Question: How do you know for certain that you’ve shot a really good deer?
Answer: You see the hair on your taxidermist’s arms stand up because he’s gotten goose bumps!
Greg Hopper and his brother Clifton planned for a long time to hunt the two weeks of Indiana’s deer season that they considered the finest time to be in the woods — the last week of archery, and the first week of gun season. Both had taken their vacation time then, and also had scouted and hung stands.
They were hunting a local farm, and both were seeing lots of does and small bucks. It was always great to see deer, but those weren’t the ones the two were hoping to see.
“We had decided to hold off, but we weren’t seeing what we wanted,” Greg Hopper said. “One evening, after we were done hunting, we took a little scouting trip to see if we could find out where the big bucks were.
“We went to an area we call the Trash Pile, where the farmer had pushed up a pile of stuff from plowing a field, and right away saw a big buck stand up,” he added. “I grabbed my binoculars, just in time to then see a doe stand up, and they headed through a bean field.
“As they headed across the bean field, I could get a good look at the rack, and saw a big drop tine,” he continued. “I looked at my brother and said, ‘That’s what we’re after, right there.'”
Zeroes In On Buck
Hopper decided to hang another stand closer to where they’d seen the buck. During that last week of the archery season, he had one nice buck go by his stand — not the big guy with the drop tine — but a definite shooter. But the buck was on the move and he couldn’t get him to stop for a shot.
Archery season ended, and although neither brother had taken a buck, they had extra zip in their step as they anticipated the gun season opener.
“I hunted all day Saturday and Sunday from the new stand location, and didn’t see one deer the whole weekend,” Hopper said. “My brother saw plenty, but they were all does and small bucks.”
On Monday morning, the two were greeted by an overnight snowfall, just enough to coat the ground. As they drove to their stands, Greg suddenly shot his hand out onto the dash.
“Stop, let me out,” he said to his brother.
“I had changed my mind on the way there,” he said. “I decided to go back to my original stand. I’d had a lot of confidence in it in the beginning, and for some reason that day I had a strong feeling that I needed to be back there.”
“You sure?” his brother asked, and as an answer Greg opened the door and stepped out.
“On the way to the stand, it was easy to see a bunch of new scrapes, dark against the snow,” he said. “I put some Mrs. Doe Pee in the scrapes, and also used it to make a drag rag, and make a trail from the scrapes to my stand.”
At about 8 a.m., Hopper spotted a buck working along the edge of a field, close to where he entered the woods.
“It was a huge body on that deer, and I could see antlers,” Hopper said. “He was walking slowly and stopping along the way. Finally, he walked into the woods and I could see where he was heading.”
Spots Shooting Lane
Hopper yanked off his gloves and shouldered his shotgun.
“I knew that at the angle he was traveling, there was one place where I could shoot,” he said. “I aimed my gun there and when he got to the opening, I shot.”
It was fairly long shot for a shotgun, about 125 yards.
“He jumped and did a double back leg kick and took off running,” Hopper said. “I watched as he ran and then he turned and started to run right at me. As I jacked another shell into the gun, all of the sudden, he just fell.”
He immediately called Clifton, who soon joined him at the buck’s side. Clifton field-dressed the deer for his brother, and the two loaded it on a homemade cart to get it out of the woods.
They stopped to show the buck to the landowner, and then drove to the check station in town. People came to admire the deer, and Hopper happily accepted their congratulations.
“But I still had no idea of the magnitude of the deer I had shot,” he said. “I don’t know numbers, how to score a rack.
“I called my taxidermist (Steve Kinker Taxidermy) and told him about the buck and he said that he’d tape it out for me when I got there,” Hopper added. “When we got there I said, ‘I hope I didn’t over-exaggerate, but I think I got a pretty good deer.'”
“Look at my arms,” Kinker said when he got his first sight of the deer. The hair on his arms was standing up, and the goose bumps were plainly visible.
“That’s when it really hit me,” Hopper said.
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