Thomas Carbone is glad his family stayed true to its Thanksgiving tradition — big dinner at the family home in Slidell, La., followed by naps, football and ...

“Then all the guys leave and go to our deer camp in Jefferson County up in Mississippi,” Carbone, 18, said. “We’ve always done it that way. It’s a tradition. Me, my dad (Tony Carbone) and my two grandfathers (Tommy Carbone and Jeff Volker), all went to the deer camp and the next morning I killed the biggest buck we’ve ever killed on the property.”

The 11-point, a main-frame 9 with two stickers, measured 155 3/8 inches of antlers, had a 19½-inch inside spread and weighed 240 pounds.

“He was a horse ... with antlers,” said Carbone (pronounced Carboney).

The morning was ideal, the young hunter said, with freezing temperatures creating a crisp frost at the deer camp near the Church Hill community that his family has leased for more than 20 years.

“It was cold, I mean like 26 or 27 degrees, which is pretty good for deer hunting,” he said. “I felt pretty good about it and I chose a morning stand overlooking a creek bottom, where a small creek drains into a bigger creek. The stand overlooks that drain and across it is a big hill that leads to a big food plot and a different stand.

“The idea of that creek stand is catching bucks moving between bedding and feeding areas, crossing the creek. You can see 400 yards up one side and 300 down the other. That’s why I took my Browning .300 Mag rifle, because I was expecting the shot to be about 300 yards.”

Carbone was wrong about that, missing the estimate, well, uh, let’s say about 300 yards.

“Yeah, it wasn’t that far, about 20 or 25 yards,” he said.

The morning actually started slow, despite the cold conditions that the family had hoped would keep deer moving.

“About 8:30 I hadn’t seen anything so I decided to try a grunt tube, see if I couldn’t stirup something,” Carbone said. “I started doing a series of three grunts every five minutes. I’d grunt, wait and do it again, but nothing much happened.

“Then I decided to try a few wheezes, you know a grunt-wheeze, and I did the wheeze with my mouth. I did that a couple of times.”

By then the cold was working on his muscles and he decided to stand and stretch.

“When I went to sit back down, I heard a few twigs snap and some leaves rustle, and I mean it was close,” Carbone said. “Basically, it was right under my stand. It kind of scared the heck out of me. I eased my rifle up and looked down and all I could see was antlers, a whole lot of antlers. 

“I knew immediately this was a shooter so I got my rifle up, put my scope on him and then started leading out away from him in the direction he was moving until I found an opening. I kept the gun aimed at that opening and as soon as I saw his shoulder hit the crosshairs, I pulled the trigger.”

The shot was perfect and the big-bodied buck crashed 25 yards away.

“That’s pretty much it,” Carbone said. “I don’t know if the grunt and the wheezes brought him in. I think he came in on a trot, which is why I heard the twigs snapping and the leaves rustling, but since he was already right under me I’m not really sure where he came from. It’s really thick down there in that marshy area where the creeks meet, so I guess he came through that stuff. He may have come off that hill, because it turns and the creek winds around it.”

No matter where or how the buck appeared so suddenly, credit the hunter for keeping his cool and making the shot. And then for surviving the ribbing he received back at the camp.

“They gave it to me pretty good because that’s the biggest buck we’ve taken off that lease and I have taken the three biggest including a 135- and a 138-inch buck back one day on a youth hunt many years ago,” he said. “I was hunting the same kind of bottom and I guess there were two bucks laying up in the same high grass. One stood up and I shot it, and when I got up to go check it, I saw a buck and thought it was that one and it was going to get away.

“So I shot that one. When I got down there, imagine our surprise to find two bucks, both good racks, laying there dead.”

Oops.

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