Deer of the Year, Part II

Here’s a look at some more trophies that were dropped during the 2007-08 season.

Big bucks continued to fall as the 2007-08 season drew to a close. While the rut seemed to be extremely late in many areas this season, that didn’t stop these hunters from bagging genuine trophies.

Cocodrie surprise

Neither Brent Lafleur Jr. nor his father had ever stepped foot on Bayou Cocodrie National Wildlife Refuge, but they decided this was the year to take advantage of the special muzzleloader hunt there.

“They said it was full of palmettos, so we kind of had an advantage because we know how to hunt palmettos,” Lafleur said. “It was a lot like our lease near Cheneyville.”

The pair arrived the afternoon before the weeklong hunt, and hit the woods.

“We didn’t get there until about 2 p.m., so we just had two or three hours,” Lafleur said. “We found an area with a lot of tracks, and that’s where we hunted the next morning.”

His father killed a spike, but Lafleur’s hunt was even more productive.

“From my stand, I could see a pretty area,” the Ville Platte hunter said. “It was kind of like a big, deep slough with thick, thick palmettos on either side of it. There were scattered palmettos inside it.”

Experience had taught the 24-year-old hunter that deer like to travel such areas because they feel protected.

Sure enough, when he walked over there, Lafleur found tons of tracks.

“There were trails and some small scrapes,” he said. “Nothing outrageous, but a lot of tracks.”

The next morning, Jan. 8, Lafleur climbed 30 feet up a nearby tree, and waited for the sun to rise.

“Two does walked right under my stand, and then another one came out,” he said.

Lafleur waited until the does were out of sight, and pulled out his Primos Buck Roar grunt call, and sounded off a couple of times.

“About 15 minutes later, I saw a deer coming,” he said.

Lafleur could see antlers through the palmettos about 40 yards away, and as it got closer, he knew it was a good one. However, when it stepped out of the palmettos on the same trail the three does had used, Lafleur still didn’t know how big it was.

“His horns were so dark, you couldn’t hardly see them,” he explained. “He’s got those chocolate horns.”

The fact that it was still only 7 a.m. didn’t help, either.

But Lafleur didn’t hesitate.

“I found his shoulder, and put it on him,” he said.

The buck disappeared as the .50-caliber Thompson Center belched smoke, but Lafleur was confident as he heard it crash through the palmettos.

“I went ahead and got off the stand because sometimes on public areas, people will just claim deer,” Lafleur said.

The blood trail was heavy, so tracking the wounded animal was easy.

“I came out on a trail, and said, ‘This is where my dad’s hunting,’” he said. “I looked and could see him (in his stand).”

Lafleur walked up to his father, Brent Lafleur Sr., and told him he had shot a good buck.

“He told me, ‘It’s right there dead,’” the younger Lafleur said. “He said right after I shot, he heard a deer crashing through the palmettos and fall. He couldn’t see him, but he heard it kicking a few times.”

The pair hurried back to the blood and, sure enough, the buck had fallen right behind the elder Lafleur’s stand.

Neither could believe what they saw.

“We almost freaked out,” Brent Lafleur Jr. said. “We couldn’t believe the mass on the antlers.”

The mass began at the bases, which measured 10½ and 9¾ inches, and extended all the way up the rack. The spread was 22¼ inches wide.

“It has 12 points, with two more that were broken off,” Lafleur said.

The buck greenscored 174 Boone & Crockett.

“The anglers by themselves weighed 12 pounds after they were cut off,” he said.

All shook up

A.B. York has seen some good deer on trail-cam pictures from his 4,300-acre East Carroll Parish lease, but on a Nov. 2 bowhunt, he saw a buck that no one knew existed.

“I was sitting over a little food plot that afternoon, and a doe came out,” York said. “It was feeding around, and a big, huge 7-point came out.”

The Mandeville hunter sat watching the deer, enjoying the show.

“While I was watching him, I heard a deer hitting a tree,” York said. “You know, making a hooking.”

A few minutes later, the deer made its way to the opening.

“When that deer stepped out, I liked to choke,” York said.

The buck dwarfed the 7-pointer, but York was in a fix.

“There were several different times I had a chance to pull back on the buck, but the doe was watching,” he said.

The three deer fed and milled about for what seemed like an eternity, but finally York received a break.

“The 7-point decided he didn’t want the doe around,” York said. “When he did that, the big buck was looking away from me.”

The smaller buck walked back into the food plot, and York readied himself.

Opportunity knocked when both bucks looked away from the hunter’s stand in a hackberry tree.

York quickly began pulling to full draw, but found it difficult.

“It had me shook up so much I couldn’t hardly pull it back,” he said. “If (the bow) had been two more pounds, I wouldn’t have been able to pull it back.”

He struggled to break the bow over, and finally succeeded.

“Once I had it pulled back and they didn’t run off, a little smile came on my face,” York said. “I knew that everything else was easy.”

The arrow found its mark, and the buck streaked away.

York wanted to climb down, but his nerves got the better of him.

“It took me another 20 minutes to get out of the tree I was so shook up,” he said.

It was dark by the time he reached the spot where the buck entered the woods, but he found no sign of his arrow.

“I found five or six big drops of blood,” York said.

Not wanting to jump a wounded deer, the hunter went back to the camp. Three hours later, he went back.

“I looked around and didn’t like what I was seeing, so I left,” he said.

The next morning, York showed up and trailed the deer for 250 yards.

“I shot him just a little far back,” he said. “I shot a doe two days before, and I shot her a little too far forward, and I guess I was thinking about that when I shot the buck.”

Regardless, the buck was a true beast.

It was a mainframe 10-point with a 9-inch kicker. The long main beams contained 19¾ inches of airspace, and the smallest base measured 5 inches around at its smallest point.

The G-2s taped out at more than 9 inches, but the G-3s were actually longer by almost an inch.

The greenscore settled in at 171 3/8 Pope & Young.

“He was a real good deer, I tell you,” York understated.

Patience pays off

Chloe Modica has been deer hunting for 14 years, after spending another 10 years sitting in a stand with her husband.

“When we got married, I’d go with him all the time, but I didn’t carry a gun,” the Covington hunter said. “I didn’t know anything about it.”

When the couple had children, the entire family would pile up together and hunt.

“There would be four of us, and my husband would still kill deer,” Modica laughed.

However, the two boys finally were too big for everyone to fit in a stand together, so Modica took up a rifle so they could split up.

Fourteen years later, she had scored only one deer — a scrub buck she whacked about four years ago.

“I never wanted a doe for my first deer,” Modica said, noting that the buck she killed was so small she really didn’t count it.

Over the years, she’s watched the walls of her home fill up with mounts of deer killed by husband Joe and sons Justin and Jarred (now 20 and 19, respectively). Still she held to her determination to kill a good buck before shooting a doe.

However, she was ready to compromise when she headed out the West Feliciana hunting camp on Christmas Eve.

“That evening, I told him, ‘You know what? I’m going to give up,’” Modica said. “’I just don’t understand why I don’t see deer like you guys do. I’m going to shoot a doe.’”

About 5 p.m., a group of does was feeding in front of her. One was a big old nanny, and she decided that was the one to shoot.

“I put the crosshairs on her, and she picked her head up and looked to the back of the plot,” Modica said.

That was enough to make the frustrated hunter wait a bit longer in hopes that a buck would step out, but she soon wanted to kick herself.

“All of a sudden, they all lifted their tails and ran off,” Modica said.

However, the does soon were trickling back. When the mature nanny appeared, however, something was different.

“She wasn’t walking: She was sort of hopping,” Modica explained.

The hunter raised her 7mm-.08, but before she put her eye to the scope, another deer stepped out.

“Behind her was this buck,” she said. “I got buck fever real bad.”

With adrenaline coursing through her body and causing her to shake, Modica gave the new arrival a quick examination. She saw one side of its rack, and knew it was a shooter.

“We’re supposed to be 8 points or better outside the ears,” Modica said. “I could see one side (of the rack), and I knew he was big enough.”

However, the hunter didn’t spend much time looking at the antlers.

“I’ve done that before, and it’s messed me up. I looked at the horns too much and didn’t get a shot,” she said.

By this time, the buck was standing in the crowd of does, and there was no way to get a clean shot even though the deer was only 60 yards out.

“He walked around a little bit,” she said. “When I tell you I was shaking, I was shaking.”

Finally, the does parted, and Modica squeezed the trigger.

“He just jumped up in the air, and I thought, ‘Oh my God! I missed him,” Modica said.

The frantic hunter worked the bolt, jamming another cartridge into the chamber, and fired again.

“He never stumbled, never fell, never flinched or nothing,” she said.

As the deer ran for the woods, Modica chambered yet another round and aimed again.

“He was running away from me, and I aimed right for his tail,” she said. “When I shot, he fell.”

That made her feel better — because she was out of ammo.

“I only had three bullets,” Modica laughed. “I sometimes only take one because I keep thinking, ‘What are the chances I’ll get two shots.’”

Still shaking badly, she turned on her two-way radio and called her husband.

“Joe usually hunts near me, but that evening he took the four-wheeler and went to the other side of the property,” she said. “He knew after the third shot I was out of bullets.

“I told him, ‘I’m out of bullets but he’s down.’”

Modica, her husband and another hunter on the lease talked for what seemed like an eternity, but finally the hunter couldn’t stand it any longer.

“I could see him laying there,” she said. “I walked up real slow.”

Her first thorough look at the rack stunned her.

“I hollered,” Modica said. “Everybody in the woods heard me.”

The deer was crowned with a rack carrying 13 long points and encompassing 18 inches of air.

“I’ve seen a couple of bucks, but nothing like this,” she said. “I called Joe and told him, ‘It’s like on TV.’”

The buck greenscored 174 B&C.

Scent drags in monster

Scott Robbins lives in Baytown, Texas, but spends time every year hunting family land in Concordia Parish. The 1,000 acres of hardwood bottomland is rich, and family members know it holds quality bucks.

“We let a lot of bucks walk,” the Eunice native said.

However, it’s not an easy place to hunt.

“It’s river bottom, and there are a lot of sloughs and lakes,” Robbins said. “There also are a lot of palmettos. It’s real hard to see deer.”

On Jan. 13, the hunter walked into the woods prepared to at least see a buck.

“I had a scent drag on my boot,” he said. “A friend of my brother owns Southern Whitetail Scents, and he gives us some samples.”

He finally reached his target area, where he had found some big rubs and scrapes.

“The scrapes were old, so I knew the bucks must be looking for does,” Robbins said.

After hanging some scent wafers, Robbins attached his climber to a tall, straight tree, and pulled himself as high as possible.

“I climbed about 30 feet high,” he said. “You have to get up so you can see into the palmettos.”

Just before 7:15 a.m., movement in the palmettos got his attention.

“I caught a glimpse of something moving about 100 yards away,” he said. “It was a doe picking through the palmettos.”

While tracking the doe, Robbins looked behind it and lost his breath.

“I caught a glimpse of antlers,” he said.

After watching, he dismissed the buck, however.

“I thought it was a small 8 point,” Robbins said. “All I could see was the tips of its antlers.”

Robbins finally lost sight of both deer, and he continued watching for movement in the thick understory.

“The next thing I knew, the buck was 5 feet from my tree,” he said.

The scent rag was at the bottom of his ladder, and it seemed to be leading the buck right to his feet.

“I still didn’t realize how big he was,” Robbins admitted.

When it finally reached the base of the tree in which the hunter was sitting, Robbins was astounded.

“I was looking at it through the slats in my stand,” he said. “When I saw the amount of mass on the antlers, my heart almost fell out of my chest.”

Robbins froze, scared that any movement would send the big animal running.

“I just kept thinking, ‘Don’t move. Don’t make a sound,’” he said.

The buck finally began working its way behind Robbins’ stand site, and the hunter allowed the deer to walk about 40 yards.

“I could stand on the edge of my stand and shoot around the tree,” he said. “I shot it in the neck.”

The deer fell in its tracks, and Robbins took a few calming breaths before working his way down the tree.

He was stunned by what he found lying in the palmettos.

“He was just so massive,” Robbins said. “He grew when I got to him.”

It wasn’t just that the bases were thick — the mass continued all the way up the main beams.

“On one side, it takes two hands to go around the mass,” he said.

The inside spread was only 16 7/8 inches, and the rack didn’t sweep way in front of the deer’s head. However, it was extremely tall, and held 10 scorable points.

“It was the mass that really made the deer,” Robbins said. “He carries his mass so high.”

Although the owner of the land, Robbins’ uncle, usually requires bucks to have 20-inch-wide racks before they are shot, there was nothing but joy over Robbins’ kill.

“He just kept walking around looking at it saying, ‘That’s a big buck,’” Robbins said.

The buck greenscored 166 3/8 B&C.

Father knows best

Thirteen-year-old Brennan Stelly was having trouble deciding where to hunt on Jan. 12 while at his father’s lease in Tensas Parish. He and father Chris were going to hunt the edges of a large CRP field, but the younger Stelly had two choices.

On the one hand, Brennan could hunt a tripod near some big scrapes. However, there also was a box stand a few hundred yards away that had produced a 240-pound 8-point for Chris Stelly a couple of weeks before.

“I told him he should hunt the tripod,” Chris Stelly said. “He finally decided to go there.”

The two Carencro hunters hadn’t seen anything by 5 p.m., but Chris Stelly called his son on the two-way radios they use to offer encouragement.

“I told him to be watching: That deer would be moving out in that tall grass,” he said.

It wasn’t but about 10 minutes until Brennan Stelly caught movement in the field.

“All I could see was his horns,” he said. “I thought it was a big 8-point.”

The young hunter pulled up his gun, and searched desperately for the deer, but still didn’t have a shot once he found it.

Finally, however, the buck moved into a relatively open area only 80 yards away, and Brennan Stelly found the deer’s body.

“I shot, and it disappeared,” he said.

The buck was down, and Brennan Stelly could hardly contain himself.

He called Chris Stelly, and relayed the news.

“I told him, ‘I just shot a big buck,’” he said.

Chris Stelly had heard the shot, and told the boy to ease out of his stand and check for blood. The elder Stelly didn’t really think the deer would be that big.

“He’s already killed plenty of does by himself, and he’s been hunting by himself for two years,” Chris Stelly said. “But I still had a little doubt that it was that big.”

Brennan Stelly climbed down, and slowly made his way through the grass.

“He called me and said, ‘I can hear him kicking in the grass,’” Chris Stelly said. “So I told him to go back to the stand and wait.”

Chris Stelly and his brother hurried to the area. When the deer was found, it was still alive. Brennan Stelly’s shot had broken its back, but hadn’t killed it.

The hunters hurriedly put a kill shot on the deer, but the head decorations on the buck kept their attention.

“We were like, ‘Oh my God,’” Chris Stelly said. “I didn’t think it would be that big, but when I walked up to him, he was all that.”

The 210-pound buck wore a rack that held 13 points and encircled 16 ½ inches of air. The bases measured about 5 ½ inches around.

“I was just so happy,” Brennan Stelly said. “I didn’t know it was that big until we walked up on it.”

The buck later measured 165 7/8 B&C.

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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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