Clayton Chauvin definitely saved his best bow hunt for last.
The 31-year-old from Vidalia took down a 170-inch Concordia Parish 11-pointer on the final day of the season, Jan. 31, with a 25-yard shot in a food plot along the Mississippi River.
But as it turned out, shooting the deer was pretty much the easiest part of his day.
Getting himself situated in the right stand that afternoon, and then finding the big buck across a lake more than 600 yards away the next day, proved to be much more difficult.
Chauvin was a guest at the lease, and his uncle suggested he go to a big 10-acre food plot where he ultimately shot the 11-pointer. But another hunter thought he should have headed for a smaller food plot near a water tower on the property.
So after getting himself ready in the lock-on stand overlooking the big food plot about 3 p.m., Chauvin started to have second thoughts.
“In the back of my mind, all I can hear is that other guy saying, ‘You need to be in the other food plot on the water well stand,’ and that’s going through my mind the whole time ,” said Chauvin, who works in Ferriday as an inspector for a civil engineer. “So I’m thinking I’m in the wrong spot.”
Minutes after getting situated, Chauvin ultimately climbed down, left the big food plot, trekked through the woods and arrived at the smaller food plot near the water tower.
“I stopped and peaked around the corner, and it’s already full of deer, like five bucks and 20 does,” Chauvin said. “So there’s no way I can get to the stand, so I have to turn around and go back to the stand I just left.”
But after the long walk back to the original stand, Chauvin soon realized his uncle’s suggestion was right on target the whole time.
“As soon as I got back up in the lock-on and got my bow pulled up and got locked into the safety harness, I looked up and here comes five racked bucks,” he said. “The 11-point was the second one out in the food plot and I dusted him as soon as I could, the first shot he gave me.
“I hit him a little further back than I would have liked, and he ran out of the food plot and I didn’t really hear him crash.”
He waited a while for a friend to assist him in the search that evening, but daylight faded with very little sign of the deer.
“He bled pretty good out of the food plot and he bled pretty good about 100 yards into the woods, then he just quit bleeding,” Chauvin said, noting that it was a clean pass-through shot with a 2.3-inch Rage X-treme broadhead.
About 175 yards from the stand, Chauvin found a speck of blood along the edge of a big lake, and he was afraid the big buck drowned and then sank while attempting to run through the water.
“It was a sleepless night, to say the least,” he said. “I was a nervous wreck. It was the biggest deer I had ever shot with a bow.”
He and six friends met up at the property the following morning about 8, and the crew searched for hours without any luck. They combed a broad area, thinking the buck might have doubled back and returned the way he had entered the plot.
Hope in actually finding the deer was starting to fade as the day wore on, he said.
“Everybody else had kind of given up,” Chauvin said. “I was like, ‘Guys, I’m telling you. This is a stud. I’m not giving up on this deer. Y’all can go home if you want to. I’m going to look until dark.’”
Chauvin had placed an arrow where the drop of blood was found on the edge of the pond, and finally decided to use a map on his iPhone to see if he could pinpoint the line the big buck had traveled the evening before.
“I dropped a pin on my iPhone where he hit the water, then drove all the way around the lake to the other side and lined myself up with my map on my phone where he hit the water,” he said. “When I got lined up, i just turned around and went walking back straight into the woods.
“About 175 yards in, I walked right into him.”
It was about 1:30 p.m., and Chauvin said relief and jubilation immediately set in.
“I couldn’t believe it. He turned out to be a lot bigger than I thought he was. We were yelling and screaming,” he said. “We were pretty pumped up when we found him because we had been looking for almost five hours at that point.”
The big buck green scored 170 1/8 inches Pope and Young, with 26-inch main beams and an 18 ¾-inch inside spread. The deer was estimated to be about 5 years old, and was run down in the rut, tipping the scales at only 170 pounds.
But Chauvin’s third buck of the year was by far the biggest, and he realized he almost missed it trying to switch stands in the middle of the hunt.
“By the end of the year, my brain is going crazy,” he said with a laugh. “I’m always thinking I’m in the wrong spot, or I need to be somewhere else.
“Just over-thinking it, I guess.”