Inge Contois has bowhunted for six years, and always makes it a practice to attach her release before she hangs her bow and gets settled in her stand.
Well, at least that’s what usually happens, anyway.
Except for the afternoon of Tuesday, Dec. 16, when the biggest deer she’d ever seen in her life popped out of a tree line on Henderson Island in East Carroll Parish and started moseying across a food plot headed straight for her.
“The funny part of the story is I had not put my release on, which I had never done before,” said Contois, of Baton Rouge. “I’ve never, ever done that. He walked into the green field and I had my bow bag hanging on the ladder stick, so I actually had to hang my bow back up, grab my bag and unzip it - all while the deer is walking toward me.”
Contois was harnessed-in about 25 feet up a tree overlooking the field, but she actually had to stand and face the sycamore during the hunt because the tree didn’t provide enough cover for her stand from the other side.
“I’m thinking there’s no way I’m going to get this release on and get a shot,” she said. “By that point, the deer is probably 25 to 30 yards at the most, but he was head-on facing me. He had never turned broadside.”
Despite a solid case of buck fever, she managed to get the release on her Mathews Jewel in time for a shot just before 4 p.m. that afternoon.
“I was shaking like a leaf. I’ve never had the opportunity to shoot a buck that big before,” Contois said. “I’ve seen really big bucks, but never one in range that I knew I could definitely get a shot on, so I was nervous.”
Contois watched the big buck make its way through the wheat from the right side of the tree, but had to adjust when the deer made a gradual move to her left.
“I had to get my bow around to the left side of the tree,” she said. “My arrow is knocked and all, so I had to do it real slow so I could get it and not hit my arrow.”
The buck was walking steadily toward the woods, so Contois picked a tree where she thought the deer would likely pass.
“He stopped literally right in front of the tree I had ranged at 17 yards and I shot,” she said. “I knew I hit him, but he took off into the woods and scattered. So I marked where he was standing and watched which way he ran so I could tell my husband.”
John Contois told his wife to sit tight in the stand, and came to meet her at dark.
“I literally sat in my stand for two hours. It was miserable,” she said with a laugh. “I was dying to get down to see if I could find blood or anything, but I was too nervous I was going to push him. It was the longest two hours ever.”
Little did she know then her wait had really just begun. Her husband found blood where she shot, but decided to let the deer lay overnight and head back the following day to search.
Since they didn’t want to disturb other hunters the next morning, they returned to the area about 1 p.m. that Wednesday with Chase Koestler, the manager of Henderson Island. (The 6,500-acre property is located north of Vicksburg, Miss., and allows bowhunting only.)
They didn’t find much blood, but split up and searched through thickets for any sign of the deer.
“At this point, I had really kind of given up hope,” she said. “I just thought there was absolutely no way I was going to find him.”
But Koestler finally located blood, and minutes later yelled to the group that he had located the big buck.
“Chase had a jacket on and he actually covered the horns so when I got to him, his horns were covered,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, Chase. I’m thinking in my head, ‘He was a terrible, small deer. Oh my God, what did I do?’”
But Chase was covering the buck’s big rack so John could see his wife’s face when she got to see the deer for the first time.
“So John walked up at this point and Chase takes the jacket off the horns, and I just lost it,” Contois said. “I started crying. I was so excited that number one, we had found him, and number two, he was as big as I thought he was.”
She credited Koestler for managing to locate the deer, which she hit in the liver. The buck ran for about 600 yards before finally going down.
“I really didn’t make a great shot at all,” she said. “But we would have never found that deer had it not been for Chase and his experience.
“I can’t say enough about how good that guy is at his job. He’s unreal”
The buck, a mainframe 8-point with four symmetrical kickers (one undersized) green scored 154 3/8 inches Pope & Young as an 11-pointer, with a 17 3/4-inch inside spread and 4 3/4-inch bases. The deer's rack featured 22-inch-plus main beams, with 11- and 13-inch G2s.
It was Contois’ second nice buck of the season: On Thanksgiving Day, she arrowed a nice 136-inch, 9-point from a different stand on Henderson Island.
“I’ve had a really good year,” she said.
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.