Stephanie McGarrh faced a big dilemma on Nov. 13, whether or not to shoot the big buck that appeared out of a thicket 25 yards away and was walking right at her tree stand.
“It happened so fast, like all of a sudden he was there and walking right at me, so close that if I even blinked he would see me,” McGarrh said. “I couldn’t move. I was sitting down and he was right there.”
As tough a situation as the surgical nurse from Merigold found herself facing, she realizes now it was a blessing. It allowed her time to accomplish two things — settle down and make a tough decision to take the Pope & Young buck, which green scores 144 7/8 inches.
“Yeah, it helped me overcome the immediate buck fever and settle down,” McGarrh said. “I was really nervous, but because I couldn’t do anything, I was able to move past that.”
More importantly, it gave the wife of an avid bow hunter and the mother of two more time to decide that the buck was worthy of being the family’s only trophy buck of the 2013-14 season at Merigold Hunting Club, the oldest chartered deer camp in Mississippi.
“That’s all we get, one trophy per membership per season,” McGarrh said. “We are on a strict management program. Now we do get to take some cull bucks, you know management bucks so they (her family) can still take a buck this year. Plus they want us to take does and as many hogs as we can, so we still have a lot of hunting.
“That day in the stand, everything happened pretty fast but I had time to think about all that and I decided that it was a mature, trophy buck worthy of being our one big buck. Plus, in a lot of years, it seems like I pass on a good buck and then end up with us not getting one. So, this time, I decided to take the shot.”
Once she made her mind up, she still had to pull off the feat, which was not going to be easy.
“The buck walked to within 8 yards of my stand, which was about 20 feet up in an oak tree around a bunch of pecans,” she said. “I had to let him walk past me before I could stand up and get my bow ready. By then he was standing in a bunch of saplings and I couldn’t find a shot. I thought he was going to walk right on off.”
McGarrh stayed calm, and saved the day with the move you would expect from a bow-hunting veteran, which she surely is. She started hunting as early as age 11 so she could take walks in the woods with her dad.
A gun hunter most of her life, about 15 years ago she decided to take up archery because she was jealous that her bow-only husband, Ken, could start hunting Oct. 1 and she had to wait until mid November.
“So I took up bow hunting then so I could hunt in October and then about six or seven years ago I became exclusively a bow hunter,” McGarrh said. “It is my addiction. I absolutely love archery hunting.”
Her experience helped her make the decision that saved the deer hunt and produced her 2013 trophy.
“We do a lot of calling to bucks up here, so I thought about it and decided I’d take my grunt tube and grunt at him and see if I could turn him,” McGarrh said. “He wasn’t acting too aggressive. My stand was near the pecans and on a scrape line and he was doing a little of both, working the line and eating. He was just moving so I grunted.”
The buck stopped immediately, then turned and began his death march back toward McGarrh.
“When he turned he was about 35 yards away and he started back straight at me,” she said. “I was already drawn and I didn’t have a clear shot and he wouldn’t turn. He just kept easing back toward me like he was looking for the buck that was in his territory.
“But I was still at full draw waiting, and I was getting tired. My muscles were sore, and I was almost to the point of shaking so bad that I was going to have to let off. It was like a full minute and just before I put the bow down, he turned and was broadside at 25 yards.”
McGarrh hit the release and her Hoyt bow sent her arrow speeding toward ...
“I knew as soon as I let it go that it was going to be pretty far back on his body,” she said. “I wasn’t happy but I knew I got a pass through so I was hoping I had hit something vital, but I wasn’t that confident. I did do the right thing and watched the buck as far as I could and then listened. I thought I had a good idea of where he went but I didn’t feel all that good.”
The feeling got even worse when only two small drops of blood were found where the buck was standing and there was no blood trail.
“It was that first real cold night in the Delta, like 17 degrees, so we decided to back out and let him be and come back in the morning,” McGarrh said. “We didn’t want to push him.”
They found the buck quickly early the next morning.
“We went to where I marked the last place I saw him and started looking and we walked up on him dead about 150 yards from where I shot him,” McGarrh said. “I was so relieved.”
The buck was a main-frame 8-point with a split brow tine that made him officially a 9. The main beams were both 23½ inches, had 5-inch bases and were 16¼ inches wide at the widest inside point. Both G2s were over 10 inches.
“Yes, it was worthy of being our trophy buck, and it will be good to have a Pope & Young buck in the books,” McGarrh said.
*Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways.
Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.