Deer of the Year

The hunting season might not have been the coldest on record, but there still were some magnificent bucks taken. Here are a few Louisiana Sportsman tracked down.

The 2007-08 hunting season already had produced two potential state-record deer by the close of October, and that proved to be a good omen of things to come. Despite weather that was hot more often than not, there were a lot of big bucks knocked down across Louisiana. Here are the stories of a few of the largest:

Kill that almost wasn’t

Castor’s William Cook was on the fence about whether or not he should hunt the morning of Nov. 29.

“I was just going to hunt for about an hour and a half before I went to work, but it was pretty foggy,” Cook said. “I decided not to go, and then I decided to go.”

It was 6:45 a.m. before the hunter finally walked out to his tripod sitting on the edge of a Bienville Parish pipeline.

Cook hadn’t been there long when a deer popped out.

“A doe came out and piddled around for a couple of minutes,” he said.

The animal was calm at first, simply picking its way across the pipeline. But then it crossed the path on which Cook had walked to the stand.

“She was starting to get a little nervous,” the hunter said.

That’s when movement back at the edge of the woods caught his eye.

“He came out on the same trail as she did,” Cook said.

The deer had its nose to the ground, but Cook could easily see a mass of antlers even from 175 yards.

“He wasn’t chasing her,” he explained. “He was just following her.”

At that point, Cook pulled his rifle up and concentrated on putting the crosshairs on the buck’s shoulder.

“When I see a deer like that and make up my mind it’s a shooter, I don’t look at the horns anymore,” he said. “I can look at them later, and when I was younger I missed too many deer doing that.”

However, part of the rack protruded into the scope’s line of sight.

“He had his head and rack between me and his shoulder, so I had to wait for him to move his head,” Cook said. “I could tell it was a pretty good deer.”

Finally, the buck moved its head, and Cook squeezed the trigger of his Remington .270. The buck dropped in its tracks.

When Cook climbed out of the stand and walked up to the downed buck, he was shocked with what he saw.

“He was a good bit bigger than I thought,” he said. “He grew some.”

The inside spread on the deer measured just more than 19 inches, and the rack had 14 scorable points. The bases were about 5½ inches around.

Simmons Sporting Goods greenscored the buck at 187 Boone & Crockett points.

The buck turned out to be the same one a couple of trail cameras had captured.

“We had a really good picture of him from a couple of years before, and he didn’t look that much different,” Cook said. “I never thought much about killing it.

“I was just hunting.”

The lucky-nickel

The Hinkie family has been spending Thanksgiving weekend at Loggy Bayou Wildlife Management Area for years, and there have been some nice deer taken during these hunts.

But nothing prepared the crew for the deer Amanda Fletcher Hinkie knocked down Nov. 23.

The hunt started like all the others, with scouting in October. On the morning after eating a big Thanksgiving meal, Hinkie crawled into her stand in a thicket about 100 yards from a heavily used deer trail.

After seeing several deer on the trail, she climbed down and moved the stand a little closer.

“There were a couple of old scrapes, but they weren’t anything that made me think there was (a big buck) out there,” she said.

By 8 a.m., Hinkie was settled back into her stand. Shortly thereafter, a couple of does eased through the thicket.

“I wasn’t fast enough, and they moved through the holes I had to shoot. It was pretty thick,” she said. “I was upset.”

As she lamented her misfortune, something shiny on the ground caught her eye. Hinkie tried to ignore it, but it kept her attention until she couldn’t stand it any more.

“I got down, and it was a nickel,” she said.

Hinkie picked it up, dropped it in her pocket and climbed back into her stand.

It wasn’t long before she heard a branch snap behind her.

“I could see the shape of a deer coming, but couldn’t tell if it was a buck or a doe,” she said. “I just knew it was a deer that didn’t have spots.”

The deer was picking through the thick cover, and Hinkie remembered what her father-in-law Phillip Hinkie and husband Joe Hinkie had told her.

“They just kept telling me, ‘You’ve got to find a hole. You’ve got to be quick,’” she said.

So Hinkie lined up her crosshairs on the opening nearest the deer.

“As soon as I saw that shoulder, I shot,” she said.

The buck dropped in its tracks. That’s when she first saw the animal had antlers.

“It was about 50 yards away, and I couldn’t see how big it was,” she said. “I could just see antlers.”

While she was still in her stand, Hinkie called her husband to come help her. Joe Hinkie had shot a 6-point earlier that morning, and already was back at the camp.

After placing the call, Amanda Hinkie climbed out of the stand and eased up to the deer.

“I just kind of stood there with my mouth gaping open,” she recalled.

The animal was huge, with a massive rack perched on its head. Fourteen points decorated the 25-inch-wide frame, and the hunter could barely fit her hands around the 6½-inch bases.

When Joe Hinkie and buddy Darren Peterson showed up to help drag the deer out, the men were astounded.

“They just took off running through the woods hollering,” Amanda Hinkie said. “That’s when I realized just how big the buck was.”

While she had been impressed with the size of the deer before, she still wasn’t certain it was a true trophy because she had never killed a buck despite hunting since she was 14 years old.

“That was the first buck I’d ever seen in the woods that I got a shot at,” she said.

The animal, which weighed in at 210 pounds, later was greenscored at 185 B&C by Simmons Sporting Goods.

She said that shiny nickel she picked up will now go on every hunt with her.

“It’s my lucky nickel,” Hinkie chuckled.

But she also recognized it might be a long time before she bests this kill.

“It’s all downhill from there,” she said. “I’m going to keep trying, but ….”

Tag-team effort

Chris Hadwin spends as much time as possible in the woods with his 7-year-old half-brother Luke Herring, but after their Nov. 10 hunt, the 28-year-old Keithville resident will probably refuse to go in the woods without the youngster.

Hadwin and Herring had climbed into a stand, and were “just sitting there” enjoying the morning when the younger hunter nudged Hadwin.

“He bumped me and told me, ‘There’s a deer,’” Hadwin said.

The buck was slipping through the woods between two sloughs, which was exactly what Hadwin was hoping would happen.

“I’d killed two bucks in the same slough,” he said.

There was corn in the woods, but the buck Herring saw wasn’t looking for food.

“He was just passing through,” Hadwin said.

The two hunters could tell the deer was a good one, so Hadwin quickly drew a bead on the animal’s shoulder and squeezed the trigger.

The buck jumped and ran about 60 yards before falling.

That didn’t end the hunt, however.

“We sat there another 30 to 45 minutes,” Hadwin said. “We shot him for a good buck, but not for one as good as he was.”

When Hadwin and Herring finally climbed out of the ladder stand, they couldn’t believe what they saw.

The buck’s rack was massive, holding 12 impressive points, including an 8-inch drop tine, around a frame enclosing 24 ½ inches of air. Simmons Sporting Goods later greenscored the antlers at 174 3/8 B&C.

“We just stood there,” Hadwin said.

He said the kill was made even more special because the experience was shared with Herring.

“He’s been hunting with me since he was 4 years old,” Hadwin said. “He said, ‘We finally got us a big one.’

“He was just about as excited as I was.”

Hadwin said he’ll be hard pressed to leave Herring at home from now on.

“That’s my good luck charm,” he said.

Second-chance buck

Vicki Husted was sitting over a Tensas Parish food plot the afternoon of Dec. 13, watching some does feed. About 4 p.m., Husted glanced away from the deer to check down a road leading to the green patch.

“I looked way, way down at the end of the road, and I saw a buck,” the Monroe hunter said. “I could tell it had a substantial rack.”

Adrenaline kicked into gear, and she hoped the buck would get closer. Amazingly, the deer began walking toward the food plot.

That’s when she thought the buck looked familiar.

“I had seen a deer the first week of December,” Husted said.

That buck was massive, but a moment’s hesitation left her without a shot.

Now it looked like the same deer was walking right toward her, seemingly bent on reaching the food plot and a pile of rice bran.

“The closer he got, I thought it was him,” she said. “I could see that drop tine.”

About 150 yards out, the buck disappeared.

“He turned dead into the woods,” Husted said. “I wasn’t that worried, though, because sometimes deer will do that: They kind of meander in and out of that road bed.”

Forty-five minutes passed, however, and the deer never showed up.

She finally called her husband, Billy to tell him. Earlier in the season, in October, Billy had arrowed a deer that ranks as the largest bow kill ever in the state of Louisiana. The hunter and deer were on the cover of the November 2007 issue of Louisiana Sportsman.

After lamenting her misfortune a few minutes, Vicki Husted hung up and continued her vigil.

“I was facing into the wind,” she said. “I really wasn’t even looking out my backside because I figured any deer that came out down there would wind me.”

For some reason, however, Husted decided to turn and look downwind.

She couldn’t believe what she saw.

“He was standing there looking at me,” Husted said.

The buck was only 60 yards from her stand, but seemed all too aware of her presence.

“I knew he smelled me; he had to,” she explained. “We were having a stare-down.”

After what seemed like an eternity, the buck again turned and stepped into an overgrown CRP field before Husted could snatch her rifle to her shoulder.

“All I could see was the top of the horns,” she said. “He was steady walking toward the boundary of the land I was hunting.

“I thought, ‘How unlucky is this? Somebody else is going to kill him.’”

And then the unthinkable happened.

“He turned right around and headed back,” Husted said. “It’s almost like he smelled something.”

The buck stepped out of the grass and began feeding closer to Husted’s position.

She didn’t wait this time.

She placed the crosshairs on the animal’s shoulder, and fired.

“He ran about 30 yards,” she said.

Husted called her husband again, but didn’t make a big deal out of the kill.

“I said, ‘He’s good, but he’s not that wide,’” she said.

As it turns out, Husted was wrong.

“He was 22 inches wide,” she said. “For some reason, I always underestimate deer.”

Billy Husted gave her a hard time when he arrived because the rack was not only wide, it had 14 scoreable points, double brow tines and 6-inch bases.

“I guess I’m always looking for a reindeer, for a huge buck,” Vicki Husted said.

The buck later scored 173 3/8 by Simmons Sporting Goods.

“It’s not as big as Billy’s, but it’s pretty big,” Husted said.

First muzzleloader deer

Robert “Robbie” Heard Jr. has been hunting his entire life, but he had yet to knock down an animal with a muzzleloader.

When the sun rose on Oct. 21, Heard was sitting in a box stand overlooking several shooting lanes on a couple hundred acres just outside of Mansfield. The stand was near the property line, and sat very close to a pine thicket on the adjacent landowner’s property.

“My dad shot a really, really nice 8-point not 200 yards from where I was,” he said.

Just as the sun began illuminating the woods, Heard saw a doe and yearling step onto one of the lanes, and begin walking toward his stand.

He just watched them meander closer, wanting his first muzzleloader kill to be a buck.

“I want to shoot good deer,” he said.

About halfway to the stand, the deer stepped back into the woods, and then came back out. Another big doe stepped out farther down the lane at about the same time.

That third deer simply crossed the lane and soon was out of site in the woods again, but that’s when Heard said a noise caught his ear.

“I heard a deer grunt,” he said. “It came from the woods where that doe went in.”

Still a little uncertain his ears weren’t playing tricks on him, Heard stuck his ear closer to the window of the box stand.

“I heard it again,” he said. “I heard it grunt four times within 45 seconds.”

The hunter began scanning the area, and realized the first big doe had stepped into the woods. The yearling remained in the open, but was just standing there staring into the woods.

“You know how deer put their heads down and look at something?” Heard asked. “That’s what that yearling was doing.

“I just thought that the other doe had circled around in the woods, and that was what the yearling was looking at.”

And then he saw movement about 80 yards from his stand.

“This son of a gun stepped out, quartering to me,” Heard said.

The deer was an obvious shooter, and the hunter quickly brought his muzzleloader to bear.

“I never came off the scope,” Heard said. “I was hoping he would give me a shot at his shoulder, and I didn’t want to look away from the scope. That’s when they seem to move.”

Finally, the deer made a move.

“He turned like he was going to go right back in the woods, and that gave me that shoulder,” Heard said. “It opened up his shoulder.”

The muzzleloader belched.

“When I shot, I looked up, and I had nothing but smoke in front of me,” he said. “I’m used to being able to see what happens after a shot.”

Heard said it seemed like an eternity before the smoke cleared.

“When that smoke cleared, he was right there,” Heard said. “He dropped in his tracks.”

Even then, the hunter wasn’t certain how large of a rack the animal carried.

“I just knew (the rack was) pretty tall, and I knew he had some mass to him,” Heard said.

When he walked up, he learned that his first impression was a bit off.

“He was bigger than what I thought,” he said.

The buck had 12 points arrayed around a frame that encompassed 19 ½ inches of air. The rack later scored 171 3/8 B&C at Simmons Sporting Goods.

Dad’s bow stand

Fifteen-year-old Brandin Owens of Columbia had a little inside knowledge of Boeuf Wildlife Management Area.

“My daddy grew up around it, so he knows it real well,” Owens said.

In fact, Chuck Owens has a standard bowhunting area he uses because he knows it’s such a good spot.

But on Dec. 16, the elder Owens decided to hunt somewhere else, so Brandin Owens climbed into his father’s bow stand and waited for the sun to rise.

“There’s a ridge a few yards away, and there was a good rub line on it,” Brandin Owens said.

The temperatures hovered in the low 30s, so it was perfect. The area also held water, so any deer moving around Owens would be easily heard.

That’s what clued him in to the buck moving through the woods about 7:20 a.m.

“I heard something to my left walking in the water,” he said. “I saw the legs and the horns, but that’s all I saw.”

The buck was coming from a nearby field, and was heading straight for the ridge on which the rub line sat.

Owens knew the buck wasn’t young because of the glimpse of antlers he had picked up, but he wasn’t sure just how big it was.

Instead of trying to determine that, the young hunter lined up his rifle on the one shooting lane and waited for the buck to cross.

“He stepped out, and I let out a little grunt,” Owens said.

The buck stopped dead in its tracks, and that’s all the hunter needed.

“I shot him in the neck,” he said.

Owens could see the antlers, but still wasn’t certain just how big the buck was.

“I could see the horns,” he said. “I thought it was about 8 or 9 points.”

So he called cousin Kolby Owens and said, “I got a big old buck over here.”

Kolby Owens told Brandin Owens he’d be on the way, but didn’t sound convinced.

He should have been: The buck was an 11-pointer with a 21-inch inside spread and G-2s that stretched to about 12 inches.

Simmons Sporting Goods later greenscored the deer at 167 1/8 B&C.

Owens said it was sort of weird that he killed such a big deer.

“My dad always picked at me about shooting anything that walked out,” he said.

No sibling rivalry here

Natalie and Nathan Lee had stuffed themselves on Thanksgiving Day, and decided they wanted to go hit the woods.

The Tallulah hunters figured it was a good opportunity to spend some time together, so they climbed into the same box stand between 2:30 and 3 p.m.

In the next hour or so, the two hunters watched several deer pass.

“We saw a 9-point, some does and yearlings and a couple of spikes,” Natalie Lee said.

They didn’t shoot because the property is managed for quality bucks, with a 130-inch minimum as the baseline for shooter bucks.

Soon, however, their luck changed.

“We were kind of sitting around, and Nathan said, ‘There’s a huge deer,’” Natalie Lee said.

The 21-year-old University of Louisiana at Monroe student turned, and the buck immediately caught her eye only about 50 yards inside the tree line.

“I saw this side profile of this big deer coming out of the bottom,” Natalie Lee said.

The buck stopped and began hooking a tree.

There was a quick discussion between the siblings about who would take the shot, and 25-year-old Nathan finally capitulated.

“He wanted to, but I asked him and he let me,” Natalie Lee said.

She pulled up the .257 Weatherby, and lined up the scope as the deer paused hooking the tree.

“When he stopped for that second, I shot,” Lee said.

The buck ran about 50 yards, and dropped.

Natalie Lee then began shaking.

“I got very nervous after the shot,” she said.

After only about 10 minutes, the brother-and-sister team crawled out of the stand and hurried to see the buck.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a huge deer,’” Lee said.

That first impression was correct: The buck’s rack greenscored an impressive 161 5/8, ranking it as the largest deer taken on the Tensas-Parish hunting club. The bases measured 7 inches around, and the 18-inch-wide main beams held 10 long points.

And even after the trophy was collected, Nathan Lee never second-guessed his decision to allow his sister to shoot.

“He was excited for me,” Natalie Lee said.

Christmas comes early

Tony Maurello has a reputation for being in the right place at the right time. The 19-year-old Walker hunter had killed several nice deer already, prompting good-hearted grumbles from older men he hunts with.

So it was no surprise when the buck ran out of the woods Dec. 24 right in front of Maurello, who was sitting a stand on a 15-acre tract of land near Zachary.

“I was watching a doe about 7:30 a.m., but it was 300 yards away,” he said. “I didn’t want to shoot that far.”

While contemplating whether or not to try to hit the nanny, Maurello heard four far-away shots ring out.

“From the patch of woods next to me, a buck came out,” he said. “He was coming toward me.”

The buck was running, but was close enough and large enough that Maurello didn’t hesitate.

“I shot three times, and hit him twice,” the young hunter said. “He ran off into the woods.”

Maurello stayed on stand for another 20 long minutes, but finally couldn’t take it any longer.

“I got down, and started looking for blood,” he said. “So I called my brother while I walked over to the tree line to see if I could find where the deer went in.”

While on the phone, Maurello found the trail.

“There was blood everywhere,” he said.

He hung up, and started tracking the big deer. He didn’t go far before finding the deer.

“The deer was laid up on the ground looking at me,” Maurello said.

The hunter froze, not wanting to spook the deer and willing to let the animal expire without shooting it again. The rack on the deer was impressive, and the hunter’s heart-rate quickened.

Maurello watched as the deer laid back down and began kicking. It looked like the buck was done for. So he didn’t shoot it again.

“I already had shot it up enough,” he explained.

Unfortunately, Maurello’s phone rang at that instant.

“I had it on loud, and when it rang, the deer jumped up and took off running,” he said.

The hunter threw his gun up as the buck raced away and shot it in the rear.

“He fell right there,” Maurello said.

The buck turned out to be a 15-pointer (14 scorable points plus one that had been broken off) with nice mass and width.

It turned out to be the same deer a buddy had captured on camera many, many times.

“We had over 1,000 pictures of that deer,” Maurello said.

Although he hadn’t gotten it greenscored, the buck would top 130 B&C.

“That was a huge buck,” he said. “It weighed 198 pounds field-dressed.”

About Andy Crawford 863 Articles
Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.

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