When the big buck you’re after finally makes a rare daytime appearance and you pull the trigger and hear a snap instead of a boom, what do you do? 

Well, when it happens a second time, full-on panic mode kicks in.

That’s exactly what happened on Dec. 18 to Stonewall’s Rusty Thames, a retired Shreveport firefighter. 

“I hunt a lease in Red River Parish and for the past three to four weeks, I’ve been seeing this big 8-point buck on camera, all at night,” Thames said. “I had hunted a stand on a pipeline that morning where I thought the buck might show, but to no avail.”

After spending all morning on the pipeline, Thames decided to make a switch and went to another stand where he had been seeing deer. 

But at the last minute, he had a change of heart.

“I got all the way to the stand where I had been seeing deer when something in my spirit said I was making a mistake,” he said. “I got the feeling I needed to be back on the pipeline stand.”

So he headed back that way, and sat there until late afternoon when he watched four does step out on the line at 450 yards. They fed a while and then walked off into the woods.

“I knew it was getting late with not much legal shooting time remaining when I happened to look to my left and saw a doe step out at 140 yards. Then he stepped out behind the doe,” Thames said. “My heart got to beating really fast as I got the crosshairs on my .300 Ultra-Mag behind his shoulder and hit the trigger.”

What happened next is every deer hunter’s nightmare — one that would be repeated twice in just a matter of seconds.

“I got the scope on him, pressed the trigger and … snap. The bullet didn’t fire. I looked and the buck was still standing there so I ejected that bullet and jacked in another,” he said. “Taking my time, I put it on his shoulder, hit the trigger and … snap. 

“My rifle only holds three bullets and I only have one left so I’m starting to hit the panic mode. I’m shooting reloads and am seriously questioning if any of these bullets will fire.”

Fortunately, the third bullet worked — but in his excited state, Thames had no idea which way the deer took off when he shot.

“My gun has a muzzle brake on it and I have netting on the window of my blind and when the gun fired, the percussion of the muzzle brake caused the netting to drop down, obscuring my vision so I had no idea which way the deer ran,” he said.

Crawling down from his stand as darkness encroached, Thames walked down to where the deer was standing and found absolutely nothing — no blood, hair or evidence of a hit.

“I called a friend of mine who has a blood trailing dog, and he came with the dog that was outfitted with not only a GPS but a cow bell,” Thames said. “The dog immediately hit the scent, took off to the left with bell clanging when suddenly the clanging stopped. 

“We walked up behind him and there lay my buck.”

The big deer was a dandy, weighing 220 pounds with a symmetrical rack with only a ¼-inch difference between the two sides. The inside spread was 19 5/8 inches and the buck green-scored 140 7/8 inches, impressive for an 8-point.

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.