Isabella James learned from her father at an early age to be as quiet as a church mouse when she was up in a deer stand.
But her dad abruptly decided against that theory on a New Year’s Day afternoon hunt in Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area when he grabbed the .270 short mag she was holding and loudly rattled the barrel against the metal of the stand.
“I didn’t know what he was doing,” said Isabella, 16, a junior at Alexandria Senior High School. “He always told me not to make any noise.
“I was shocked.”
It was about 5 p.m., and her dad, David McMorris, had already tried bleating, grunting and wheezing earlier that afternoon without success.
So he decided to try to imitate two bucks fighting, and within a couple of minutes the desperate move paid off big time with the rut in full swing.
“Not two minutes later, we heard something tearing through the buttonwoods, “ said McMorris, 43, a pipe fitter/welder with Local Union 247 in Alexandria. “I mean, he’s coming, just crashing through there.
“I put my head down and said, ‘Lord, I know I’m being selfish, but please let this be a deer.’”
His prayers were answered as a heavy-horned buck barreled through the buttonwoods and made his way towards a 20-yard opening near a creek that was facing their two-person ladder stand.
“I clicked the gun off safety and said, ‘Baby girl, you got one shot. Make it count,’” McMorris said. “When his nose crossed that first tree, I bleated and he didn’t do anything.
“I screamed at him, and he put the brakes on, and I said, ‘I hope you’re on him, girl.' Then I heard a boom.’”
Isabella fired, and the big buck went down 60 yards away, kicking in the water.
“I jumped up and said, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ And I started screaming and hollering,” McMorris said. “I thought that tree stand was going to come off the tree. We’re jumping up and down, and then he starts to get up.”
McMorris told Isabella to take her time and take another shot. The .270 found the mark again, and a bullet crashed into the big buck’s shoulder.
But the tough old deer wasn’t done just yet.
He got up and started dragging himself through the buttonwoods, and Isabella missed with her third (and final) bullet.
“He’s not running, he’s dragging off,” McMorris said. “I could see him as I ran through the water. I’m hollering, ‘Come on, baby girl. Follow daddy!’”
So as darkness began to settle over the swampy area, the two followed the buck about 75 yards before McMorris caught up with him, when he was still very much alive.
They say that desperate times call for desperate measures, so McMorris, armed only with the brand new Case knife his wife had given him for Christmas, jumped on the buck’s back and grabbed his horns.
“He was trying to buck me, and I stuck him in the lungs and I could hear his air come out,” McMorris said. “He got up and went a few yards, then I was able to flip him over and stick the knife right below his rib cage, and he let out the biggest bellow in the swamp you’d ever want to hear in your life.”
Isabella watched the battle unfold from a distance.
“I was a little further back because he didn’t want me to see it that much,” she said. “I was scared we were going to lose him.”
The knife ultimately did the trick, and father and daughter enjoyed a New Year’s Day in Concordia Parish they’ll likely never forget.
The big buck sported a thick rack with 12 points, and green scored 156 3/4 inches Boone and Crockett. The inside spread was 16 1/8 inches, and the deer weighed 190 pounds.
“I’ve been hunting my whole life and never killed anything remotely close to that,” McMorris said. “But to have my daughter shoot it with me, I can’t even explain it. I had more tears in my eyes... I cried for two days.
“If the good Lord’s willing, I’ll be telling my grandchildren that same story at that same tree one day.”
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.