BACK-TO-BACK BOONERS

Outdoor Life - - DEER OF THE YEAR -

WHITE­TAIL OB­SES­SIONS seem to al­ways be­gin with a fleet­ing glimpse, or maybe a story from a hunter who claims to have seen the big­gest buck of their life. And I guess my story is no dif­fer­ent—at least, it wasn’t at the out­set.

With his cross­ing main beams that gave the ap­pear­ance of a side­ways fig­ure eight, In­fin­ity’s nick­name seemed fit­ting. He was likely only a three-year-old, but with his unique rack, I knew that it would be hard to pass him up if he ever came in to range of my farm­coun­try tree­stand in south­ern In­di­ana. I had a trail cam­era photo of him in 2014, and saw him once in mid-oc­to­ber and again late in the bow sea­son. He didn’t present me with a shot ei­ther time.

In 2015, he had ma­tured into a mid-160-inch deer. My one and only en­counter with him that sea­son was just min­utes into shoot­ing light on the morn­ing of Oc­to­ber 19. He walked right by my stand and was within bow range. I could clearly see my sight pin on his chest as he came to a stop. I let my ar­row fly and watched as it sailed right over his back, com­pletely miss­ing him. I was sick to my stom­ach as I watched him saunter off. I guess in the low light and ex­cite­ment, I must have for­got­ten to look through my peep. It was heart-wrench­ing.

A NEW DAY AND A NEW BUCK

IT WAS JUST a cou­ple of weeks later that dis­ap­point­ment would turn to ju­bi­la­tion. Af­ter an un­suc­cess­ful morn­ing hunt with my friend Sarah, I headed back into the woods on the af­ter­noon of Novem­ber 7. I climbed up my tree, pulled my bow up, and took my back­pack off. I turned to­ward the tree to put a strap on it, and when I turned back around, there stood a gi­ant buck 30 yards from my tree. It wasn’t In­fin­ity, but it was a re­mark­able buck none­the­less—a shooter. I nocked an ar­row, got my re­lease out of my back­pack, and drew my bow. I waited for him to walk into my sights, grunted him to a stop, and let my ar­row fly. I hit my mark. As he ran off I prayed, “Please let him drop. Please let him drop.” He went about 60 yards.

He was a mas­sive 13-point that I had never seen be­fore that day. When my mom saw him, she named him Go­liath. He was a Boone and Crock­ett buck with

198 ³∕₈ to­tal inches and a net score of 170 ⁴∕₈. I never dreamed I would ever even see a buck that big in the places I hunt.

THE SAGA CON­TIN­UES

ALTHOUGH I COULD not have been more thrilled with Go­liath, I couldn’t get In­fin­ity out of my mind. I was pretty sure that he’d made it through that sea­son but couldn’t ver­ify my sus­pi­cions un­til I saw a trail cam­era photo late last Septem­ber. He was now a five-year-old and had put on even more inches. I be­came in­stantly ob­sessed once more, but I felt cer­tain that he would end up be­ing some­body else’s tro­phy. Af­ter all,

what hunter is for­tu­nate enough to take back-to-back Boone and Crock­ett bucks? In hopes of get­ting In­fin­ity on video, my brother Mike and I hunted to­gether al­most every day start­ing in late Oc­to­ber. In­fin­ity made an ap­pear­ance on the af­ter­noons of Novem­ber 5 and 6, but he pre­sented no shot.

Novem­ber 8 was a rainy day, and Mike wasn’t able to hunt with me, but I knew I needed to be in a tree­stand. That morn­ing I saw two 3-year-old bucks and four does. I got down mid­day to run home and dry my clothes out. I checked out the weather fore­cast, and it looked like it was go­ing to stop raining about an hour be­fore dark. I knew I needed to get back to my tree. This time I re­mem­bered my raingear. It was start­ing to get close to dark, and I hadn’t seen any ac­tion. I felt my phone vi­brate with a text mes­sage from my mom. I de­cided to read it since I was pretty sure there were no deer around.

When I looked up, In­fin­ity was stand­ing there fac­ing me at about 40 yards. He had come up the steep side of the big ridge I was on. My heart im­me­di­ately be­gan pound­ing hard in my chest. I eased my phone back in my pocket. I had my slid­ing bow sight set at 27 yards be­cause there was a scrape and two other main paths that were 27 yards from

my tree­stand. He started walk­ing to­ward the scrape, and I was able to get my bow in my hand. He stopped be­fore he got to the scrape, but I couldn’t get a shot be­cause there were too many limbs in the way. He stood there for what seemed like a long time and then changed di­rec­tions and started walk­ing off. I looked for an open­ing. I ranged the dis­tance—it was 24 yards.

I drew my bow and grunted in hopes of stop­ping him, but he kept walk­ing. I grunted again, even more loudly, but to no avail. He was about to walk out of my shoot­ing lane and prob­a­bly out of my life for­ever. I set­tled my pin on his chest and let my ar­row fly. It hit him a lit­tle high and far­ther back than I would have liked. A bit­ter­sweet wave of emo­tions over­came me. I was over­come with ex­cite­ment be­cause I had just put an ar­row in a buck I had been pur­su­ing for three years, but I was sick to my stom­ach be­cause I wasn’t sure of the shot.

Tak­ing the ad­vice of my brother, I de­cided to wait un­til morn­ing to look for him just to be safe. As you can imag­ine, it was a sleep­less night for me, but it didn’t take long to find him. I couldn’t be­lieve it when I fi­nally got my hands on In­fin­ity. He grosses 187 ³∕₈ and nets 180 ⁷∕₈. I guess that makes two bucks in one life­time.

Jody Marsteller-davies with Go­liath (left) and In­fin­ity, the 2016 buck that she hunted hard for three sea­sons. It scored 180 ⁷∕₈ inches.

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