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Lucky – A B&C Audio Adventure

Written By Les Davenport
23rd Big Game Awards Program | From Legendary Hunts

Lady Luck often seems fickle, but in reality, she tends to favor those who most deserve a shot of good fortune. This truism proves itself regularly in the whitetail world, where hard work results in consistently good results for certain hunters. If you need an example, consider this three-year episode involving a practicing trophy hunter from Edgar County, Illinois. 

An antlered deer charged onto Route 1 during an early fall evening in 1992. Brakes locked, tires screeched and everything not affixed inside Ernie Hires’ vehicle hit the floorboards. He barely avoided the whitetail, whose antler configuration was permanently etched in his memory. “Nice young buck,” thought Ernie as he regained composure. “Thank God I didn’t hit him.” The buck had emerged from a 200-acre woodland where Ernie hunted. 

The buck was spared a second time that year on opening day of the mid-November shotgun season. Ernie had been practicing trophy management over the past five years, and on that day, he elected to grant the young whitetail clemency at 10 yards. The suspected two-and-a-half year old needed more mass to be a true trophy in Ernie’s eyes. 

“That buck I almost hit on Route 1 escaped death a second time,” Ernie reported to his wife, Kim, that evening. “He’s a 9-pointer, and I’ve named him ‘Lucky.’ 

Lucky didn’t seem to live up to his name the next day though, as he took a slug in the shoulder by an unidentified hunter. Ernie helped the man follow the blood trail, but the young buck eluded his pursuers. He was not seen again during the remainder of the ‘92 season. 

A doe and a wide-antlered buck were approaching at full speed. The doe veered, but her beau jumped a fence and came headlong toward the hunter, stopping behind a tree at 35 yards. The buck’s rack carried a drop tine! Could it be Lucky?

Twice in 1993, Ernie had Lucky just out of range in the ebbing light of archery hunts. He noticed the deer’s rack carried slightly more mass and width. Even though the overall symmetry still seemed good, the antlers appeared somewhat “different” from those he had seen the prior year. 

Lucky was growing more nocturnal. It was suspected that he bedded on a large block of undeveloped acreage during daylight hours. Ernie still-hunted the waist-high cover on opening day of the ’93 firearms season, and as expected, Lucky bounded from the tall grass and crossed Route 1. The big whitetail trod through a homeowner’s front yard and into a small protected thicket. A running shot was possible, but Ernie, a respectful sportsman, refused the offering for fear of wounding the buck. 

Ernie figured that if Lucky was pressured and crossed Route 1 again during the second slug season two weeks later, possibly he could be caught in transit. He repositioned his treestand in preparation for such an occurrence. Two hunters from another party foiled the scheme, however, by pushing Lucky in the opposite direction. One of the hunters fired a chancy shot and hit the buck. 

Again Ernie assisted in following the blood trail, and Lucky stopped a second slug in a hind leg during that stalk. The seemingly invincible buck still refused to go down. Lucky was injured, but not mortally, and was seen later.

By legal quitting time that day, everyone but Ernie had long since given up the chase. The hunter unloaded his gun and stepped across a fence to head homeward - at which time Lucky popped out of a grass patch only 15 feet away and trotted out of sight! “Lucky was sure the perfect name for that darned deer,” Ernie thought. 

Ernie caught a glimpse of his quarry in late December, and the buck appeared to be in good health. Cleft hoof prints were found on Lucky’s usual trails; apparently they were the result of the wounding incident. It surprised Ernie that Lucky had not permanently relocated to a less-pressured property. 

The hoof print showed up again during Ernie’s 1994 mushroom hunt. Lucky’s rodent-chewed, left-side shed antler also was found by the hunter that spring. Harvesting this tough whitetail became even more of a priority, as he was now clearly a trophy-class buck. 

The early part of the 1994 bow season turned out warm and uneventful. Ernie saw Lucky twice before the rut: once at sunrise, and once at sunset. His rack had grown considerable mass, with one drop tine off the left beam. Overall, the antlers had an odd look that couldn’t be explained without closer inspection. 

Ernie and his new hunting partner, Russ Lewsader, plotted their hunt for opening day of the firearm season. They’d perch in treestands; 100 yards apart, on opposite hillsides, overlooking a small creek. The adjacent ground had been mowed, eliminating one of Lucky’s core bedding areas. Odds were fair that resident deer would now elude hunters by hanging in the rough creek bottom. Ernie and Russ hoped they each could fill either sex and antlerless permits by hunting this area from treestands. 

They climbed aboard their stands shortly after 5 a.m. on opening day of gun season. It was a bluebird morning. Ernie hoped Lucky would show before another mature buck could tempt his trigger finger. 

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Deer began funneling back into the oak woods from fields about an hour after daybreak. Several does and three bucks meandered past Ernie at 8:15 a.m. Some of the deer walked across the creek toward Russ. 

A doe and twin fawns rushed by Ernie, following the crack of Russ’ slug gun. It had been decided that only a wounding would cause either hunter to leave his stand and request the other’s help. There was no sign of Russ by 9 a.m., reasonably assuring Ernie that his friend had made a clean kill. 

The doe and twins eventually bedded in knee-high grass about 75 yards away from Ernie, who watched them for an hour. Suddenly all three deer rose in unison and bounded for thicker cover. Something had spooked them. Ernie’s attention focused beyond where the deer had been holding. 

A doe and a wide-antlered buck were approaching at full speed. The doe veered, but her beau jumped a fence and came headlong toward the hunter, stopping behind a tree at 35 yards. The buck’s rack carried a drop tine! Could it be Lucky? 

The wary whitetail winded the air and peered from side to side for looming danger; his huge antlers swiveled like scanning radar. Ernie’s Remington 20-gauge Wingmaster spoke once as the buck stepped into full view, but there was no apparent reaction from the buck, so the hunter fired twice more at the now fleeing trophy. The final shot upended him. Innumerable tines buried themselves deep in the mud. It was an incredible sight to behold, Ernie remembers. 

Russ knew something big had gone down when he heard his partner let out a holler and whistle. Soon afterward, the two friends met near the creek and congratulated each other. Russ had filled an anterless permit, and Ernie’s dream had come true. They recapped the morning on the way to visit the elusive Route 1 buck’s final resting place. Lucky was lucky no more! 

Lucky’s eye guards are his antler’s most eye-catching antler features. The right and left G-1s measure 10-2/8 and 9 inches, respectively, and sport eight matching sticker points, tallying more than 25 inches total. Jetting straight forward like saw teeth, the G-1 stickers give Lucky a unique appearance. 

It is likely that leg wounds on opposing sides caused the balanced growth of abnormal points on this strange rack. Why the typical frame grew symmetrically, unaffected by the injuries, remains a whitetail mystery. We can only wonder what Lucky’s typical rack would have gained in inches had he not been wounded earlier in life. Could Lucky have been a World’s Record typical in the making? 

The Importance of Records in Big Game Management

When you enter your trophy into the Boone and Crockett system, you aren’t just honoring the animal and its habitat. You are participating in a data collection system that started in the 1920s and was refined by Club members in 1950. Today, there are nearly 60,000 trophy records. By establishing a records database more than 70 years ago, the Boone and Crockett Club established a scientific baseline from which researchers can use to study wildlife management. If you’re still  on the fence about entering your trophy, we encourage you to read Why Should I Bother to Enter My Trophy. To the best of our ability, we ensure that the trophies entered into the records were taken in accordance with the tenets of fair chase ethics. Despite what some may think, the Boone and Crockett records are not about a name or a score in a book—because in the end, there’s so much more to the score.



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-Theodore Roosevelt