On the big screen, the Italian Stallion had some epic boxing matches with Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago throughout the Rocky movie franchise.
Last November, Jimmy Leonard did his best Sylvester Stallone impersonation with a buck in Pointe Coupee Parish — minus the boxing gloves.
Instead, Leonard used his Weatherby .270 Short Mag to literally knock out an 8-point buck near Ventress on the morning of Nov. 19.
Walking in toward his box stand that morning, Leonard came upon the deer on the opposite bank of a canal shortly after 6 a.m.
“We were both headed in the same direction,” the 59-year-old hunter said. “I saw something kind of jump and move, and said, ‘Man, that’s a deer.” It stopped and turned around and looked at me, and when he picked his head up I could see the horns.”
Leonard’s hurried 140-yard freehand shot missed the buck’s boiler room — but hit the base of the deer’s left main beam, blowing it clean off.
Apparently, the concussion of the impact knocked the deer out cold, sending it down for the count like Mr. T’s Clubber Lang in Rocky III.
‘When I looked up, all I saw was a white belly down there,” Leonard said, not realizing what had really happened at that point. “I said, ‘Man, you’ve done killed this deer.’ So I put another bullet in and headed his way.”
Leonard eased down the canal bank, then crossed over in a dry spot when he closed in on the big buck.
“He was laying down on his left side, so the only thing I could see was his right beam sticking up,” Leonard said. “I was just looking down at his horns, thinking I didn’t have any pictures of that deer.
“And I started looking at the body and I was like, ‘Goodness gracious.”
The heavyweight buck ended up tipping the scales at about 250 pounds — but Leonard immediately noticed something more troubling than the deer’s massive girth.
Just like in a Rocky movie, apparently one good punch never quite does the trick.
“I looked down at his belly and I could see him breathing,” Leonard said with a chuckle. “He was laying there on his side just like he was dead. Then I started looking and I was like, ‘Where the hell did I hit him? I didn’t see any blood.”
At that point, Leonard was only about 5 feet away from the still-very-much-alive buck.
“Before I could even think to reach down and grab him or roll him over, I saw his head kind of move, so I backed up a little bit,” he said. “I guess he was coming out of unconsciousness. He picked his head up and turned up and looked at me, and as soon as he raised his head, I saw the beam gone and I knew then what I did.
“I didn’t want to shoot him again in the body, but I had to do something. So I shot him in the neck and finished him off. I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, I can’t believe this.’”
Leonard retrieved the buck’s left main beam about 15 feet away, and figures the buck had about a 17 ½-inch inside spread and was in the neighborhood of 3 ½ years old.
He used some epoxy to repair the rack, and is keeping it to remind him about a hunt when he delivered a true knockout punch.
Leonard said he’s just fortunate that the same set of circumstances didn’t play out with him already positioned in his box stand that morning.
“I don’t get out of my stand for at least a half hour after I shoot,” Leonard said. “So if he’d have fallen down 140 yards away and I wasn’t paying attention, the deer could have jumped up and run off.
“The only thing I’d have had was a left beam.”