163-inch buck busted on Jan. 17
Dillon Savoy and his wife Rebecca are expecting their second child — a baby girl — on Feb. 4, so the 27-year-old St. Amant resident knew that a hunt he and his dad scheduled for Jan. 17 would be his last chance to shoot a deer this season.
Savoy didn’t know it then, but he’d ultimately experience an up-close, heart-pounding, ground-level encounter with a wily old buck that he’ll likely never forget.
He hunts at White Castle Hunting Club on 14,000 acres in Iberville Parish, and had his eyes on a nice 10-pointer that ultimately got shot by someone else — which forced him to explore some different options on a scouting trip to the White Castle Canal spoil bank earlier in January.
“I decided to hunt the levee, because nobody goes out there. I was trying to get away from people,” said Savoy, an operator at Ineos Oxide inside Dow Plaquemine. “Except for that spoil bank, it’s all swamp, full of palmettos up and down the levee. I saw a lot of good sign, pawings, hookings on trees and trails on the levee.”
So he and his dad Lane headed out that rainy Thursday morning in his Gator Tail. Dillon parked the boat and started making his way up the spoil bank, while his dad headed further down the canal in a pirogue to hunt a different spot.
“I would kind of move on the levee when they didn’t have palmettos, and go in the water when they did, so I wouldn’t make a lot of noise,” said Savoy, who was carrying a folding chair along with his Browning A-5 shotgun. “My plan was to walk about a hundred yards or so and find a good spot to sit down for a couple of hours and do a little calling, but I felt like I kept on hearing something in the water.”
Water was still falling from the trees from an earlier rain, but he wasn’t sure what it was, so he kept moving and found a spot to position his chair on the spoil bank alongside some palmettos.
“I heard something in the water, and it sounded like a deer, but there are coons, otters and minks making noise out there — usually a deer in the water is kind of distinct,” he said. “Then I heard it again, and I knew it was definitely a deer. So I stood up and had the butt of my shotgun on the ground with the barrel in my right hand.
“A few seconds later, a doe popped out of those palmettos I was looking at 25 yards away and started walking toward me.”
What appeared right behind the doe really got Savoy’s heart pumping around 7:30 that morning.
“She walked a few feet, and the buck walked out right behind her — and he was grunting,” Savoy said.
The wind was dead still, and hunter and prey were only about 20 yards apart — and the gap was closing fast, with only a few palmetto patches between them on the 15-foot-wide levee.
“I couldn’t really move to get my gun because I didn’t want her to blow my cover, but they knew something was wrong. That doe looked at me several times. She ended up walking all the way to the palmettos I was at, then got off the spoil bank and walked in the water to go around the palmettos,” he said. “She went around and came buck up on the spoil bank only 6 or 7 feet away and stopped and looked at me.”
At that point, the buck was less than 10 yards away from Savoy, who stayed focused on the big deer and its giant rack.
“Every time he wasn’t looking at me, I was trying to inch my gun up, and by the time she got on the side of me, I had it across my body in front of me,” he said. “Me and that buck made eye contact three or four times …. I was telling everybody you could probably hear the buckshot in my shotgun rattling.”
At that point, the doe ran a couple of feet, and the buck perked up — so Savoy took his opportunity.
“I just threw up like I was on a duck hunt and shot,” he said. “As soon as I broke to throw my gun up, he went to take off, too. I saw his butt drop, and he was taking off.”
But the buck never knew what hit it: A close-range buckshot blast to the neck sent the big deer toppling off the spoil bank into the swamp on the other side.
Savoy went to pick up his dad in the Gator Tail, and the two shared a special moment admiring the 15-pointer, which was scored by a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at 163 ⅝ inches gross. The 6 ½-year-old deer had an inside spread of 18 ⅛ inches with 4 ½ bases, but was rutted down and weighed only 150 pounds.
“I was shook up,” Savoy said. “My dad was just tickled to tears. I was definitely glad he was there to share it with me.”
It’s Savoy’s biggest buck ever, easily surpassing a nice 130-class 8-pointer he shot when he was just 14.
“After I killed him, they had six or seven people that had him on camera in a couple-mile radius. He was traveling. I guess the people that had him on camera weren’t saying anything …” Savoy said. “I don’t think I’ll ever have another deer-hunting experience quite like that one.”