In the late afternoon on Oct. 28, Drew Ratley was just about to jack down his Summit climber and get out of the woods.
It was hot, and he hadn’t seen anything from his vantage point 30-feet up in thick woods on a river bottom near Loggy Bayou in Red River Parish.
“It was like 80 degrees and the mosquitos were bad, and I forgot my ThermaCell,” said Ratley, 28, a sales manager for north Louisiana in the oilfield industry. “I was burning up and the mosquitos were tearing me up.”
Then a doe showed up about 30 yards behind him, and quickly took off.
“I think it was because he came in and it scared her,” Ratley said. “And then I heard him crashing through the woods and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’”
Since the action was behind him, at first Ratley didn’t know what was causing the commotion.
“I’m sitting there looking over my shoulder and I see nothing but horns and he’s just a freaking giant,” he said. “He just stopped right there. He sat there for about five minutes and did not move. I couldn’t see his body, all I could see was his horns.”
Finally the big buck presented himself, Ratley took advantage of a small window at about 28 yards and his Rage broadhead found its mark.
“He came in nonchalant, without a worry in the world,” he said. “I had him broadside and I shot him right through the heart.”
The big buck crashed about 20 yards away, then got up and went another 50 yards or so before going down for the final time. Ratley’s taxidermist aged him at 5 years old, and the 232-pound back had a 22-inch inside spread with split G2s and green scored in the 175-inch range.
That ended Ratley’s quest for the deer, which had started three year’s earlier when the buck caught the bow hunter by surprise.
That day, about 8:30 a.m., two does ran passed Ratley’s stand, followed about 45 seconds later by a yellow Lab.
“I said, ‘There goes my hunt. This morning’s blown,’” Ratley said. “So I took my release off and was getting ready to climb down.”
That’s when he looked over his shoulder and saw the buck with his head down about 20 yards away. But his release had a Velcro closure, so he wasn’t able to tighten it back securely for fear of making too much noise.
“It wasn’t real tight when I drew back on him, and with all that pressure pulling back my release let go and the arrow went flying through the air like Robin Hood,” Ratley said with a laugh. “He did a 360, went about 20 yards away and got behind a big old cypress tree.”
With his release now down on the ground, Ratley managed one more shot pulling back with his fingers, but missed the buck’s chest by about an inch.
“I couldn’t breathe I was shaking so bad,” he recalled. “My father-in-law said, ‘You sure educated that deer.’”
That was the last time Ratley saw the big buck until the Oct. 28 hunt when he finally took him down.
“I’ve been hunting that deer for three years,” he said. “But I finally got it done.”
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.