Brad Normand thought he was running a little late when he arrived at his box stand on Dahlia Plantation about 3:15 p.m. on Dec. 26 — but as it turns out, he was actually right on time.

The 49-year-old farmer from Effie had hunted on the Tensas Parish property adjacent to the Mississippi River for years, and opted to give a deer stand a try — although he admitted he’s actually more of a duck hunter.

“That week the rut was wide open,” Normand said. “I know a general area where during the rut there’s a really good buck either seen or killed. I’ve been hunting up there a long time.

“Hell, I don’t think I was in the stand 30 minutes and he came out across the right-of-way chasing a doe.”

The deer appeared to Normand’s left only about 80 yards away on a 12-foot-wide road, so he didn’t have much time to react. He was hunting in a bottom on the river-side of the levee.

“He stopped in the right-of-way and it was one of those situations where you either had to get your gun up or your binoculars, so I wanted to make sure — I got my binoculars up because at first I couldn’t tell he was that big,” he said. “By the time I saw in binoculars he was, he ran back up in the WRP (Wetlands Reserve Program).”

Normand could see both deer feeding in the thick WRP, but couldn’t get a shot. After a long 10 minutes, the doe did him a favor and headed back across the right-of-way.

“I knew he was going to come out, too,” he said. “Sure enough, he just walked out broadside about 80 yards.”

This time, Normand was ready with his Browning .25-06 and fired. The big buck bolted back into the WRP, but Normand kept an eye on the deer with his scope. It eventually went down, and he watched it for about 20 minutes as the buck kept picking its head up and down. Finally, Normand took one more shot and finished the deer off where it laid.

But he wasn’t prepared for the size of the rack when he made his way down to see it in person.

“That’s when my heart really started bumping,” he said. “I could tell he was nice, but I didn’t know he was that nice until I walked up to him.”

Nice, indeed: The big 12 tipped the scales at about 230 pounds, with a heavy-horned rack featuring split brow tines. Normand’s taxidermist green-scored the antlers at 161 ⅛ inches,  his personal best.

The buck is heading for a prominent spot up on the wall in Effie. In the meantime, Normand has taken some good-natured ribbing about his photo with the deer — in which he’s pictured holding the rack in one hand and a beer in the other.

“Some people said, ‘What are you showing off — your beer or your deer?” he said with a chuckle. “I said both: So far this year, I’m leading in both categories in the club.”