Second Jefferson County trophy in two days for father-son duo.
Hunter Champagne readily admits he is a bit on the competitive side, and there’s no one he enjoys besting than his father with whom he spends untold hours in the woods and on the water.
So when dad Scott Champagne plugged a 220-inch Jefferson County buck on Dec. 8, the younger Champagne was dying to get in on the big-buck action.
It only took until Dec. 10 for 14-year-old Hunter Champagne to do just that by taking a 140-class 10-point, thanks to some help from a buddy and his lucky hat.
“Zach’s helped me find all my climbing-stand sites,” Champagne said.
The area they settled on was right behind the Champagne’s camp, and there was no doubt bucks were in the area.
“There were 14 or 15 good, fresh scrapes that had probably been busted up the night before,” the young hunter said.
The best area to hang a climber was along the scrape line, but Champagne was hesitant to do that.
“My dad always told me you didn’t want to walk by a scrape line,” he explained.
However, the only other option was to back off and hunt out of a box stand. Champagne and House agreed it was worth the gamble of spooking bucks by easing down the scrape line and hanging a climber.
“An hour after I put up the stand I was hunting,” Champagne said.
He could see almost 200 yards through the woods, but it didn’t take long for boredom to take hold.
“I slept that first hour in the stand, I’m not going to lie,” Champagne laughed.
When he woke up, he could hear voices from the neighboring property. But the men just across the property line soon cranked up their vehicles and drove away.
That’s when things picked up.
“Not 30 seconds to a minute after that, I heard something coming through the woods,” Champagne said.
It was a big old doe, and it walked passed the concealed hunter only about 10 feet out.
Champagne’s adrenaline was amping up, and then the doe did something that only excited the young hunter more.
“She looked back, and here he came through the thicket,” he said.
This deer was of the male persuasion, and all Champagne knew was that it held a great set of antlers.
“I to be honest, I didn’t know if he was a wide 6-point or a good 8-point,” he said.
The property holds several great deer, as the Champagnes’ trail cameras have proved.
But after a quick glance to ensure it was a shooter, the hunter never looked back. He simply pulled his rifle up and prepared for a shot.
“He walked down the same trail as the doe,” Champagne said.
It was 20 yards from the hunter’s tree when Champagne decided he needed to reset the scope to a lower telephoto setting.
“I zoomed out and I was on him, and ‘boom!’ I shot,” he said.
The buck streaked away, crossing a nearby creek and running up the next ridge. And then it stopped.
And just stood there.
“I reloaded, and when I shot the second time he didn’t do a thing,” Champagne said.
By this point, the young hunter was a mess.
“I was freaking out,” Champagne said. “I was shaking real bad.”
But he reloaded as quickly as possible and fired again.
“The second and third shots, it was hard to keep the scope on (the deer),” he said.
After squeezing the trigger a third time, however, the deer simply disappeared.
Champagne frantically searched for the deer with his scope, and thought he saw a brown blob on the ground at the top of the ridge. But he wasn’t sure.
He quickly climbed down and headed straight back to the camp.
“I was getting kind of discouraged,” Champagne said. “I’m not saying I’m a good shot or anything, but I usually don’t have deer run after I shoot.
“I thought I had missed him. I was ready to be done with hunting.”
After telling his father the story, the elder Champagne said big bucks often will run even after being shot. That helped settle Hunter Champagne a bit.
Soon the Champagnes, House and friend Candy Hebert were back at the stand site, and quickly found a clear sign the buck had been hit hard with the first shot.
“There was a blood trail a foot wide, from where I shot him the first time,” the younger Champagne said. “It was real easy to follow.”
The older hunters allowed Hunter Champagne to take the lead, and he was soon at the top of the ridge – and the buck was lying right where it had been standing for the second two shots.
“When I walked up to him, my heart dropped right there,” Champagne said.
He said he believes his lucky hat, a furry bomber model, had proven it’s worth the year before and his trophy kill this year has only elevated its status.
“I won’t go hunting without it,” Champagne said. “I have to wear it or I don’t feel like I’ll kill without it.”
But he said he also owed a debt to House, who was instrumental in putting him in the right spot.
“I told him when I get it mounted I’m going to put “Guided by Zach House” on the plaque,” Champagne said.
His only complaint is that his dad still has the lead – and probably always will – on the biggest-deer competition.
But the younger Champagne said fishing season is coming, and he’s looking forward to putting the hammer on his old man.
“I’ve got to find a way to beat him somehow,” he laughed.
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