We decided to hunt an old haunt that had been good to me and Jared in years past. The first day in, Jared talked me into helping him relocate his stand. I used tree steps and a pole pruner to cut shooting lanes while he re-hung it. A 15-minute task turned into 2 grueling hours. My arms felt like Jell-O when I left for my stand.

It was close to 3 p.m. when I got there, a good time to bump a deer on the way in. At the edge of a tag alder swamp a doe bolted from underfoot, blowing her shrill warnings as she disappeared over a knoll. She stopped and sounded off for what seemed an hour. Ordinarily, I’d be ticked off at this tattletale, but this was the rut. Who knows, maybe she’d attract a decent buck or two.

I grunted and groaned my way up the multi-trunked maple where a River’s Edge hang-on blended with limbs and branches. I’d barely fastened my safety harness when I heard snap!

I grasped my bow, attached my release and watched as a splendid 5×5 quartered my way.

I came to full draw, but the bow bucked and drew-down on me before I knew what had happened! The buck hopped into a thicket and stood motionless as a ceramic lawn statue. He gathered his wits and disappeared.

I blew it!

I slumped in disgust, wondering why in tar nation I had talked myself into adding a twist to each limb bolt? What difference does 54 pounds make versus 50? My macho ways got the best of me again.

I heard something “heavy” walking behind me. I turned and, incredibly, saw another rack floating above the bushes, getting larger by the second.

With all my might I drew my bow and held it with clenched teeth. But instead of presenting the broadside shot I’d expected, the buck turned and headed straight for my stand! Twenty-five yards became 20, and 20 became 15…

In one a big blur I bleated, the buck stopped and my arrow found its mark. He collapsed in a heap and barely moved.

What a buck: his 15 tines sported every imaginable whitetail characteristic: blades, forks, kickers, stickers, even a drop. Later I discovered he grossed Boone and Crockett, my biggest bow kill to date.

I paused in the woods with the buck to give thanks, thinking about the many friends, neighbors and business associates who have supported me so faithfully during my time of need. Where would I be without them? I know I didn’t deserve this wonderful deer, but I’ll take it. And I’ll take every prayer sent my way. After all, that’s where most miracles come from.

Jeff, nobody deserves that great buck more than you. You are an inspiration to me and all ZONERS. Good luck and God bless my friend.–Hanback