Late last month, Mike Heckel had a mid-week, early-morning work meeting scheduled — but he figured he had just enough time to squeeze in a quick deer hunt on some private land in Webster Parish.
The 51-year-old Haynesville resident, who works in sales for Stallion Oilfield Services, had been seeing a nice 12-point on camera visiting various feeders on the property.
Well, not only did he end up making his meeting — he also shot the buck of a lifetime when the big 176-inch deer showed up on the right edge of his shooting at about 80 yards.
“I have three other stands out there and pictures of him at all of them at various times,” he said. “I was just in the right place at the right time, I guess.”
On his way into the stand he chose that morning — Wednesday, Oct. 26 — he saw a doe down the lane.
“I just eased over there, got in my stand and opened the windows up,” he said. “About five minutes later, the big doe came back out and was around for 10 or 15 minutes.
“Then she threw that head back and looked back and ran off. I knew what was going on then. I looked up, and sure enough there comes a buck — but it was like a small 8-point walking toward where she was.”
The small buck kept making its way to where the doe had been standing, near Heckel’s feeder positioned about 80 yards from his stand.
“He probably got about a hundred yards from me, and he did the same thing,” he said. “He turned his head up and looked back and he ran off, so I said, ‘Lord, what is going on here?’”
Heckel decided to use his grunt call, and watched as the small 8-point returned to the lane and started heading back to the feeder.
“I caught something out of the corner of my eye on the right, and the big one had stepped out into the edge of the lane. As soon as he walked out, I said, ‘There’s a big one.’ I could see the horns,” he said. “But where he stopped he was quartering away hard and there was a pine tree just right in the kill zone.
“I said, ‘Please step out to the left and not the right,’ and he took a step out and I shot him.”
Heckel fired his H&R .45-70, and watched as the big buck bolted to its right into the thicket.
“Any time you shoot a deer — especially a big deer like that — and it runs off, your heart sinks,” Heckel said. “You can only hope for the best.”
He was still recovering from the shot when the buck had one last trick up its sleeve.
“I was sitting there looking, and I look up and he went back across the lane heading left so fast I couldn’t get my gun up,” he said. “I said, ‘Maybe I missed this thing.’”
Heckel headed down to investigate where the buck crossed the lane, and found it standing there — mortally wounded, but still very much alive.
“It’s kind of weird the way he did it. He was staggering and his head was hanging down, so I finished him off,” he said. “I shot him in the neck. I wasn’t going to take any chances.”
Finally putting his hands on a deer he’d seen so long in trail cam pictures was extra special.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “You see pictures all the time and you never see the deer — at least I do.
“It was a once in a lifetime deal.”
The big buck was a 12-pointer featuring a drop tine on its right beam. The inside spread was 20 ¾ inches, and the deer green-scored 176 2/8 inches at Simmons’ Sporting Goods in Bastrop.
Heckel estimated the buck was 5 ½ years old.
He quickly loaded up the deer in the back of his truck — and then headed in for his 8:30 meeting.
“I went in there and was talking to the guy, and he asked me if I had been hunting,” Heckel said with a grin. “I said, ‘Actually, I just got off the stand.’ And he said, ‘Well, did you kill anything?’
“I said, ‘Come on out here, let me show you.’ And he about had a heart attack when he saw the buck.’”
Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways and the random drawing for Nikon optics at the end of the contest.
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.