It just wasn’t supposed to happen. It was too hot for a big buck to be on his feet. It was too early in the year for him to be on the heels of a doe. There were too many game camera pictures that showed this monster Georgia buck only came out at night. Heck, I never even saw him—the buck we named “Will Smith”—with my own eyes. Surely, because it wasn’t supposed to happen is why it did. That’s why I love the sport of bow hunting and being a landowner where we can practice Quality Deer Management (QDM). Even with all of the science that me, the boys of Foxworthy Outdoors and Foxworthy Farm land manager Glenn Garner try to base our land management decisions on, there are some things that can’t be explained. My harvest of Will Smith is one example.
I wasn’t even planning to hunt that day. Glenn’s brother, Larry Jr., is battling cancer. Glenn and I spent most of the day at the hospital keeping him company and I told my best jokes to make him laugh. After leaving the Garner boys, I had to drop off a load of gear at the farm. Once that was done and I spent a little time with my good friends, Larry and Brent Burns, who were working on the farm to pick up the slack of Glenn being gone, I was ready to head home. It was my brother Jay who, in a rare moment for him, said something that actually made some sense: “Why sit in traffic when we can sit in a treestand for a few hours?”
I don’t know what was up with me that day. I actually hesitated on saying “yes” to hunting! In my defense, it was raining. But still, I almost considered leaving. It was Jacob, an assistant farm manager and cameraman, who finally beat some sense into me and told me to suit up. We were going hunting.
Once we checked the weather and wind, I figured we would be lucky if a doe stepped into bow range that evening. The winds were swirling and more volatile than my uncle on a barstool. To my surprise, a doe did stroll by. Once she stepped behind a pine tree, I drew back, looked through the peep sight, double-checked my form and was ready to release an arrow when Jacob broke my trance, whispering, “No, no, no, no!”
I haven’t heard that many “no’s” since leaning in for a kiss on prom night of senior year. I didn’t even have a chance to turn around and knock Jacob out of the tree for calling off a shot, before he said, “Will Smith! Will Smith!”
There he was … 18 yards away!
Usually, the sight of antlers gives me the shakes worse than a 15-year-old asking his crush out for the first time. To my surprise, I was incredibly composed looking down at the 5-year-old buck because I knew this wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to be there. There was no way I would get a shot off.
It’s funny. All the articles I’ve read about limiting the effects of buck fever recommend being prepared for a buck to show up (I have probably read them all). Otherwise, you panic. Here I was, unprepared, yet calm as ever. I was waiting for the flood gates of adrenaline to open and take over my abilities. They opened alright, but not before Will Smith walked behind a tree … not before I drew my bow back … not before I went through the steps of taking a shot.
The surge of adrenaline hit as hard as my arrow hit the buck 15 yards in front of me. Will Smith was on the run.
The rest of the story is hard for me to remember … like it never even happened. But it was all captured on video and you can watch it right here.