Stacey Mathews works as supervisor for the U.S. Postal Service in Jonesboro, and even though there was no rain, sleet or snow last Saturday morning — she definitely delivered in the clutch.
Mathews usually works on Saturdays, but after hearing the chilly weather forecast for Oct. 28, she took a day of leave. Fortunately for her, being on her deer stand resulted in downing an incredible 10-point buck in Bienville Parish.
“Once I heard the forecast of the first major cold front arriving Saturday, I knew I wanted to be in the woods,” Mathews said.
Neglecting to get her cold-weather hunting clothes laid out the night before, Mathews was late getting ready for what would prove to be her hunt of a lifetime.
“When I left my driveway in Saline, my clock showed 6:33. It takes me 15 to 20 minutes to drive to my woods and another several minutes to walk to my stand, located on private property I have permission to hunt,” she said. “I noticed as I was hurrying to my stand, the sky was beginning to get light in the east so I knew I was running a little late.”
The area where her tripod stand is located sits in a region known locally as “Saline Swamp” in Bienville Parish. It’s in a tract of hardwoods adjacent to a clear cut, and she felt good about the spot because of the abundance of acorns this year.
“I hadn’t put out any corn or anything because we have a serious hog problem, and I knew the pigs would eat up whatever I put out. I felt more confident about seeing a deer feeding on acorns,” Mathews said. “I had just settled into my stand, zipped up my jacket to protect from the chill and was scanning the hardwoods when I saw a big deer with a head full of antlers walking from the clear cut into the woods about 50 yards away.”
With a 6-point and a 7-point to her credit since she began hunting with her dad years ago, Mathews was hoping for at least an 8-point. As it turned out, her expectations were not only met but exceeded — except there was a snafu she would have to overcome first.
“When I eased my gun up, – I shoot a .243 - the deer was slowly walking but gave me a broadside view. I squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened — in my excitement, I had neglected to push the gun off safety. I told myself to calm down because I didn’t figure I was going to kill him anyhow,” she said. “I pushed the safety off but the buck was now behind a bush.
“Then I saw a big tree he was going to walk behind with an opening just past, so I got my gun on the opening and when he stepped into it, I squeezed the trigger — and I was shocked when he hit the ground.”
Before climbing down from her tripod, she texted her friends hunting nearby to tell them what she’d shot. Then she walked over to the deer 50 yards away and reality began to set in: She hadn’t gotten her big 8 — this massive buck sported a rack of 10 points of heavy antler.
“I knew this was a big deer but I had no idea he was this big. When one of my hunting buddies arrived, a fellow who has killed lots of good bucks, he told me I didn’t realize what I’d shot,” she said. “He said he’d never gotten one even close to the size of this one.”
Thankfully several friends arrived to celebrate with her, and it took four of them to get the heavy-bodied deer loaded onto the back of a 4-wheeler.
The tale of the tape and scales told an impressive story. After weighing the buck several times to be sure, the big deer tipped the scales at 275 pounds. Its inside spread was 22 inches, and the antlers featured lots of mass and were green-scored at 163 4/8 inches. The buck, estimated to be between 5 and 6 years old, was not yet in rut, and its neck measured an impressive 26 inches.
Had she not made a neck shot with her .243 on a buck that size, recovery likely would have become a major issue.