Ronald Wafer got an extra-special 12-point gift on Christmas Eve when he recovered the remains of a big Claiborne Parish buck he had shot five days earlier.

“It was a great Christmas present,” said Wafer, 64, who nailed the big buck on his 11 acres just outside of Homer on the afternoon of Dec. 19. “I was so excited and happy, because I was just positive he had gotten away.

“I figured that was just my once in a lifetime thing, and he was gone.”

Wafer, who served as an Army Ranger and Pathfinder in the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam, is a vegan now. In fact, the main reason he decided to start hunting again this year was to cull some of the deer on his property that have been destroying his garden. 

He planned on giving the venison to friends. 

“With the drought we’ve been having, the deer have been eating all the beans and busting watermelons,” he said. “I haven’t gotten hardly anything out of my garden, and I depend up on it because I don’t eat any meat.”

Wafer said he made a few hunts earlier this season, but didn’t see anything until the afternoon of the 19th when a doe made its way to the corn pile he had put out in the northeast corner of his property.

“I was fixing to shoot her, but I looked in the bushes right behind her and I could see these antlers,” he said. “I waited for a few minutes, and he stepped out.”

Wafer sighted the big buck in with his .223 from about 75 yards .

“When I shot, he jumped straight up and when he hit the ground, he was moving,” he said. “All I saw was a white tail. He was gone.”

Wafer searched for the buck until daylight faded that evening, then returned the next two mornings and looked for hours, but could never find the heavy-horned deer. 

“I figured I had the opportunity and he didn’t fall,” he said. “He was the one that got away.”

That all changed in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve, when his German Shepherd started barking and wouldn’t stop. Wafer went out to investigate, and heard coyotes howling not too far away. That got him thinking about the big buck again, and he went out late that afternoon to see what he could find.

“They were probably feasting on him,” Wafer said. “I don’t know when he actually died, but by the time I recovered the deer it looked like not only coyotes but buzzards had gotten to him, too.”

The big buck was about 2- to 300 yards from where Wafer had shot it — but not anywhere near where he had searched for the deer.

“He was in the opposite direction of where I was looking,” he said. “He must have turned around and doubled back.”

Wafer at least was able to salvage the rack, which he mounted and put in his house. The buck had an 18 ¾-inch inside spread, and was green-scored at 164 4/8 at Simmons’ Sporting Goods in Bastrop.

“After my father passed away in 1982 and being in Vietnam, it didn’t really excite me to hunt. But this 12-point — he excited me,” Wafer said with a chuckle. “I’ve got friends that hunt every day, day-in and day-out for years and they haven’t killed anything like that.

“I don’t know — I was just lucky to go out there at the right time, I guess.”

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.