Every hunter hears those stories about freakishly big, phantom-like trophy animals; those stories that get passed down from one campfire to the next, generation after generation. Well, the other day such a story was told to me, only it was real. I received a message on my phone and I opened it up only to be shocked at the image I was seeing: a blurry photo of a whitetail buck with tree branches for antlers. My dad sent me the message. He said the buck was to score 200 inches and is about six to seven years old, want to hunt it? Not sure if this was some sort of joke or what, I cautiously accepted the offer.
The next day, I knew that it was no joke. Bags were packed and on the road my dad and I went! Six hours later we arrived at camp, and life for the whitetail was about to change.
Despite an earlier promise of clear skies, a massive storm system threatened to ruin the evening hunt. After introductions were made between the outfitters and hunters, we planned to go to the range and check my rifle’s sights. When we stepped outside, however, it was pouring rain. The storm lasted about two hours, which seemed like an eternity for all of us. While waiting for the storm to pass, Dad and I placed a bet: If I shot the whitetail with one bullet, he would eat a cricket. If I had to use more than one bullet, then I would be the unfortunate loser. Seeing as I am a sore loser, and have lost multiple bets with my dad, I wanted to make sure he would be the one eating the chirping insect.
Once at the range we tinkered with the scope a little. My gun was on, as in, “Dad is going to eat a cricket” on. As we headed back to camp from the range, I started getting more and more excited. I realized this was actually going to happen and I would be hunting the biggest whitetail I have ever seen!
Off to the stand we went. Once settled inside, our view was quite pleasant—as opposed to the computer screen I stare at too often for my liking—with a wonderful, rich and lush green soybean field opened before us, outlined by tall oak trees.
A few hours passed, but nothing but does was in sight. Some came out into the field right underneath our stand. I could hear them exhale and twigs snapping underneath them as they walked out. I was beginning to believe this buck actually was a phantom, but then I saw him! With my bare eyes, I saw him step out on the complete opposite side of the field. Pulling my binoculars up, my heart started racing. He was quite the impressive deer.
The problem was that he was some 600 yards away. I had no shot and had to wait for him to get closer. He sure did take his time too. Twenty minutes before last light, he got within range but moved off to a side of the field that was out of sight for us in the stand. My guide told me to grab my gun; we were going to stalk him.
Stalk a whitetail? Seemed like a plan for immediate failure, but eager to try anything to get a shot at this monster, we went! We stayed in the tree line until we came up to some overgrown brush in the field. Using that for cover, we closed the distance between him and us to 200 yards. I threw up the shooting sticks and rested my gun in its crevice. Then, I took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger. I thought I missed! I saw another buck wagging his white tail at me running away and was certain that was the one I shot at. Fortunately for me, I was wrong. The one I shot at didn’t even take a step and I was overjoyed to know that it was a fast, clean kill.
Holding the antlers in my hands I felt just how truly heavy they were and how thick his mass was. It was such an incredible trophy to hunt and surprisingly, as bad as things could have gone, nothing did. To put the cherry on top of the whole evening hunt, my dad had to eat a cricket.