If there were 10 commandments of deer hunting, somewhere up near the top of the list would probably read, “Thou shalt not look at impressive antlers through your scope.”
Jason McFarland made that mistake Tuesday morning on his 100-acre CRP lease near Clayton in Concordia Parish, and it nearly cost him a chance at an eye-popping 15-point, 190-class back he had captured on his trail cam and nicknamed “Ol’ Stickers.”
“I really messed up. I’ll never do that again,” McFarland said with a chuckle. “I had the gun on him looking through the scope and I turned just a little bit and looked at his horns and head. And man, I should have never done that.
“I started shaking. My heart really started beating and I had to lay the gun down in my lap and put my head down and say, ‘Lord, please don’t let me have a heart attack, and let me take this shot.’”
McFarland, 36, of Ferriday, was hunting over a food plot Tuesday morning where he had planted wheat, oats and rye — but because of current drought conditions, it was nothing more than dirt.
A southwest wind prevented him from sitting in a ladder stand positioned along a tree line there, so he set himself up on the edge of the CRP in a Muddy chair — at ground level.
“It never even crossed my mind about killing him that morning,” said McFarland, who builds gas turbines for refineries and has worked the last couple of years in Prudhoe Bay, Ak. “I really just wanted to see what was coming in there and tearing everything up and eating everything …. Normally I have a shooting stick, but I didn’t have anything. I wasn’t expecting to see him.
“And I’ll be danged if he didn’t come out. I was getting pictures of this buck on the opposite end of this CRP section. I never got pictures of him down there — I guess it was perfect timing.”
McFarland got set up around 5:15 a.m. and watched as a basket-racked 6-point ventured from the thick undergrowth of the 15-year-old CRP into the food plot about 6:45 — making a beeline for the corn and rice bran he had put out about 200 yards away.
“I was sitting there and thought I caught a glimpse of something in the CRP, but I never saw anything again for five minutes,” he said.
Turns out that glimpse he caught was Ol’ Stickers cautiously heading to the food plot.
“He made it all the way to the edge of the CRP and raised his head up, and that’s when I really saw him. I knew exactly it was him, and I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” McFarland said. “I didn’t move. I didn’t do anything. I waited to see what he would do, because I didn’t want him to see me move.
“He looked left down the plot and he looked right, then he walked straight out to the other buck and they started feeding.”
So McFarland — at ground level without a shooting stick — said that quick prayer, and freehanded, raised his CVA .35 Whelen for a second time on the big buck.
“I looked through the scope, put it on him and pulled the trigger,” he said. “He jumped straight in the air, came back down, went down in the front end trying to scratch out on his front shoulders and then got up and ran about 30 yards back into the CRP ….
“I sat there about 10 minutes trying to get myself together. I texted my wife and said, ‘I shot a buck.’ She texted me back immediately and said, ‘Was it him?’ I said, ‘I’m pretty sure.’”
McFarland evenutally headed over to where the buck had stood — and made a troubling discovery.
“I see white hair, and I’m like, ‘I hit it way low,’” he said. “So I started trailing, but there was just blood everywhere.”
Not wanting to push the big buck with a suspected belly shot, McFarland backed out and returned to his camp. He contacted his good friend Jason Archer, who coincidentally knows a thing or two about giant bucks.
Archer shot a 16-point that officially scored 200 ⅛ inches Boone & Crockett in November of 2013 that currently ranks No. 22 all-time for non-typical gun kills in Louisiana — only about 5 miles from where McFarland shot Ol’ Stickers.
“Jason said, ‘He’s going to die if you saw all that blood,” McFarland said. “‘Let him lay.’”
So the two men returned to the plot about three hours later and ventured into the CRP where the buck had busted in, with McFarland bringing along his rifle just in case the buck was still kicking.
But it didn’t take long at all for them to see horns on the ground.
“We walked straight up to the deer,” McFarland said. “When I got to the deer I had my gun in my hands and I was so excited, I just dropped the gun right there and picked the deer’s head up and was holding it.
“Jason was right there with me. I was hysterical.”
The buck is a true monster non-typical, with 15 scoreable points plus three stickers, and an inside spread of 21 ½ inches. The rack is somewhat palmated on the left side, and features a drop tine on the right.
Gutted, the 5-year-old deer weighed an impressive 225 pounds and stretched the tape to 188 ⅜ inches B&C.
The big buck, which McFarland saw for the first time ever on film in August, was on lots of trail cam pics — and hit lists — in the area.
He feels fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to take down such an incredible animal, but somehow sensed he and Ol’ Stickers would eventually cross paths.
“Honestly, for some reason I told my wife Hilie Sunday night, ‘I feel like I’m going to kill that deer,’” he said. “And a couple of days later he walked straight out in front of me.”
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.