This season, though, it all came together on Nov. 13 when the 11-point buck stepped out and Gray squeezed the trigger on him.
"I actually had a chance at him two seasons back when he was a 3½-year-old 10-point but I decided to give him another year to grow," Gray said.
The Centerpoint Energy employee who lives in Lincoln Parish north of Ruston must have started wondering if maybe he should have taken the buck when he had the chance, because although he had camera evidence the buck was still around, he didn't lay an eye on the deer last season.
"On one hunt last season, I heard a buck grunting while following a doe but it stopped just short of my shooting lane and never came out. There's no doubt in my mind, it was the big one who had just enough savvy not to step out into the opening," Gray recalled.
This year, though, everything came together for Gray, who was following the age-old admonition of good deer hunters to stay in the stand all day long during the rut because a buck can show at any time.
"That morning, I climbed into my lock-on stand before daylight with the plan to stay the whole day because I knew the rut was kicking in," he said.
Gray's stand is located on a 2400 acre plot in Union Parish he and five friends have leased from private individuals and a timber company. The stand overlooks a food plot planted in wheat with acorn-bearing oaks and a thicket within sight, an ideal setting for what would take place before day's end.
"I saw eight deer that morning; three were bucks but not the one I was looking for. I stayed in the tree until 1:15, got down for an hour to stretch my legs and get a bite and something to drink, and I was back in the stand by 2:30," Gray continued.
Just before 4 p.m., Gray began seeing deer. One group of does and a small buck came through and a bit later, another group of does came through followed by a small 8-point buck that was checking the does for breeding readiness. Gray watched the buck make a scrape and thrash a sapling with his antlers.
"Just before 5:00, two more does came off a ridge, came into my shooting lane and I saw movement behind them, recognizing what I thought was the big buck I'd been after," said Gray. "When he stepped out at 150 yards giving me a good look at him, there was no doubt this was the buck. I put the scope of my 30.06 on him, squeezed the trigger, watched him jump and run and saw him fall at the edge of the clearing."
The buck tipped the scales at 175 pounds and was a main frame 10-point with an extra 11¼-inch tine. Inside spread on the massive rack was 17¼ inches, bases were 5 inches each with main beams stretching to almost two feet each. G-2s were 13 inches and G-3s were 11½ inches.
The buck has not been officially scored but several hunting buddies helped Gray put the tape to the deer and the score appears to be in the mid-170s.
"I really had confidence I'd see this deer this week," said Gray. "I spent some quiet time with the Lord while I was waiting on the stand and I had a real peace about the hunt. When he stepped out and I shot, I said 'Thank you Lord' as I watched him fall."
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