a small food plot. The acorns had long since played out and we had seen nothing the last four times we had been hunting, but we were starting to get some daytime photos in this area and all our other hunting locations were devoid of activity. We got settled in about 3:15. The first part of the hunt was uneventful, and with 30 minutes of shooting light remaining I put her .243 up on the window sill just to be as ready. At about 5:45, a doe came over the hill and entered the food plot. There was no thought of shooting the doe. We didn't even discuss it. Just a minute or two later I saw antlers come bobbing over the hill and whispered, "There's a buck" as he appeared at the edge of the food plot. I had so many pictures of this buck that I recognized him instantly and whispered, "That's him." Grace said, "REALLY?" and I instantly regretted having told her that this was the buck we had been chasing for two seasons and upon which she had been obsessing. I knew my comment had ratcheted up the pressure significantly. I handed her the rifle, turned on the video camera and hit record. Then my focus returned to Grace, who was struggling to find the deer in the scope. My heart was racing, and I could only imagine what she was feeling. I took the safety off and reminded her, "Right on the shoulder." I saw the end of her barrel moving around and said, "You're wobbling" as the buck took a couple more steps, to which she replied, "Yeah, I am." "Deep breath," I reminded her. A few seconds later the .243 barked, and the buck leaped in the air and kicked like a mule. I said, "You got him!" before all 4 feet were back on the ground. He ran a short distance back over the crest of the hill and then stopped again facing directly away from us. All we could see was his tail, his neck, head and antlers. It never crossed my mind that she might have missed, and I realized we might actually get to see him go down. After a short pause he appeared to try to jump upward and then disappeared. I believed he had gone down right there, but we could no longer see him. I reassured Grace that she had made a great shot and that he was probably down right there. The doe walked back out into the food plot and she was clearly staring at him and trying to figure out what was wrong. She ran off again and came back again and kept looking in his direction, so we knew he must be laying right there, and he was. She told me that she shot him right behind the shoulder and she was right. She got both lungs and obviously made a very quick, clean kill on a fantastic buck. I don't know who was happier, but I still can't stop grinning.