SMASHED HOPES

Field and Stream - - GIANT -

In ret­ro­spect, I call him Kringle. The morn­ing we got his pic­ture, we’d taken our 3-year-old son, Anse, to see Santa Claus. Santa was hag­gard, red-faced, and not his jolly self that day. I had to prom­ise to buy Anse a toy my­self, just to get him to sit on the fat man’s knee for a photo.

As we drove home, Michelle, my wife, men­tioned what a good morn­ing it would’ve been to hunt. It was clear and frigid, and sure enough, a trail-cam­era check showed that a gi­ant 170-class buck had fed on acorns for half an hour within 50 yards of her favorite stand that morn­ing, about the same time that Anse was in the throes of his San­tain­duced tantrum.

The cam­paign for this buck was short but in­tense. Kringle ap­peared in day­light pho­tos al­most ev­ery day on both our farm and my neigh­bor’s place. My neigh­bor al­most got a shot at him one af­ter­noon. A buddy flew in from Colorado to hunt Kringle specif­i­cally, and left with an un­filled tag.

Michelle hunted him six straight days, and her sev­enth sit was on a cold, clear morn­ing, just like the day of the Santa visit. I got two texts that morn­ing—one from her, say­ing she had a good feel­ing about the day. The other was from my neigh­bor, say­ing that he’d just found the buck dead on the road—hit by a car—with its antlers sawed off at the bases.

We’d have pre­ferred a lump of coal.

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