Crowville’s Garry Ward has hunted the Tensas National Wildlife Refuge property since he was 6 years old — and at 58 he scored what has been green scored as the largest buck ever taken with a crossbow in Louisiana.
“It took me 52 years to do this deal,” Ward laughed.
The hunter said he was hunting Friday (Dec. 18) in the same area of the refuge that once was Madison Recreational Hunting Club, where he cut his deer-hunting teeth, when the huge-racked buck walked out and offered him a 20-yard broadside shot.
It was later green scored at 213 7/8 inches non-typical by TP Outdoors. Simmons Sporting Goods tagged it at 192 5/8 inches.
The discrepancies in scoring can be understood simply by looking at the rack, which Ward categorized as a “wasp nest” of antlers protruding from wide, palmated beams.
Either score easily places it atop the Louisiana Big Game Records’ non-typical crossbow category, which currently is held by a 179 6/8-inch Madison Parish buck killed in 2012 by Richard Caldwell.
If the TP Outdoors score holds, it would rank as the 11th largest non-typical ever killed in the state.
The kill came a couple of weeks after Ward and his son scouted the area and found some promising indicators of a big buck.
“This sign was just huge rubs — big as my leg,” Ward said.
After hunting last Tuesday from 9 a.m. until about 12:30 p.m. without success, he returned Friday before daylight and ratcheted up a tree with his climber. He was set up about 100 yards from a reforested area offering plenty of bedding area for deer, and he was overlooking an oak that was shedding acorns.
The deer already had begun rutting, a fact confirmed when he saw three young bucks during the morning.
“One of them came running by me,” Ward said. “It was a 7-point; I would have shot him. He ran right under my tree.”
That was followed by a 3-point and a 4-point, both of which were obviously trailing the scent of a doe.
Shortly thereafter, a doe wandered by.
After 10:45 a.m., it went quiet. About 12:30, he climbed out of his tree and shared a short lunch with his son (who was set up about 400 yards away).
Ward's afternoon hunt was quiet — until he looked up at about 5:15 p.m. and saw a deer about 70 yards out walking his way.
“He came straight to the acorn tree I was set up on,” Ward said. “When he got there, he put his head down and he sounded like a shop vac sucking up acorns.”
He knew the deer was a buck, but that’s about it.
“All I could see was he was 20 inches wide, at least, and it looked like something was wrong (with the antlers),” Ward said. “I’m really handicapped (in terms of eye sight) after 5 o’clock.”
The deer fed steadily closer, finally turning broadside at 18 to 20 yards out.
Ward still had no idea what kind of head gear the buck wore. The only tines he could clearly see turned out to be the ones on the ends of the main beam that were polished white. The rest were dark and just looked jumbled in the quickly fading light.
“If he would have turned around and walked off and somebody would have asked me about it, I would have said it was just real wide and looked like something was wrong,” Ward said.
But the hunter had seen all he needed, so he lined up his crossbow sight and sent a bolt to the deer’s vitals.
“I couldn’t have walked down there and made a better shot,” Ward said. “God really sent it right where it needed to go.”
The deer jumped and streaked away, piling up about 40 yards out.
“Then he got up and just stood there for a few minutes and fell over,” Ward said.
The hunter didn’t sit and wait to go see the trophy.
“I looked like a cat squirrel coming down that tree,” Ward said. “I had to go look.”
When he got down, he looked for his bolt, but it was nowhere to be found. So Ward turned on his headlamp, using the green lights to more-easily see the ample blood trail.
“I’m still not nervous, just calm,” Ward recalled.
And then he walked up on the deer.
“When I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’” Ward said. “And when I put my hands on it I was like, ‘Oh, my Lord.’
“That’s when I got nervous.”
He tried to call his son, whose cell-phone battery had died. So Ward called his wife — who, after calming the excited hunter down, was skeptical.
“I told her, ‘I have killed a movie star,’” Ward laughed. “She asked me how many points it had, and I said, ‘I don’t know: 20, 30.’ She didn’t believe me.”
Ward said the deer weighed only about 170 pounds, and it didn’t appear to be a really old buck.
“I felt his teeth, and they were in good shape,” Ward said. “I don’t think he’s a day over 4 1/2 years old — if he’s 4 1/2.”
The rack was just incredible, however, with 12 points on the left beam and nine tines on the right beam. But it could have had even more at some point.
“He had a pretty good slug of horn broke off the right beam.
The crown of bone sprouted from bases that measured 5 1/2 inches, and the mass only grew from there.
“At the eye guards, it measured 6 inches, and 7 to 10 inches from there on out,” Ward said.
Click here to read about other big bucks taken this season.