When he closes his eyes at night, Bobby Neames still has vivid recollections of the attack he endured by a big 6-point East Feliciana Parish buck this past Christmas Eve morning.
“I’d close my eyes and have it go over and over in my mind,” said Neames, 46, of Clinton. “I’m looking at this deer holding his horns back, and his eyes were 10 inches in front of my face and his nose was almost touching my face.
“I can still smell his breath and hear him grunting while he was attacking me.”
He survived the harrowing attack that took place only 400 yards from his house, but not before the buck, which he had shot in the neck 15 minutes earlier, hooked him in the thigh, flung him 10-feet and then continually tried to gore his head and chest.
“I was fighting for my life, I can tell you that,” he said. “No doubt about it. Even the Air Med paramedic said the only thing that saved me was being a big 6-foot, 240-pound guy thick through the chest that was able to somewhat hold him back.
“He’d have killed my wife. In 30 seconds, she’d have been dead. He’d have just mutilated her. That’s how vicious he was.”
Neames wanted to share his story with hunters so they would be aware of a big buck’s potential to inflict serious damage.
“I want to warn people to watch out because they can be a vicious animal," he said. "Of course, anything wounded or cornered can be dangerous, but I just want people to give them some extra time and be cautious, because it can definitely happen.”
Neames' hunt that morning started out innocently enough.
With the rut typically peaking on Christmas Day near Clinton, Neames had decided to head for his stand before starting his holiday cooking.
“I was just going to make a real quick hunt because I was going to be cooking for Christmas Eve,” the foreman for a fabrication shop in Baton Rouge said. “We had some people coming over for lunch time.”
As Neames arrived on the edge of the shooting lane with his bolt-action .270 Winchester, he peeked around the corner and checked the food plot before walking to his box stand.
About 75 yards away, a buck that he’d hunted for three years but had never seen in daylight was eating rice bran at his feeder.
The buck saw him, so Neames backed up before taking a knee and steadying himself for a shot as the deer headed for the thicket.
Neames took the only shot he had, a neck shot, and listened as the buck crashed down after running only about 20 yards.
Normally he would wait 45 minutes to allow the buck time to die, but with holiday cooking to prepare and what he thought was a pretty solid neck shot, Neames headed for the deer after about 15 minutes.
“Usually with a neck shot they’d fall right there, but being he didn’t run but 20 yards and I never heard anything else, I walked on over there,” he said. “I was probably just too anxious. That’s maybe one of the mistakes I made — not giving him enough time. But I never heard him kicking anymore, and I just figured he was dead.”
When Neames approached, he found the buck very much alive, sitting up over his two front legs and turned around so he was facing the hunter.
“I saw that I had blown about a third of his neck off. His neck was huge, swollen up in the rut and all,” the hunter said. “Apparently, I didn’t hit him in the bone. It was just below his white patch.
“He was on a main trail, and he should have been facing away from me like he was headed out. But he was turned around for whatever reason facing me, and that’s where the problem came in.”
Before he had made his way to the buck, Neames had chambered another bullet in his .270 and taken the gun off safety. He had the rifle in front of him, but it wasn’t pointed at the deer.
What happened next occurred so fast Neames didn’t have a chance to react.
“I can remember making eye contact with him, and when I made eye contact it was just a second later,” Neames said. “He lunged up.”
The hunter was standing a full 20 feet from the buck when it sprang straight at him, its feet never hitting the ground until its antlers smashed into his right thigh.
“I do remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe this deer is jumping like this,’” Neames said. “It’s amazing how much you can think in thousandths of a second.
“I remember thinking, ‘This deer has just lunged out 20 feet in the air from laying down with his neck half blown off.’”
An antler tore into the meat of his outer thigh, and Neames was thrown about 10 feet to his right.
“When he picked me up and threw me, I felt it just rip,” Neames said. “I knew I was hurt bad because I felt it rip my leg open. He threw me like I was nothing.”
The attack was on now, and it got more complicated because Neames no longer had his rifle.
The buck did.
“I had a strap on my gun. When he hit me, it jarred the gun out of my hand,” Neames said. “The whole time I’m fighting him, the strap of the gun got tangled up in his horns.
“He’s fighting me, and I remember the gun hitting me in the head and slinging around. I remember thinking, 'If he don’t kill me, the damn gun will go off and shoot me.' I was scared to death because I knew it was off safety.”
The next several minutes felt like an hour for Neames.
The buck kept him on his back, and repeatedly tried to gore his head and chest.
“All I could do was try to grab his horns every time he came down at me. If my hands would have slipped off one time, he’d have just rammed the horns through my chest,” Neames said. “I knew I had to protect my lungs, my heart and my face. But I was on my back and I couldn’t get to my feet.
“He was out to kill me. He had got shot and his adrenaline was probably still pumping, and it was right at the peak of the rut, so his testosterone level was through the roof.
"I just basically kept holding onto his horns, trying to keep him from ramming through my chest. I’d get him off; he’d back up a little and come back at it. That happened time and time again.”
Neames, who described himself as a spiritual person, could feel his strength waning and remembers crying out loud for God to get the big buck off of him.
“The last time he came at me, something told me to just twist his neck like you’d bulldog a steer,” he said. “I twisted his neck, and he did a complete flip all the way over me.”
When the buck landed, one of his antlers either got stuck in the dirt or under a root for a few seconds, and Neames quickly got up and was able to move about 8 feet away.
Enough distance for the buck to have second thoughts about continuing the fight.
“He looked at me, and I guess he said, ‘Heck with it,’ and he turned around and took off,” Neames said.
The last time Neames saw him, the buck was walking away with his rifle still dangling from its antlers, and no one has seen the big deer since.
His son found the rifle dented and covered in blood about 30 yards down the trail the deer took.
“I’ve heard it a thousand times since then: ‘Man, you let him whip you and take your gun,’" Neames said with a laugh. “I say, ‘Yeah, I guess you can say that.’
"There’s nothing proud about it, but that’s the way it happened.”
Neames had survived, but now he had to navigate a 400-yard uphill walk back to his house with a 2-inch-by-7-inch gash in his thigh.
“Actually, to be honest with you, I didn’t think I’d make it back,” he said. “I was wore out, the pain was excruciating and I couldn’t catch my breath for nothing.”
He collapsed on his back patio, where his 21-year-old daughter Rebecca found him covered in blood.
“Poor thing, I scared her to death,” he said. “She thought the gun had exploded or misfired or I had somehow shot myself accidentally.”
She called 911, and police and volunteer firemen soon arrived. Because they didn’t know if he was injured internally, Acadian Ambulance’s Air-Med helicopter was dispatched, and he was transported to Baton Rouge General Medical Center.
He went into emergency surgery for about 90 minutes, and surgeons discovered the deer’s antler had penetrated about 7 additional inches under his skin beyond the large exterior wound.
“It hit right above my knee and rode up that bone, and I guess when he slung me with his horn it didn’t rip my leg the whole 14 inches,” Neames said. “It slipped out and just ripped the last 7 inches.”
He had three other sizable cuts on the back of his leg, as well, but X-rays revealed no broken bones or internal damage, and Neames was sent home late on Christmas Eve with 23 staples and numerous stitches holding the gaping wound closed.
Total healing will take another four to six months, but he's returned to work now and Neames said there should be no permanent damage.
Since the attack, one of the biggest questions he gets is why he wasn’t carrying a pistol or knife with him.
“All that sounds fine and dandy, but believe me, I didn’t have time to flinch,” Neames said. “If I had a .45 on my side, I couldn’t have gotten to it — no way in the world. If I’d have had a Bowie knife on my side, it would have cut me to pieces trying to get it.
“I had my finger on the trigger with my gun in front of me, and I didn’t have time to flinch. That’s how quick it happened.”
A veteran hunter of 33 years, Neames was admittedly nervous when he ventured back to the shooting lane in January and sat in his stand for the first time since the attack.
But he doesn’t harbor any resentment against the big buck over the incident.
“It was just a freak thing that happened. He was just doing what was natural to him, trying to survive,” Neames said. “I didn’t do anything wrong per se, but I probably should have waited a little longer maybe.
"But with the shot I took, I felt like I didn’t need to.”
Neames suspects the buck went off and eventually died, but part of him hopes its still alive.
“That’s the worst part about it — never recovering the deer after all that,” Neames said. “In a way, I’d rather he didn’t die off somewhere.
“I’d rather he live and maybe have a chance at him next year, you know. I’d sure love to, I can tell you that.”