Garrett Freeman was a little out of his comfort zone in his box stand last Friday afternoon around 6 p.m.
The 43-year-old RN had just seen the biggest buck he’d ever laid eyes on at his 400-acre lease in Vernon Parish, but the deer was at least 250 yards away and on the move — in a shooting lane barely 10 yards wide.
Freeman hadn’t even known the giant deer — a 13-pointer — existed until he had seen the buck on his trail cam only days before.
“I guess he caught me looking left because he appeared in the middle of my shooting lane on the right,” said Freeman, of Hineston. “Before I could eye into the scope, he picked his head up and looked at me. I knew it was him because he’s a beautiful buck, unlike anything I’ve ever killed. He immediately started walking.”
Because things were happening so fast, Freeman wondered if his safety was still on just before he was about to squeeze off a shot from his Remington Model 700 .270.
“I had to make that last little move with my thumb, and at that time the deer’s head was probably off my lane, but I could still see his body and I had to react really quickly and make a quick shot,” he said. “To be honest with you, I thought I missed the deer. I didn’t see anything. I didn’t hear a crash. He basically disappeared.
“I didn’t see him run off, I didn’t see him jump. I was kind of puzzled …. I was in negative town, going over it in my head. I didn’t have a lot of time, and I had to make a quick decision with a shot that far. I typically would have liked to have more time to set up and get ready.”
But in an act of supreme patience, Freeman decided to stay put in the stand in case he had connected on the shot.
“I didn’t want to rush this deer,” he said. “I knew the kind of animal I had just taken a shot at, so as hard as it was, I sat there for 30 minutes.”
His wife Pamela was hunting nearby, so he texted her to be on the lookout for the deer in case it crashed near her stand, or headed her way.
Eventually, Freeman headed down and counted his steps as he walked the left side of the lane, hitting 225 as he crossed a 2-foot high brush pile left by last year’s flooding on the Calcasieu River. He knew the deer had been on the other side of the pile, but stayed focused on his feet, looking for any signs of blood.
Thirty or 40 paces passed the brush, Freeman looked up as he thought about slowing down and refocusing his search efforts.
Turns out, all the doubts he had about that 250-yard-plus shot weren’t warranted.
“Lo and behold, the sucker was laying right there where I shot him,” Freeman said. “He got off the lane maybe 3 or 4 feet. But he was lying right there.
“That explains why I didn’t see him jump or run off, or why we didn’t hear any crashing — he just went down right after the shot.”
Actually putting his hands on the big buck’s rack was an amazing experience, he said.
“My expectations were high because I had seen him on camera and knew he was a good deer, but when I ran up to him and put my hands on him, I couldn’t hold my phone,” Freeman said with a chuckle. “I was trying to text my wife and my buddy, and I think I was trying to text, ‘Big boy down.’
“I think it came out JXRCC. I had to keep backspacing. I couldn’t hit the right letters. I finally got the text out to my wife, so she got down and came over to me and it was all about the celebration then.”
The big buck — estimated to be 6 ½ years old — was impressive indeed, with 13 points, a 19-inch inside spread and heavy horns with 5 6/8-inch bases.
At Simmons’ Sporting Goods in Bastrop, the big deer stretched the tape to 170 6/8 inches Boone and Crockett.
“To be honest with you, until Wednesday when I checked my cameras, I didn’t think an animal like this lived in those woods,” Freeman said. “This is a lifetime thing for me. I’m sure I’ll never be able to repeat this.”
Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways and the rand drawing for Nikon optics at the end of the contest.
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.