Michael Baham, a 43-year-old Baptist pastor from Maben, had climbed down from his ladder stand at 5:12 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23, to take care of a doe he’d shot 45 minutes earlier.
He took a few steps and saw a raccoon in the a shooting lane, headed in his direction.
“I thought at first it was a coyote, but it was a big coon,” Baham said. “Then, about 40 yards past him in the lane, I saw a deer bobbing its head. I said to myself, ‘That’s a deer, a buck, a monster buck.’ I could tell he was a lot better than an 8-pointer.”
Baham had his Ruger M-77 .30-06 rifle on his shoulder, in a sling, and little by little, as the buck raised and lowered its head over the next minute-and-a-half, he was able to get the rifle to his shoulder and deliver a killing shot at 85 yards.
The huge 11-point buck — a 5×5 main-frame with a single sticker point on the left antler — wound up measuring 163 inches, with an almost 18-inch inside spread, several tines longer than 10 inches and bases that approached 6 inches in circumference.
“When I replayed the event, in my mind, I think that coon provided me with the opportunity to shoot that deer,” Baham said. “I think that deer was focused on the coon instead of me. That’s how I got my gun up. I think it distracted him enough for me to shoulder my gun.”
Closing out a great season
Baham, a pastor at Double Springs Baptist Church in Maben, was hunting on a piece of private land in Oktibbeha County that afternoon. The deer was a big surprise, not only to Baham, but to a friend with whom he was hunting.
“I had no clue he was there,” Baham said. “A good friend I’ve been hunting with didn’t have this deer on any of his (trail) cameras. We hadn’t hunted this place since October; we haven’t hunted together much this season. He’s had the COVID, and he’d just gotten well.
“My family and I try to get four or five deer a year, process and eat them different ways, and my wife had said before I went that it would be great to get one more. I’d already killed two nice 8-pointers, so I wasn’t going to tag out on another buck unless it was a huge one. I was probably going to be happy to get a doe. We didn’t have a lot of encouraging buck activity there.
“I got in my stand, and I told myself that the first nice doe that came out, I was going to take her. So the first one slipped out, and I shot her, and she fell right there. I decided to stay a while; I didn’t want to stay until pitch-black dark, because I’d have a deer to clean and process, and I had to preach a sermon the next morning, but I decided to stay up awhile.”
A chance encounter
Baham finally decided to climb down with about 30 minutes of daylight left, to give him time to take care of the doe. That’s when his encounter with the buck took place.
Baham said he was able to, inch by inch, get his rifle and sling off his shoulder, get his left hand on the rifle, then raise it into shooting position.
“I had my gun strapped on my shoulder, and the deer started staring me down,” he said. “He was bobbing his head up and down. I figured I was fixing to watch the biggest buck I’ve ever seen run away. He put his head down, and I got my gun in both hands, at my hip. He put his head down and took a step and a half, like he was going to cover the 20-yard shooting lane, and I eased my gun up and got my eye in the scope. I steadied the gun and said that if I could get it to my shoulder, I’ll pull the trigger. I got it there, and I got the crosshairs on his shoulder and pulled the trigger. He ran off, bolted across the shooting lane.”
The right moment
Baham feared that he’d missed the buck, which ran off without any sign that he’d been shot. He started in that direction.
“As I got close to where I shot him to start looking for blood, before I got to where he had been standing, I caught a glimpse of something white in the hardwoods. It was his belly. He had gone about 50 yards and dropped.
“I stopped about 15 yards from him and kneeled down and had a little praise-fest,” he said. “My emotions went from zero to 100 real fast.
“I started thinking about what happened — every time something like this happens, it seems like a God-ordained moment; you can’t believe things like this just happen. In this particular place, there’s a little curve in the shooting lane, and from the bow ladder stand I was in, you can see about 40 or 50 yards to the east, and you can see into the hardwood block. If I had stayed in the stand, I wouldn’t have seen this buck; I had to get out and walk that way a couple of steps to see him. Five minutes earlier or later and I wouldn’t have seen him.”
Baham got the buck — and the doe — processed and taken care of, and he caped out the buck and took him to his brother, Ricky, who runs Iti Tashka Taxidermy in Loranger, La. Ricky Baham put his tape measure on the buck and came up the 163-inch measurement. He said the buck had a 17 7/8-inch inside spread and tines as long as 10 5/8 and 10 3/4 inches and bases that measured 5 3/4 and 5 7/8 inches in circumference.
JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month
Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Mississippi Sportsman Magazine and MS-Sportsman.com.