11 Year Olds Dream Comes True

By: Tate Graves

 

 Deer hunting is a time-honored tradition for many Hoosiers. For me this was passed on in a big way. It was opening day of the 2002 firearm season; I had a very good teacher on that cold November day and owe my success to my dad.My dad Terry is a skilled 37-year –old hunter, who has been chasing whitetails in Greene and Sullivan counties for 24 years. He has killed many whitetails over the years. He has recently put together a string of impressive mounts on our living room wall. He began bow hunting when he was 13 years old. Although my Grandpa never did bow hunt (due to an injury) he did a lot of scouting for my dad, but they did hunt together in the firearm season, with great success. Dad said they used to fill both of their tags on opening day.In 1994, my Grandpa Marion passed away from a short battle with cancer, and my dad started to focus on hunting mature bucks. Dad harvested some fine bucks over the next several years. Finally in 2000, it was time for me to assume family responsibilities. I vowed to my dad that I would only shoot a buck for my first deer. Because of this vow, I wouldn’t score the first two seasons. In 2002 my luck would change, but harvesting a world-class buck almost never came.It was during one of my mid summer all star baseball tournaments that fate would intervene. In a series of strange events, it would end up causing me and my families to take a wild ride on an emotional roller coaster. Stepping up to home plate for a routine at bat, I was hit hard in the head by an errant pitch. Setting off a chain of events that would be the start of a very unusual and scary period for my family and me. It was about three weeks into the new school year; I came home not feeling well. I had headaches and seeing double, making it difficult to read. A brain MRI revealed I had fluid on my brain. Apparently my drain tube from my brain was stopped up. This tube drains cerebral fluid from your brain out into your body. My pipe was blocked causing the fluid to build up around my brain. This would require surgery to place a shunt (which was a new brain drain) in my head connecting to my brain and running down into my stomach.It was November 16th (a very cold November day), and I really didn’t feel like getting out of bed, but my dad talked me into going for just a little while. He said if I got cold we would come back home.  He just wantedto shoot a doe and come back home, because he had already shot his buck with a bow. This was a plan for him and mom to get me out of the house for awhile. We just decided to hunt on the ground; my dad told me he had a good spot by a big oak tree, with multi-flora rose bush all around us for cover. For the first hour or so we saw nothing, then we saw a group of does coming our way. All of a sudden here they come. My dad whispered for me to stay quiet and he was going to shoot one of the does (still no buck for me to shoot). My dad took careful aim with his Knight 50 cal. Muzzleloader, and shot the biggest doe. The other eight doe scattered from the blast. After the smoke had cleared my dad reloaded the muzzleloader, we gathered our stuff and walked toward where the doe was shot.Then we noticed a buck, and it was a big one! We knelt down by a big tree. The big buck had not paid any attention to the earlier shot; he was busy chasing the does. I steadied the gun against the tree and my dad flipped off the safety for me. I got ready for the shot of a lifetime. The deer was about 30 yards broadside. Dad was telling me to gently squeeze the trigger, and I did.

 The buck flinched, but took off on a fast run. We saw him go out into a field; dad said he could tell he was hit hard. He crossed the road and went onto a neighbor’s property. Dad said we shouldn’t push him, because we might run him by another hunter. We decided to wait a while and go get some help. After about an hour and a half we went back with a friend of my dads. We asked the neighbor if it was okay to go onto his property and look for the deer, and he said okay.  We had trouble finding blood at first, but we knew the general direction he had gone. Not long after the search began we jumped the buck. Actually we jumped the buck three times before he expired. The buck ran across another field, and into other woods, where he followed a creek bottom through the woods. Not going after him right away, proved to be a wise choice, because he went by four deer stands, luckily no one was in them. We tracked him along the creek and found some blood scattered around the creek, but then we lost the blood trail. Then we realized the buck was walking in the creek. Finally we came to a spot in the creek where the buck had been laying, the water was blood red. Dad didn’t think the deer could have went much further, because he had lost a lot of blood, so he (dad) went to the top of the hill so he could see better, then he saw the buck laying along side the creek about sixty or seventy yards ahead. When we got up to him, I could not believe how many points he had. My dad said he knew that he had one- drop tine, but didn’t realize he had two. Dad and his friend, Mike, congratulated me for getting such a great buck. The buck ended up having nineteen scoreable points, and field dressed 200 pounds. I vowed three years earlier that my first deer would be a buck; little did I know it would be a buck of a lifetime. One of my first thoughts was that I wished my Grandpa could have been here to see this, my first deer, but I know he is watching from Heaven and I know he is smiling. My buck scored 202 6/8 and was the fourth largest in the state in 2002. I was one of the youngest hunters ever to harvest a Boone and Crockett ( I was 11 at the time). My buck is the # 1 buck ever killed in Sullivan County.