When Kelby Pearah traded a buddy for his old World War II-era Russian Mosin-Nagant Model 91/30, he never dreamed he’d use it to take down the trophy buck of a lifetime.

He hadn’t even fired the rifle, which is equipped only with open sights, since last summer, and wasn’t sure it shot straight when he got an invite to hunt Saturday morning on private land near Elm Grove in Bossier Parish. 

“Everybody was laughing at me because I’ve got a big old beard and I was using a Russian gun,” said Pearah, 24, of Mansfield. “I’m a gun freak. I shoot ‘em with anything. I’m big into guns, especially odd guns like that. I don’t hardly have any deer rifles.

“Most everything I have is a little unique.”

You could say the same thing about the massive 17-pointer that Pearah shot at 90 yards in a flooded hardwood bottom, about 30 minutes after four July Walker hounds were released on the property he was hunting.

“He looks like a little baby moose,” Pearah said.

The rack is huge and heavily palmated on both sides. It was green scored at Simmons Sporting Goods in Bastrop as a typical deer measuring 201 2/8 inches Boone and Crockett, with a 22 1/8-inch inside spread.  Estimated at 4 of 5 years old, the big buck weighed 240 pounds, with about 6-inch circumferences at the bases.

“We were actually running dogs that morning, but the dogs weren’t running that deer. I just caught him trying to slip out,” said Pearah, who works as a rodeo bull fighter. “He was cutting across a big old flooded bottom. 

“I heard some water splashing and here he comes.”

The fact that he and the big buck crossed paths at all is even more amazing because he ended up in that bottom by pure chance.

“Everybody got where they wanted to go, but since I was the invited guy, I didn’t want to get in anybody’s spot so I just kind of waited,” he said. “My buddy’s grandpa said, ‘Why don’t you just go out in that bottom right here? You might catch one slipping out.’”

So Pearah sat on a stump in about 8 inches of water down in the bottom and took in the awesome scenery for about the first 30 minutes of the hunt.  He even texted his wife a picture of the view.

“I was enjoying being out there, looking at the wood ducks and the squirrels. I was just sitting there, listening to the wood ducks, kind of lolly-gagging around,” he said. “Then I noticed the ducks starting to get up, and that’s when I started looking around. I heard the water splashing and that’s when I saw him.”

Despite its massive size, Pearah never got a good look at the buck’s rack through the timber before he fired - the first time.

“I knew he had some kind of horns, but I didn’t know what he was. I just saw a little white on the top of his head, so I was thinking a little 6(-point) or a small 8,” he said. “When I shot, I missed him.”

Heavy gunfire from duck hunters along the nearby Red River worked in his favor, and the buck trotted only 20 yards before giving him another shot.

This time the Mosin-Nagant found the mark.

“I racked another shell in there and the next shot dropped him,” he said. “Even then, I didn’t know what he was because I couldn’t see his head.”

He called his friend who invited him on the hunt to let him know he had shot a deer, and was talking with him as he made his way across the bottom to check out the big buck.

“The closer I got, I started whooping and hollering and I said, ‘Dude, you ain’t going to believe. He said, ‘How many points is it?’ And I counted out loud and I got to seventeen, and he was freaking out just like I was.

“You don’t every expect to kill anything like that, especially running dogs,” he said. “And those guys were awesome out there. They were plum tickled for me. They were just as happy for me as if they would have killed it, and they didn’t even know me.”

Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways and the random drawing for Nikon Monarch binoculars at the end of the contest.

Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.