Dusty McGehee: Jack’s Piano Buck

by Dusty McGehee

In all my years of hunting, I’ve never heard of a piano being the cause of the death of a deer, but it’s 2021 and nothing surprises me at this point.  Let me introduce you to my cousin and his piano and how this was possible.

Jack Archer McGehee is a 7-year-old boy from Ruston who is in first grade at A.E Phillips.  If Archer is part of your name, your destined to be a great hunter and little Jack is.  Jack has quite the hunting resume’ thus far with six deer under his belt and has all of the characteristics to be an apex predator.  His father, Jeff, describes him as calm natured, extremely patient, with a high pain tolerance.  He recently survived a water moccasin snake bite to his foot, yet he still insists on going shoeless.

Jack is also a talented pianist; I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him tickling the ivories several times.  He and his three sisters get lessons every Thursday morning before school.  Their instructor Jeanne Patterson goes to the McGehee home at 5:50 a.m.  Jack volunteered to take the earliest shift, beginning his lesson at 5:55 a.m..  Why would he do such a thing?  It’s simple if you ask Jack; it’s to prepare him to get up early for hunting season.

The story of Jack and the piano buck begins on opening morning of rifle season in Lincoln Parish.  Jeff and Jack were hunting my favorite stand in the area, “the far hill” at The Calloway Place.  Jack planned on shooting the first thing that walked out.  Within the first five minutes a nice 8-point came out, but Jack was shaking too bad to make an ethical shot.  Jack asked his dad “Why am I shaking?”  Jeff asked, “Are you cold?” To which he responded “NO! I DON’T GET COLD!”  Jack had a classic case of buck fever. 

Jack was upset at this missed opportunity, but the morning was still young.  Over the course of the morning, they saw 17 deer, seven of those being bucks.  At 9:45 a.m., Jack finally lines up the crosshairs on a 5-point, composes himself, and makes the shot.  The smoke hadn’t even cleared when they look down the highline and a monster appears.  The biggest buck either of the McGehee team has ever laid eyes on in Lincoln Parish was now out in all his glory.  Jeff wasn’t sure what to do.  The hunter instinct in him thought for a split second that he might need to shoot, but then the fatherly instinct took over and the decision was made.  That was now “Jack’s buck”.  They watched the buck casually cross the high line right-of-way, and as soon as he was entering the woods, Jack yells “Let’s go get my buck!”  Jack’s shot had been true, and they easily recovered his buck. 

The monster buck now dominated their thoughts; Jack talked about him all the time.  Jeff was going to do everything in his power to get Jack another opportunity at this giant.  Jeff would drive from his workplace in Arcadia to Downsville twice a week to put out feed at the far hill.  They hunted him the following weekend, but he didn’t show.  The next weekend was opening day at Spring Bayou (family property in Madison Parish), and if you know anything about the McGehee family, that day is a huge deal, but Jack and Jeff were committed.  They were no shows at Spring Bayou that weekend, and unfortunately the buck was as well at The Calloway Place.

Fast forward two weeks.  Jeff fully planned on making the trip to Spring Bayou, but he had forgotten something pretty important.  Jack and his three sisters had a Christmas piano recital, which meant they would be staying in town.  After the recital, they were dead set on going hunting so they rushed back to the far hill stand.

They got in the stand shortly after 4PM and got everything situated.  Before Jeff puts the gun on the shooting rest, he pulls out the 7mm-08 bullet and tells Jack “This is the bullet here”.  Jack wanted to see, so Jeff hands it to him and Jack kisses the cartridge.  Jeff decided to kiss it too before loading it into the chamber.  After 5 minutes, a doe comes out, so the duo is optimistic.  Five minutes later they are laughing and joking in the stand when they look out the window and at 45 yards, the giant walks out.  Jeff said, “it got real serious, real fast!”  Jack gets on the gun and pulls the trigger.  The deer mule kicks and heads into the pines.  Jeff briefly discussed the shot with Jack and then he makes a phone call.

It’s 4:18 p.m. and I’m in a deer stand in Mississippi when my phone rings.  Caller ID shows its Jeff McGehee.  I’m hoping it’s the deer stand phone call I’ve been wanting to get for over a month now.  “Jack just shot him!” Jeff’s voice is trembling.  I can hear the deer stand shaking from 120 miles away.  Jeff described what had just transpired and heck, I started to get buck fever with him!  Jeff had read my article about Stoney and his dog Maggie, and he wanted to bring a dog in.  I remembered Stone saying they would want as much information about the sign at the shot area before coming, so I told him to check out the blood and then he could make the call.

Jeff also called his dad (Don) and my dad (Doug) and told them to come out there to hopefully partake in the celebration that was pending.  While they still had good daylight, they surveyed the shot scene.  They were not able to find any blood, so they went into the pine plantation where the deer had entered.  They took a few steps and were scanning the open understory of the pines, and they see him.

The deer they have obsessed about and lost sleep over is down just 40 yards away.  Jack approaches his buck cautiously and confirms he is down for the count.  As soon as he gets his hands on him, he yells “IT’S A NINE POINT!”.  Jack had already killed a couple of 8-points, so he was wanting a 9-point badly.

Then a celebration ensues, that only any other father/son hunting duo can possibly understand.  All the time and hard work put into this deer had finally paid off.  Don and Doug weren’t too far behind and now you had three generations of McGehee’s all on “the far hill” making a memory that will never be forgotten.

This was fate. It’s exactly how the story was supposed to end.  It’s the ending I wanted just as bad as I’ve ever wanted for a child of my own.  Congratulations Jack, you earned him.  In the meantime, I’m signing up my kids for piano lessons and will be kissing all my bullets in the future!

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Dusty McGehee is a native of Downsville and a 2006 graduate of Louisiana Tech University with a bachelors in wildlife conservation. He is currently employed by WestRock and serves as an environmental engineer at the Hodge Mill. Dusty is an avid hunter and crappie fisherman, fishing crappie tournaments with his son when he is not in the woods. He and his wife Rachel have three young outdoorsmen/women: Anders (9), Ridge (7) and Mae (5). If you have a story idea or question about the great outdoors, you can reach Dusty at dusty.mcgehee@westrock.com.


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