Joey Pender coached high school football for 33 years, retiring from West Ouachita High School after the season that just ended.
He led teams to a plethora of wins, and was probably unceremoniously doused with Gatorade along the way a time or two.
But the retired coach would likely have had no complaints about participating in one more celebratory shower after one of his former players - Rusty Autry - came out with a blood-trailing dog to help him locate a big Bienville Parish 10-point on Jan. 4.
“I have been after this particular buck for the past two seasons,” Pender said. “I would see him occasionally on my trail camera but all the images were taken at night.”
On that particular morning, Pender was hunting on his stand located on 400 acres of private land. Autry and another former player were hunting on adjoining property, and all three hunters had their eyes out for the big 10-point they knew was somewhere in the area.
“I have been seeing a big old doe just about every time I hunted my stand,” Pender said. “I knew it was the same one because she always had three little ones with her, plus she had a deformed ear. It sort of drooped down.”
About 7:15 that morning, the doe appeared right on schedule but this time, there was something different about her when she stepped out.
“This morning, she was alone; the three little ones that were with her every time I saw her were nowhere to be seen. I felt like maybe something was up, so I picked up my binoculars and was looking past her down the shooting lane when all of a sudden, he stepped out right beside her at 160 yards,” Pender recalled. “I have 10-power binoculars, and all I could see was a wall of horns, so I put down the glasses and picked up my rifle.”
Simultaneously with Pender picking up his rifle, he looked up to see a 6-point buck had joined the pair. As he was getting in position for a shot, the trio of deer quickly stepped back into the thicket.
“I was sick,” he said. “After hunting this buck for two seasons and finally seeing him, it looked like I had blown my chance at getting him. But about that time, all three of the deer came back onto the lane.”
Pender shoots a Thompson Center .30-06 and put the scope behind the deer’s shoulder and touched the trigger. The buck reared up and took off.
He was confident of a good hit on the buck, and when he walked down to where the deer was standing he expected to find the buck just off the lane. But, after following a good trail for 10 yards, Pender couldn’t find another drop of blood.
“Rusty and the other former player heard my shot and called me on my phone. I told them I couldn’t find the buck, so he volunteered to bring his blood-trailing dog,” Pender said. “Once they got there, the dog hit the trail and led them to the buck. It had taken a hard right where I lost the blood trail, went up a hill and fell in the middle of a clearing.”
The buck was rutted down and weighed about 185 pounds, but sported a heavy symmetrical rack with 10 points and had G3s and G4s all exceeding 10 inches. Main beams were roughly 24 inches each, with bases measuring 5 ¼ inches. The rack green-scored 155 ⅞ inches.
“I’m glad those former players were willing to help,” Pender said. “I guess they didn’t hold it against me all those hot days I had them pushing that seven-man sled across the practice field.”
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.