Rack looks like a ‘briar thicket.’
The descriptions of the buck taken by Will Clay, 14, on the opening day of youth season on Nov. 5 have varied.
“Pineapple rack,” his taxidermist said.
“Briar thicket,” said his dad and hunting partner Mark Clay, when he was first described the buck he’d seen in a pasture at the family’s farm in Madison County. “I swear it looked like it had a briar thicket on top of his head.”
That drew a funny reaction from his wife, Dixie Clay, who suggested that Mark Clay “go get your glasses checked.”
Even young Will Clay had a hard time believing what he saw when he first looked up from behind the hay bales gathered into a makeshift hunting blind and saw the big buck standing where an 8-point had been just seconds earlier.
Was the youngster suddenly seeing the same mirage his dad had seen weeks earlier?
No, it was real, and it was time to get down to business.
But the story starts much earlier, back in October when Mark Clay was making rounds at the farm, doing chores and, yes, checking fields for deer. One is a five-acre pasture, and after weeks of seeing just does he finally spotted a group of bucks that seemed to include some large bodies.
“I glassed them and there was a young buck, a small 6, a nice 8 and then this guy, THE MAN,” Mark Clay said. “I thought I was seeing things. He had antlers sticking out everywhere. I swear it was a briar thicket.”
That was when he told his wife and son about the buck, and also the last time he saw any of those bucks before the season.
But, that one look was enough to bring him and Will to the field on opening morning of the youth season. They hid in the bales, with dad watching south and son watching north. Two hours passed after sunrise and Will Clay began to get the feeling it was not going to happen. They hadn’t even seen a doe.
“I was thinking we’d probably give it to 8:30 or 9, that is if I didn’t get too hungry,” Will Clay said. “At 7:30, I was just looking around the field when I saw some horns sticking out from behind a little group of trees.”
“I quickly got Dad awake, though he claims he wasn’t sleeping, and looked back to see this nice, young 8-point eating some of the new rye grass.”
Realizing the 8 qualified as a shooter, Will Clay looked away to find his range finder in the blind. When he looked back to get a distance on the 8, he saw something else.
“I looked through the range finder to the shock of my life,” he said. “Standing not 10 feet from the 8-point is a monster buck that I had never seen.
“This deer was so weird looking I had to stare for a minute before I was sure he was there.”
The bucks were 100 yards away, and from his position on the other side of the bales, Dad was trying to get a look.
“I looked through the binoculars and see the 8, and told Will, ‘He’s a nice 8, you can take him,’ ” Mark Clay said. “He said, ‘No dad, the big one to the right.’ I had to move a bit to see around a bale and there he was.
“But as soon as I looked at him, he looked at me so I froze and thought to myself, my son is about to shoot my deer.”
Since that was the intent, he quickly told Will to get his gun ready. The commotion had not gone unnoticed. Both bucks were now looking.
“All I could think was, ‘Oh crap, they are going to spook,’ ” Will Clay said. “Thankfully, a plane passed by just close enough to draw their attention away from our blind, and I quickly brought up my rifle and sighted in right on his front shoulder.
“Just when I thought he was going to step into a good shot, the 8-point ran back into the woods, and he was turning to follow suit. Before I knew what I was doing, much less warning Dad, I lined up behind the front shoulder and squeezed the trigger. To my and Dad’s surprise he stumbled about 2 yards and dropped.”
That started a celebration in the hay-bale hide.
“I thought Will was going to jump out of his skin,” Mark Clay said. “He had the biggest grin on his face mirrored by mine. I was amazed at how he calmly threw up and squeezed off a shot all in the blink of an eye.
“The look on his face was worth giving up my trophy buck. I was pretty proud, too!”
After taking photos, loading the buck and going home to prove to his wife his vision was “OK, thank you!” the Clays drove the buck over to nearby Bozeman Farms to get help in measuring the rack, which lacks any sense of symmetry to its 15 points.
At the time of this writing, the deer had not been scored. But forget the number, whatever the final measure might be, because this one is a sure-nuff trophy.
One look is all it takes.
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