Friday night (Nov. 2), the 26-year-olds shared a venison dinner together and talked about hunts each had planned for the next day, all in Claiborne Parish but in different areas.
Lewis commented casually that it would be extra special if all three of the life-long friends were successful in downing trophy bucks the next day. Incredibly, that is exactly what happened, with the smallest of the three deer taken that day scoring 150 inches.
But Merritt's top them all — a 14-point buck, it has been greenscored at more than 190 inches.
"I hunt on family land in the Leton area near Shongaloo, and I've been after one particular deer for the past two seasons," the hunter explained. "I've had him on camera since last year, and starting with bow season and continuing on into primitive firearms and now gun season I've been on the same stand 17 times waiting for a chance at this huge buck."
Merritt had seen five different bucks during the hunt, but he held off on shooting one because he knew the big one was in the area.
His wife, Jessica, got a nice 7-point buck off the stand (which is situated right on the border between Claiborne and Webster parishes) opening day of gun season, and she was back on the stand with him Saturday.
"Jessica shoots right-handed, so I had her sit on the right side of our box blind while I sat on the left," Merritt said. "At around 7:40 (a.m.), I looked down the lane and saw a deer step out into the lane about 350 yards away.
"Jessica put the scope on the deer and confirmed it was a doe.
Merritt, who was a lineman for the Haynesville Golden Tornado football team, was interested in playoff pairings and was checking his phone to see who Haynesville would be playing. But his wife's gasp interrupted his surfing.
"Oh my gosh, there he is!" she whispered loudly.
Merritt grabbed his rifle and stared through the scope.
"I put my phone down, put the scope on him and agreed it was the big buck I'd been after all season," he said. "The buck wasn't coming any closer, and Jessica and I agreed it was too long a shot for her — plus the fact I've killed deer that distance before."
The pair exchanged positions in the stand, and Merritt put the crosshairs on the buck that was quartering slightly toward him.
"When I shot, he took off running straight toward the stand," Merritt said. "I jacked another shell in my .257 Weatherby Magnum, but before I could get off another shot the buck stumbled and fell right in the middle of the lane."
Upon reaching his prize, the buck was everything he'd hoped for. Sporting 14 points, the mass over the entire rack was incredible. Inside spread was 20 ½ inches, bases were both over 6 inches around, and the smallest circumference all the way out was just over 4 inches.
Preliminary measurements indicate the 206-pound buck will score at 191 7/8 inches Boone & Crockett by Simmons Sporting Goods.
"Before we went hunting that morning, Jessica told me that I could make a morning hunt but that afternoon she wanted me to stay home and spend time with her and our 19-month-old daughter," Merritt said. "After I got the big buck, I told her I would not only stay home this afternoon but she'd have the pleasure of my company tomorrow, as well."
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