Have you ever been invited to go on a hunt and passed on the opportunity? There have been a few instances where I have had to decline, but this story should teach you to do otherwise.
In the fall of 2019, my good friend John Robert Smith, invited me to go hunt at his family land in East Arkansas. Although we are friends, I knew somewhere between 3-7 people had declined the invite before I got the call but hopefully, I’m at least in his top 10. I knew this opportunity might not come again for a while, so I jumped all over it. John Robert (let’s call him Bob) said they were planning on selling the property in the delta so anything over 3.5 years old was fair game to shoot. This was right up my alley so Bob and myself headed North.
As we enter the gate, we are greeted with some of the most beautiful steep hardwood ridges I’ve ever seen. I was a bit perplexed, as I thought we were hunting in the delta, but Bob informed me they had 2 properties, and this was the one with the camp. We drive down a well-manicured driveway and then I see “the camp”. I was expecting some old rickety wooden building, trailer, or camper like I’m used to but I was wrong. His father, Steve, greeted us in front of a beautiful house aka “the camp”. And if you didn’t like that one, there was another house about 50 yards away. Down the steep ridge behind the house, was a gorgeous lake featuring a skinning shack/shop that was nicer than my current hunting camp.
The accommodations were 5 star. I felt a bit out of place but was looking forward to the fellowship and hunting over the next few days. Anyone who knows Bob, knows how meticulous he is. He is an engineer by trade and is one of the most organized, by the books guys that I know & he gets it honest. I swear he wakes up and looks at an excel spreadsheet to determine how he is going to handle the day. This is the opposite of my personality, but I’ll admit, I am envious of his organizational skills. Each meal served by Steve and Bob were at least 3 courses, well thought out, and delicious. He even made me drink some type of red wine he said paired well with the meat we were enjoying. While I am not a fan of wine, I obliged, as I was the guest, and did not want to disappoint either of my hosts.
Enough about that, let’s talk about the hunting. The first morning, we drive 20 minutes out to the delta property. Bob points me in one direction and he goes the opposite. I saw a small buck and was watching a few does when I hear the crack of a rifle in Bob’s direction. Bob immediately texts “BBD”. A big buck it was; a beautiful 9 point with a split G2. That same morning, Steve had barely gotten settled in his stand on the ridge property when he killed a gnarly, massive 12 point.
The remainder of the trip, Bob and myself mostly hunted together. We enjoyed each other’s company and frankly, it was one of the best hunting trips I’ve ever had. I shot a cull 6 in the delta on the second evening, but there was a hunting spot that I couldn’t get out of my head. Each time we went up the driveway, I noticed a 300+ yard straightaway, right before you dropped down to the camp. Every time we drove through, I told Bob that they needed a deer stand there.
The last night, I studied aerial and topo maps on my phone and saw all the ridges coming together at the driveway. Also, the lake created a funnel that would force all the deer to cross in that location. Bob said we were leaving at 9am the next morning, but I asked if I could sit in his truck on the driveway to make a quick hunt. He kind of laughed but gave me permission.
Now before any of you get upset about me hunting in a truck, understand that it is parked, not running and I’m just using it as a makeshift ground blind. My grandfather taught me this hunting method at a young age. Most of the time, deer don’t pay much attention to a vehicle, and I figured especially not since I was parked in the driveway.
I parked right where I had told Bob they needed a stand, killed the engine, and rolled the window down. I set the country music radio down low and got comfortable. 75 yards to my right was the camp, and to my left was 350 yards of the most beautiful shooting lane you’ve ever seen. I hadn’t been there 10 minutes when a wall of tines steps out. He checks a scrape, I get the gun on him, and he walks briskly down the side of the driveway. He is over 200 yards away and I’m a nervous mess. I whistle to try to get him to stop but he never checks up. Finally, I yell at him, and he stops, quartering hard away from me. My cross-hairs are moving all over the place, but I settle and make a shot. He hits the ground but begins to crawl. I fire the remaining 2 bullets in panic mode but miss. The rest of my bullets are conveniently packed in the back of Bob’s truck. The deer is motionless as I get out; I grab the bullets out of his camper shell, and as I begin to load my gun, I see him casually walking into the woods.
That is NOT a good sign. I text Bob that I just shot a giant. He said he heard the shots while he was brushing his teeth. I make the 75-yard drive back to camp and Steve looked puzzled. It was at this moment, I realized that maybe they didn’t think I was serious about hunting the driveway. Oh well, what’s done is done at this point so we head out to track the buck.
At the shot site, there is very little blood and I’m dejected. I knew by the deer’s reaction that I had hit him high, stunning him and he was probably going to be just fine. Being the ethical hunters we are, we begin grid searching. I walk over a ridge and a deer jumps up 50 yards below me. He is on a dead sprint through the hardwoods, but I can see his rack and know it’s him. I shoulder my .300 WSM and send off a round at 60 yards, I crank another one in the chamber and throw another one at him at 75 yards and then he disappeared out of sight forever; or so I thought.
I’ve never shot a deer free handed so I figured there was no way I had touched him, especially with him going Mach 9 through the woods. To my surprise, I found lung blood at the first shot site, and it progressed for the next 40 yards. At the end of the trail lay my buck. Upon examination, my shot in the driveway had hit him above his shoulder and knocked out a 2-inch chunk of hide. He would’ve healed and been just fine. My next 2 shots almost hit the same hole, both double lung shots.
The buck was beautiful. Dark hide and a tall narrow rack that scored somewhere around 140 inches. Steve still had a puzzled look on his face, as I don’t think any of us could comprehend what had just transpired. As I was caping the deer out, I told both Bob and Steve that I figure this was my first and last trip to their property. Neither would confirm or deny but I knew my fate.
It’s been 3 years, and I was right…radio silence from Bob on hunting invites. I almost titled this “how to NOT get invited back” but the driveway buck will always be special to me. Thanks to Steve and John Robert Smith for the amazing hospitality those few days. Don’t forget, I’m a phone call away if you want some company on your next outing.
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 email@example.com.
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