As it turns out, the best medicine for Stormi Collins’ toothache was just a little time in the deer stand.
And when a big 12-pointer chasing a doe walked into the field she was hunting near the Red River just outside of Natchitoches on Dec. 31, she rang in the new year with a bang — and a solid buck that green-scored 153 inches.
An aching tooth almost prevented the whole trip, but her husband Marcus (along with some Ibuprofen), convinced her to make the hunt.
“He was like, ‘Let’s go. Today’s a perfect day - the cold front is coming in. Let’s go!’ I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go,’” said Collins, 27, of Flora. “So I packed my stuff and my son’s stuff up real fast, threw some hunting clothes on and we got to the stand about 4 - later than normal.”
With the couple’s 2-year-old son Maddox in the elevated box stand with her, and Marcus in a lock-on stand in a thicket between the fields, her thoughts drifted to her father, who died tragically in a 2013 motorcycle accident caused by a drunk driver.
“Hunting was a big deal in our life,” she said. “When I was sitting on the stand, I just kept thinking about him and I was just like, ‘My daddy used to tell us we shouldn’t be grateful just for the deer that we kill. We should be grateful that we get to go out in the woods and see animals, and we get to experience that, because not everybody gets to do that.’
“I just remember thinking about that, and how happy I was that we have a place that we can take our son on a whim if we want to,” she said. “I remember sitting out there thinking how happy I was that I get to see birds, and get to just sit out here.
“I felt that day that my dad was around me. I felt embraced.”
Maddox dozed off on the pallet she made him on the floor of the stand about 4:30, and Collins focused on the field as prime hunting time arrived. Earlier that month, on Dec. 18, trail cam pictures showed a big, heavy-horned buck on the property for the first time ever, but Collins wasn’t even thinking about that deer on New Year’s Eve.
“Honestly, I had forgotten about the big buck,” she said. “I figured there was no way he was ever going to come out. We don’t get that lucky.”
But, she did.
Maybe it was just dumb luck, or maybe her dad, Randy Stech, had a hand in the big buck stepping out after a doe about 250 yards from her stand a little after 5 p.m.
“They ran out to the middle of the field,” Collins said. “They were prancing. It looked like they were playing games. He was chasing her and she was running.”
Collins, who is prone to buck fever, remembered her dad’s sage advice on not getting too worked up before taking a shot.
“He said, ‘Try this: Count one, and pull your gun up. Count two and aim. Then count three and pull the trigger,’” she said. “Make a decision quickly.”
She did just that, and aimed her brand new Remington Model 700 high on the back line of the buck, which was close to 400 yards away by then.
The buck jumped and kicked its legs on the bullet’s impact, then made a half-circle before keeling over only 20 yards from where Collins shot him.
She wasn’t immediately sure of the size of the buck, but texted Marcus, who inspected the deer on his way back to meet her and Maddox, who were heading through the field toward the downed deer.
Marcus met her halfway, and told her she had shot a young 7-point they had been keeping on the property in hopes his genetics would positively impact their local herd.
“I started crying because I was upset,” she said. “I was like, ‘I didn’t want to kill that deer. We’ve been watching him,’” she said. “I felt so bad, and I think after two seconds of watching my face melting, Marcus was like, ‘I’m just kidding. You got the big one. Let’s go get him.’”
So father and mother and son made a joyous bee line for the big buck, and the family gathered around the downed 12-pointer.
“I was jumping up and down, crying even more,” she said. “I was just in awe. I kept saying, ‘I’m so grateful, I’m so grateful.’ I was so happy.”
The buck, which tipped the scales at 190 pounds and had an impressive rack featuring a 19 1/2-inch inside spread and 5-inch bases, green-scored 153 inches Boone and Crockett.
The deer gave Collins, who works as a photographer in Natchitoches, not only a great ending for 2014, but a positive outlook moving forward.
“I feel like 2015 is going to be awesome for me,” she said. “I’m just so excited. I feel like it’s going to be a good year.”
And the tooth that almost prevented the whole trip?
“Once I got out there I was okay, I was good,” Collins said. “It hasn’t started hurting back up yet. Maybe it’s the adrenaline.
“All I needed was some hunting therapy.”
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.