Note: You can listen to the above deer sounds throughout the article as well as at the bottom of the page.
A New Deer Hunting Property
The 2010 deer season in South Carolina held some great memories for me. I had been granted permission to hunt some new property that was only 3 miles from my house!
The catch? It was bow only property. No guns allowed.
The South Carolina archery only season was already over and we were getting some consistent colder weather. But, the truth is, I really wasn’t disappointed to be hunting with my bow during gun season, because deer hunting just makes me want to say “Bowhunt Oh Yeah!” In fact, I hadn’t even hunted with my rifle since 2009.
It was a chilly, November 18 morning, and the rut was in full swing. I had seen a fair amount of rutting activity, but had not seen any bucks that got me very excited. But, when you love to bowhunt, it’s a great time to be in the woods.
I had parked my truck and was making the walk to my stand on the downwind side of where I would be hunting.
My stand location was in a head of hardwoods that contained several white oaks. I’ve always loved hunting locations that contain white oaks, especially in early fall, as the acorns are falling. But although the deer love them, by now, there weren’t any left for them to enjoy.
Nonetheless, it was a good location on the edge of a fairly large clear cut that the deer would typically transition through on their way to the other side of the property.
There was a gate opening that I needed to walk through to enter the woods where my stand location was.
I had gotten about three steps through the gate, when the head of woods I was about to enter exploded with the sounds of deer blowing. It was still too dark to see, but it sounded like a small army of whitetail had just left the building. I stopped and listened, as the sounds of their escape got farther and farther away.
PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT A DEER BLOW / SNORT SOUNDS LIKE… Deer will blow (or snort) to alert other deer of danger. Deer often blow as a result of seeing or smelling something perceived as dangerous. Sometimes deer will blow and stomp to try and get a predator (or person) that they believe is in the area to move and thus reveal their location.(This is not to be confused with a “snort wheeze” sound that a buck makes).It’s important to be as scent-free as possible and pay attention to wind direction when hunting, so you can avoid a blow/snort that ruins your hunt!MORE DEER SOUNDS FURTHER DOWN PAGE!
Well, there I was (and they knew it). I had that sick feeling that might have made one want to just go back to the truck. But, this was the rut, and I love to hunt whether the deer blow me up or not!
I found my tree and got in my stand, pulled up my bow, and got settled. By now, it was first light but the sun was not yet up.
The whitetail doe grunt
After sitting for 10 minutes or so, I thought it might be a good idea to give my grunt call a soft doe grunt. My thinking was, “maybe if they hear this, they’ll think things have settled down and are safe again.”
So, I blew on my grunt call softly, making a “social grunt” noise.
PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT A DOE GRUNT SOUNDS LIKE… Does use this sound as a “social grunt” as a way of communicating with each other. It can be a useful call when hunting to attract does closer to your stand or hunting location. MORE DEER SOUNDS FURTHER DOWN PAGE!
A fast appearance
It had probably been only 10 seconds after grunting, that I could see a deer appear about 100 yards away, on the field edge. Even at that distance, I could see his horns and I was interested!
No sooner than he appeared, he began running toward the head of woods I was in. He got to a well traveled path at the edge of the hardwoods and slowed down, turned, and began walking toward me.
By now my heart is racing pretty good, because I can see this deer is a shooter, and I have gone from heartbroken to hopeful in a matter of minutes.
This is where I have to say that the buck walking toward me had one of the better set of antlers I had seen in my area of South Carolina. In recent years, SCDNR bag limits had been high. Many believe that these high limits, coupled with poor deer management, had resulted in fewer mature bucks in South Carolina.
All I knew was, the age and size of the deer walking toward me was not commonplace in my area.
I had my bow in my hand, but didn’t feel I was going to be able to stand up without messing something up. My archery stance on this deer was going to be… sitting down. I sat and watched him inch closer.
Prior to getting in the tree stand, I had put some estrous scent on a tree limb about 20 yards away. He walked right past it. But, the worst part was that in about 3 more steps, I knew he would be downwind of me, and be gone!
I couldn’t believe I was about to watch the biggest South Carolina buck I had encountered leave my life. But, unfortunately, it was all but over.
Just as I thought this hunt was coming to an end (for the second time in minutes), he stopped, turned around, and walked back to the tree limb where I had put the estrous scent.
I knew this was my chance. So, I quietly went to full draw. I thought, “ok, aim small, miss small.” But, there was just one, really big, problem. I looked through my peep and saw, well nothing. It was still too dark in that head of woods to clearly see the buck.
If this buck would stay for a few minutes, there would be enough light through the trees to see his vitals clearly. But, I knew with chasing does on his mind, he probably wasn’t staying much longer. And, I knew that in that particular location, the wind had a tendency to swirl from time to time.
The prayer, the draw, the release
I can’t remember everything that was racing through my mind at that point, but I know I probably prayed a few fast words. It’s amazing how fast I can get to a prayerful state of mind when a big buck is nearby (amazing and shameful!)
As I was still at full draw, I moved my eye outside of my peep, so that I could see the buck through my site pins. Then, I slowly looked back through the peep and could see the target… barely.
I released my arrow and he gave the ‘ole donkey kick. He bolted down the draw and out of sight. I sat for two hours, wondering how this whole story was going to end.
The wait and the search
So far that morning, I had heard deer blow and deer run… now, all I wanted to hear was, “wow, that’s a nice buck there in the back of your truck!”
During those two hours, I scanned the ground endlessly, hoping to see a bloody arrow. I saw nothing. Of course, then the doubts set in… “did I make a good shot? How far did he go? Will I ever find him?” It was agonizing.
Finally, I decided to get down and go look. I walked out 20 yards to where I had shot him and I saw my arrow lying on the ground, the arrow shaft and my broadhead half-covered by the forest floor. My arrow had been Just Pass’N Through!
I picked it up and immediately got some encouragement… bright pink, frothy blood on my fletches. Things were looking up!
I followed along the faint blood trail. It wasn’t significant, but it was enough to keep me moving to the next spots of blood.
After 150 yards or so, I reached a small creek that ran through the property. I was till intently focused on the ground near my feet, checking for any small clue I could find. The blood trail had stopped.
I looked up and about 30 yards away, in the creek, was the buck. I held both hands high and thanked the Lord for answering my desperate (yet somewhat shallow) prayer.
The shot turned out to be a double-lung pass through. (We love pass throughs so much, we even made a shirt about them!)
The morning started with deer blowing up the woods… but it ended with a solid buck down.
I was by myself with no one to help me drag this deer out. I could either drag him about 200 yards uphill, or try to drag him through the muddy, swampy mess of a creek. So, I chose option 2.
I was able to use the shallow creek as assistance and slide the buck through the area for the long 300 yard trek back to the truck.
A short drive and a few pictures later, I had officially sealed the deal on one of my most memorable N1 Moments.
Deer sounds: The key to this N1 Moment
Looking back, I’m glad for the deer noises I heard that day… the deer blowing, the deer running, and finally, the deer sliding through the creek bed on it’s way to my freezer and my wall.
LISTEN BELOW FOR MORE DOE AND BUCK NOISES…
Buck Grunt Sound
PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT A BUCK GRUNT SOUNDS LIKE.Much like a doe grunt, the buck grunt is a noise a buck makes to communicate socially with other bucks in the herd. It can be a useful call for a hunter to get a buck’s attention as an attempt to lure him closer into shooting range.
Doe Bleat Sound
PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT A DOE BLEAT SOUNDS LIKE. Does use bleats to communicate with each other, especially in the presence of their fawns. Fawns will also bleat when in danger, which will often attract adult deer to come looking for the fawn in distress. The bleat is a good deer noise to have in your calling arsenal when hunting, as it can draw does toward your stand location, which can also lure bucks in search of does, especially during the rut.
Estrus Doe Bleat Sound
PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT AN ESTRUS DOE BLEAT SOUNDS LIKE.Does will give estrus bleats to indicate to bucks in the area that they are ready to breed. This is a good deer sound to use when calling during the rut.
Buck Trailing Grunt Sound (Tending Grunt)
PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT A TRAILING BUCK GRUNT SOUNDS LIKE.Bucks will use this call when following an estrus doe. This grunt is in short bursts and sometimes is in cadence with each step the buck takes.
Buck Bawl Sound
PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT A BUCK BAWL SOUNDS LIKE. Bucks get lonely too! Bucks will make this sound to signal other deer for company.
Enraged Buck Sound
PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT A BUCK RAGE GRUNT SOUNDS LIKE. Bucks will make this noise when a doe they want to breed will not cooperate.
Sparring Bucks Sound
PRESS PLAY ABOVE TO HEAR THE SOUND OF BUCKS SPARRING AND GRUNTING. Bucks will clash antlers to establish dominance for breeding rights.
So, what’s it like owning a whitetail world record?
Let me walk you through my experience of the “Tucker Buck…”
It was the second week of September, 2016. My uncle and I had just finished shelling corn in Sumner County, Tennessee.
While I was headed to the truck, my uncle called me and said, “Stephen look at this deer, he’s on your right. He is going to come out from behind the bushes right in front of you.”
I stopped, and the deer walked out, looking at me. I stared at him and could not believe what I was seeing. About 20 seconds went by and then he ran back into the thicket.
Over the next couple months, I got some trail cam pictures of him. I had actually seen him twice while hunting.
Then, on November 7, after hunting him off and on, he walked out for the third and final time. But, before I tell you about the day I shot him, let me tell you a little bit about what happened leading up to that special day…
The Months Before The World Record Buck
The first time I had the opportunity to shoot this buck, things did not go the way I had planned. I had everything ready and had been mentally preparing myself for my chance at this buck.
I saw him coming at about thirty yards away. He stopped, and I decided this was it!
I called some of my family members to share the news, that it had in fact happened… I had shot “him”.
I went to fire my muzzle loader and… it misfired. I could not believe what had just happened. I thought, “Is this it? Did I just lose my chance? Would he ever show himself again?”
I decided I could not let that setback stop me. All I could think about was having another chance at him. I couldn’t sleep or focus on too much after my misfire, but I knew I had to keep tabs on him and wait for another chance.
I had not told many people about this buck, but my family and close friends knew. They kept telling me not to give up, and that he would show himself again. I just needed to be patient and wait. I continued to pray that I would get another chance.
So, then came the morning of November 7, and things started to change. That morning everything went in my favor. He came out at forty yards after working a scrape. I told myself “you cannot mess this up!” All the while, I was shaking with nervous excitement. My adrenaline was pumping like never before.
A Magical Morning
I saw my chance and I took it. I shot him with my muzzle loader from my ground blind. All I could see was smoke, and when it cleared, I saw him running back into the thicket. I could not believe I had been given the opportunity again. I sat there for what seemed like an eternity, with excitement and a little bit of anxiety.
I knew I was about to engage on my big search and I had to figure where he went. Then I called some of my family members to share the news, that it had in fact happened… I had shot “him”.
Within a few minutes some of my family and a few close friends came to the field to help me begin the search for him. Within thirty minutes, we had found him. A sense of relief and joy came over me, once I was able to lay eyes on him and touch him.
Although I was overjoyed, I still did not fully realize what I had killed. I just knew he was a giant and a special deer… at least special to me.
That night a TWRA officer that was a certified Boone and Crockett scorer, came and green scored him. We all waited with anticipation to see what this monster would score. I thought I would be the new Tennessee record holder, but I had no idea what else was in store for me.
When the officer finished scoring, he told me that it would give the world record non-typical whitetail a run for its money.
Finally, they told me they had their final score. It was 312 inches. I was ecstatic!
During the following weeks, I became overwhelmed from all the phone calls, messages and companies that were contacting me. Everyone had an opinion about what I should do or not do.
I received a lot of backlash from animal rights advocates and others. I decided to take a break from social media and let things die down before I re-entered the social media playground. In the meantime, I gave many interviews and traveled a few places while waiting on the drying period to come to an end.
In January, the sixty-day drying period was over. I then traveled to the Tennessee TWRA office to have him scored.
I just remember waiting with my brother-in-law and nephew wondering what the score was going to be. Finally, they told me they had their final score. It was 312 inches. I could not believe it. I was ecstatic!
The Year After The “Tucker Buck” World Record
The next year I went to nearly twenty shows. Now, I am just a farmer from Tennessee. I was not used to traveling that much, nor was I accustomed to all the attention. However, my appreciation for the outdoor industry grew after every event I went to.
I began to develop many wonderful relationships and grow friendships. Killing this buck also grew my relationship with the Lord. It even prompted me to make the greatest decision of becoming baptized. I also began travelling to speak at churches and wild game dinners. These opportunities would have never been awarded to me had I not had the chance to take this deer.
Many told me that I might as well stop hunting, because I would never be able to top it. They were wrong… it made me hunt even harder the next fall.
You see, to me it is not about the size of the buck. Now, don’t get me wrong I love big deer, but what I love more is figuring them out.
Being able to take a world record whitetail made me look at deer hunting in a different way; not just how I look at hunting for myself, but for others as well. No matter what size a deer is, if it makes you excited or happy, I’m going to be just as happy and excited as you are about him.
I was so nervous, that when I walked off stage, I knocked over Jimmy Houston’s fishing pole!
The 2017-2018 season came and went with no buck being shot that was close to mine. In 2018, I went to many more shows and speaking engagements.
At one of the appearances, I had to speak in front of 3,000 people at a church’s wild game dinner. I was so nervous, that when I walked off the stage, I knocked over Jimmy Houston’s fishing pole!
During the summer of 2018, I scouted harder than ever before. By November, I had already tagged out in my home state with a bow.
A Challenger Rises Up
On November 1, 2018, I was scrolling on my Instagram and saw a giant buck on a page that I follow. I thought, yeah maybe it could be bigger, but I wasn’t sure. I hadn’t heard many conversations about it.
Then in January 2019, I was on the way to the ATA show in Louisville, Kentucky. I knew that deer would be there and had heard the score would be released. To be honest, I was worried about it, because I wanted my deer’s score to remain number one.
I won’t lie, I was upset. But hey, records are made to be broken. So, I decided to make the best of it.
A New World Record?
I was about an hour from the show and a buddy called me and said North American Whitetail just went live on Facebook. While I was on the phone with him, they announced that the Illinois buck’s net score was 320″.
I won’t lie, I was upset. But hey, records are made to be broken. So, I decided to make the best of it.
I met the guy that shot the new pending record and he seemed like a great guy. He was also a Veteran, so I couldn’t think of someone more deserving.
We will both take our record bucks to be scored this summer at the Boone and Crockett Big Game Awards. That is when we will both find out what our final scores are and will be given our ranking.
The two years following my world record buck were a whirlwind. So many great things have happened in my life as a result of harvesting this once-in-a-lifetime buck. Whether or not I remain the number one record-holder, I will always have a buck over 300 inches… from Tennessee.
I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to kill the “Tucker Buck”.
We are all wounded. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. The wounds remain. In time, the mind covers these wounds with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But, it never disappears; it is never gone. Sometimes, you’ll have good days, and in the midst of silent moments, it hits you: everything. It hurts to talk, to love, to remain above water.
Simply existing is difficult. No one cares; no one wants to hear about the days you spend lying in your bed, hoping to never wake up. You wish you could be anywhere or even in a time other than now.
“I love that which is invariably beautiful. Everything is beautiful where trout lie.”
We all have our ways of coping with these wounds. We have
our own acts of survival; our own ways of staying alive, even when life isn’t
life anymore. Your soul knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to
silence the mind.
Silence. The disappearance of white noise and chatter; the disappearance of people. Bubbling water, flowing from the snow melt, down the river and over stream beds of smoothed pebbles. Nothing but you and the reverie of what lies ahead.
I love that which is invariably beautiful. Everything is beautiful where trout lie. I hate that which is invariably ugly: people, television, iPads, and assorted social stigmas that come with living in a modern society. Doctors prescribing you a new prescription to dull your senses; to numb what you hope to one day feel.
In a world where most people spend their lives doing things they hate, my escape is the endless source of solitude. On the water, wading in a stream, or strolling through woods, I find solitude without loneliness. I fish because I love to; because fish do not lie; they cannot be bribed or impressed by power, but respond to humility. They respond to a patience only true fishermen know.
Patience. It is something I know. Mastering the art of fishing takes time. Taking that experience and portraying it on canvas takes even more time. But why? Anyone can paint a fish but where there is no emotion, it is just that: a picture of a fish. Channeling that feeling of excitement, the sweet fragrance of evergreen trees, or the repetitive song of a marsh wren into a visual work of art requires total immersion into the moment.
When I paint a fish, I’m painting the moment; I’m reminding myself that this is my refuge. A refuge where my lesions of life can heal; where my mind can drift like the dry fly on the Gros Ventre River. You watch your line or the reflection dancing and nothing more; somehow, you unconsciously grasp the sweet scent of summer, the memory of mountain bluebirds singing, and the wind gently sweeping the tinge of hair on your face. This is the calm; this is the silence your soul mediates with your mind.
“Trout… what fly fishermen are after. But are they really? Maybe it is the attainable sensation of hope that the next trout will be bigger, prettier, a challenge.”
Calm. At ease. I sit down and close my eyes, taking myself
back to a western seclusion. It’s like I’m sitting there on an exposed rock,
watching the sunset dance on cottonwood leaves. The towering Teton Mountains
are behind me. I’m watching time stroll by, sweeping in the last of the snowmelt.
Little did I know that this is where trout lie.
Trout… what fly fishermen are after. But are they really? Maybe it is the attainable sensation of hope that the next trout will be bigger, prettier, a challenge.
Me? I borrowed my husband’s rod, practicing the dance between rod, line, and water. Gently coaxing the fly back and forth then sorting the landing among the ripples, rocks, and current. I pick it up as it makes it way down river, ready to try again. Same movements, easing the line like I’m painting in plein aire.
I’m aiming at this swirl in the river, lessening the chance of a bite. I don’t care. I’m not fishing, or at least I didn’t think so.
I was immersed into the meditation of fly fishing; the flouncing elegance of casting and presenting my fly.
I start to bring in my line as it sweeps down river, but something happened. Something is different. My line is weighted. Then it moves upriver, unnaturally against the current.
My hands stay steady but my mind is still processing the thought that I have a trout on the end of the line.
How? Why? I wasn’t ready for a fish.
This uncontrollable feeling of pure excitement swept over me, and I couldn’t help but yell, “Holy Moly! I caught a trout!”
I still wasn’t sure if what I said was true. I reeled and hand-lined the trout in. Oh, indeed, it was a trout. It was a fine-spotted Snake River cutthroat.
I somehow caught a trout that fishermen go years trying to obtain but yet, always eluded.
“Pain is a part of life. Sometimes, it’s a big part. And sometimes, it’s as small as a nymph. But either way, it’s a part of the big puzzle, the deep waters, the great catch.”
In my excitement, I felt this peace overcome me. Contradictory, I know. I wasn’t after the trout. My soul knew the existence of what was there; a sense of healing and a chance to release.
All of this happened so fast, but my consciousness took in every millisecond, hyper-vigilant on my surroundings and emotions. I honestly could not process the disbelief and how an incredible moment was presented on my road to healing.
I’ve learned to control my outward emotions, but inside, I was weeping. I needed this. I looked down at this trout. It’s beautiful colors and spots matching the golden light that backlit my excitement.
Oh, how this trout unknowingly helped me; how the simple act of fishing helped me. I was releasing what pain and confusion my mind had warped into suffering. I gently supported the trout for it’s release.
For the release wasn’t just putting the fish back in the water. It was free; but was I? I had to let go. In doing so, I started to release the hurt. I released the fear. I started to heal. I have refused to entertain the old pain.
Pain is a part of life. Sometimes, it’s a big part. And sometimes, it’s as small as a nymph. But either way, it’s a part of the big puzzle, the deep waters, the great catch.
Pain does two things: it teaches you; it tells you that you’re alive. Then the reality of it drifts away and leaves you changed. It leaves you wiser. Sometimes, it leaves you stronger. That strength is hidden in the depths of weakness and despair. Either way, pain leaves its mark and everything important that will ever happen to you in life is going to involve it in one degree or another.
So take that rod, find water, and cast. You just might let something go.