John Michael Garcia got a ‘sweat equity invitation’ to deer hunt on some prime property in DeSoto Parish in exchange for his help on a construction project there — and took full advantage when he downed an 8-point buck of a lifetime on Nov. 18 in DeSoto Parish.

“They invited me out there because they needed me to work and come help them build a bridge. All the flooding up here in North Louisiana washed out all their bridges, and there’s a lot of sloughs that run through there,” the 31-year-old from Bossier City said. “They needed some manpower, some help.

“They told me, ‘If you come help us build this bridge, we’ll hunt that morning and that evening, and build a bridge during the day.’”

Garcia had gotten the invite from Jeremy Jeansonne, who oversees the Rockin’ S Hunting Club near Dolet Hills owned by Mike Smith. 

So he was positioned in a box stand that Saturday morning overlooking two lanes on a pipeline surrounded by hardwoods — and action was steady from the start.

“I passed on like 10 deer that morning, does and small bucks … They shoot mature deer only there,” he said. “But when that joker walked out, there was no doubt in my mind. If a deer like that hadn’t come out, I’d have ben real hesitant to shoot anything.”

Garcia, who was using doe-in-estrus scent and a bleat call, spotted the big 8-point on the edge of the woods at about 100 yards.

“When he came out, he wasn’t hot on a doe. He came out looking for sure,” Garcia said. “I knew they were rutting because I saw several of the small bucks chasing does. He just came on across the lane … I didn’t have but a split second to shoot him.”

Garcia’s Browning .270 Short Mag found its mark, and the buck bolted about 100 yards before piling up. He didn’t wait long to go and find the deer, and had little trouble after locating large amounts of blood. (The big buck went down about 500 yards from where Benny Bell shot a 200-inch deer on Oct. 28, he said.)

“All of a sudden, it was like somebody had 5-gallon buckets of blood,” said Garcia, who wasn’t prepared for the buck’s actual size when he walked up on it. “I was just blown away, honestly. I just got back form a week in Illinois to bowhunt some islands in the Mississippi River. We went up there and all struck out — if it could have gone wrong for us, it did. 

“We had some opportunities, but I came back to my home state and ended up with a deer like that …. I just felt so blessed.”

The giant 8, estimated to be 4 ½ years old, is expected to score about 150 inches, with a 19-inch inside spread and 5-inch measurements at the bases. In all the years of hunting on that property, it was the largest buck ever taken there.

Garcia is getting the buck mounted — but is donating it to Smith, so it will be featured at a lodge on the property with loads of other impressive whitetails taken there over the years.

“I actually told him for him allowing me to hunt, and for it being such a monumental deer, that I was going to have the deer mounted and put it at his lodge for his Hall of Fame down there,” Garcia said. “I’m going to put my name on it, but it’s going to be with the 60 or 80 whitetails mounted there.”