About 4:30 in the afternoon on Jan. 12, Donovan Wiley and a big Tensas Parish 13-point started an intense 15-minute game of cat and mouse that yielded an amazing adrenaline rush — and eventually a 172-inch trophy buck of a lifetime.
Wiley was in his climber 20 feet up a pin oak overlooking hardwoods and scattered palmettos when he spied a deer about 100 yards dead ahead.
“I’d catch bits and pieces of the deer,” Wiley said. “He was in and out of the treetops and behind the palmettos. I’d catch a glimpse of a horn every now and then, so I knew it was a buck, but I couldn’t tell just how big a deer he was.
“He worked his way through like was in his own little world.”
A bowhunter since 1992, Wiley was armed with his Elite bow and Gold Tip arrows equipped with Thunderhead Razor fixed broadheads.
Eventually the buck made its way to a food plot with a tree that Wiley had ranged at 98 yards.
“He comes out in the food plot and starts feeding on some green stuff, but I just had a side view of him, and I was thinking to myself, ‘Dang that’s a pretty nice deer just looking from the side,’” Wiley said. “He was milling around in the plot, and finally picked his head up and turned my way.
“I saw what he looked like then, and I was like, ‘Oh my God. That is a definite shooter.’”
The problem was the buck was steadily moving away, and armed only with a bow, Wiley knew he had to take a chance with his grunt call.
“It was do or die. This is it. This was the only shot I had at this deer because most likely he was going to keep working his way east and go out toward the field,” he said.
Wiley hit the call a couple of times when the deer looked in his direction, and the big buck seemingly couldn’t have cared less.
“He dropped his head back down and went to feeding,” he said. “And I thought, ‘Rats! He’s not paying me any attention.’”
Wiley, a 47-year-old farmer from Jonesville, definitely wasn’t expecting what happened next.
“He puts his head back down and goes to feeding for a moment, then he picked his head up, looked my way and grunted twice,” he said. “And brother, I tell you it was like I had him on a string. I couldn’t have drawn a straighter line to me than what he walked.”
That was when Wiley’s adrenaline really kicked in.
“When he starts coming my way, I just about lose it. My heart is right between my ears just a pounding. It was nervewracking,” he said. “Because I knew he was coming in at that point. I knew I had his attention. He was coming in to check out that grunt to see where that buck was.”
Wiley had been standing up in his climber since the buck had entered the food plot, and after a brief scare when a swirling wind almost busted him at 35 yards, he drew back as the deer passed behind a tree on its approach in.
He let his arrow fly when the buck was at 25 yards.
“He took a step just as I shot. I saw the arrow hit him center mast up a little high,” Wiley said. “I thought, ‘Oh shoot!’ I was hoping I got part of the liver, but it was definitely a gut shot.”
The buck ran off, but Wiley was able to watch him the whole time. He eventually saw the big deer fall near a treetop about 80 yards away.
“I thought he went down, so I turned and sat down and started texting everybody like I was the hero who had busted a big one,” Wiley said with a chuckle.
But minutes later, he heard more rustling in the area and checked the spot again.
“That joker is standing up on the opposite side of the top I had seen him at. I said, ‘Well, here we go. I’m going to keep my eye on him as long as I can,'" Wiley said. "He’d take a couple of steps and stop and just stand there. And then take a few more steps and stop and just stand there.
“The way the deer was acting I knew he was hurt bad. I felt more confident that I did have the liver more than just a gut shot. But he worked his way around the top and he disappeared in it.”
At that point, in an epic display of patience, Wiley gathered up his things and walked out away from the buck to meet his friends.
“I didn’t want to bust him out of that treetop,” he said. “I just wanted to let him lay.”
Some of his buddies suggested they head back in for the deer before coyotes got there first.
“I said, “I ain’t fooling with him,’” Wiley said. “If we bust that deer out of that top and can’t follow a blood trail, I’m not going to get him and the coyotes are still going to get him anyway.”
After enduring a rough night of sleep that felt like it lasted a week, Wiley returned to the 500-acre property near Waterproof and the treetop in question about 9 the next morning — and found the big buck piled up right where he had last spotted it.
“I was shaking so bad, I couldn’t barely tear my tags apart,” he said. “I thought I was going to have to get them to fill my tag out for me I was shaking so bad.”
The heavy-horned buck was well worth the 16-hour wait: with 5 ½-inch bases and a 17 ½-inch inside spread, the typical 12 had a split brow tine for a total of 13 points. The deer, which was spotted only once on trail cams last November, weighed 195 pounds and was estimated to be 4 ½ years old.
It green-scored 172 6/8 — by far the largest of Wiley’s six Pope & Young bucks. It’s at the taxidermist now, and Wiley already has a spot for it in his living room.
“That’s where all the traffic comes though the house,” he siad. “That’s the center point of attention.”
The big buck will always remind Wiley of a special day in the woods when his grunt call worked like a charm — and gave him an adrenaline rush all bowhunters crave.
“The day I shoot a doe and it doesn’t give me the shakes is the day I’ll sell my archery equipment and take up golf,” he said.
Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways and the random drawing for Nikon optics at the end of the contest.
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.