Rainy day hunt yields Tensas NWR monster
Jeffrey Stallings usually does his deer hunting on public areas near his home in Colfax. However, he and a group of kin and friends were selected for a lottery hunt on Tensas National Wildlife Refuge in early December.
“We got up there that Wednesday to do some scouting and find spots for all of us to hunt the coming weekend; this was my first time to ever hunt Tensas,” said Stallings, 30. “After getting set up at the campground, we began scouting. We also had a couple of boats with us as we were next to the Tensas River and after about a 10-mile boat ride, a cousin and I started looking for a good spot to hunt.”
That Friday, Dec. 7, Stallings set up his Summit Viper climbing stand in an area he liked. There were deer trails, and rubs and scrapes next to a creek that fed into the river. Everyone was ready for the Saturday morning hunt — except for Mother Nature: The party woke up to flooding rains.
“Nobody even tried to go out early Saturday because of the heavy rain,” he said. “However, as the rain started tapering off late in the morning, my cousin and I got in the boat, I dropped him off to a spot he’d found and I continued on up the river another 2 miles to my spot, where I tied the boat up and got in my climber where I had left it the day before.”
All the rain had created a shallow lake around his stand, and the trails Stallings had found the day before were under 6 inches of water — but he felt like he was in a good spot.
“I’d been in my stand 30 minutes or so when I saw two does coming through the water. I could have shot one but that would probably have ended my hunt having to fool with it, so I passed up the opportunity. Five minutes after watching the does move on off, I saw something coming through the water behind the does,” he said. “It was a racked buck, but I couldn’t tell much about him.
“I just knew he was one I wanted to shoot.”
Finding a small opening through the timber in the direction the buck was headed, Stallings put the crosshairs of the scope of his Remington .30-06 on the spot and when he saw brown, he fired. But the buck just stood there, so Stallings fired again. There was no movement from the deer, but on the third shot, the buck took off. Marking where he last saw the deer with his GPS, Stallings went to the spot not having any clue as to if he had actually hit the deer.
“With all the water, it’s hard to find a blood trail if there was one, so I marked his direction of travel with my GPS and headed that way,” Stallings said. “After traveling some 200 yards in the water, the buck jumped up from a little knoll he was laying on dry ground and I found blood. This is the first time I realized I had actually hit the deer.”
Following the blood trail the buck left on palmettos as it ran, Stallings finally caught up with the big deer just before it took its final breath.
“Once I got to him, I wanted to make sure he didn’t get away again. So I took off my belt, and put it around his neck and a small tree so he wouldn’t get up again while I was gone back to the boat for my deer dolly,” he said.
After retrieving the dolly and getting the big-bodied deer loaded up, Stallings realized he needed help so he motored 2 miles and picked up his cousin — but the retrieval was a bear. Their dolly wound up losing a wheel, but they eventually were able to get the buck in the boat and back to camp.
“I shot the deer at 1:30 p.m. and when we finally got him back to camp and cleaned, it was 1:30 a.m. the next morning,” he said.
The buck, which weighed-in at 240 pounds, was a 13-pointer with heavy mass and long tines. The inside spread was 18 7/8 inches, main beams were in the 25-inch range and the buck was scored at an even 176 inches of bone.