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October 29: Doug Hampton

I'm hard headed... At least I'll admit it though. I had hunted for 9 straight days with a Thompson Center Pro Hunter muzzle-loader and killed nada, zilch, zippo, nunka, not squat! Yet, the day after the muzzle-loading season had ended, I'm perched up in a Big Game double set with a PSE in my hand, hunting for the biggest buck that I have gotten pictures of... Some would say I was crazy. I may even agree! But when you crave that feeling of encountering a mature whitetail and then sealing the deal, well crazy is what crazy does, I reckon...

It was bad enough that I had not laid eyes on the buck I was after, but now my striking distance was cut to 60 or less yards. Not having an encounter should not have been a shocker really. I had zero daylight pictures of the buck and had wrote him off as nocturnal. But I knew he had been working some giant rubs that led out of a huge thicket and into a hardwood bottom. He had visited the scrape that I had monitored with the Reconyx on numerous occasions. That vision of those tall eye guards had me up and in the stand nearly an hour before daylight began to break. The wind would be perfect from the north and it was a chilly 38 degrees.

Over the last 9 days I had passed on two different four-year olds, and an even bigger racked three-year old. I had fought mosquito's that I mistook for hummingbirds. I'd encountered once again, "The biggest snake in the world!". I'd had encounters on the ground with bear, wild boars, and a Sasquatch that was following me, if only in my imagination. I had fellow camp members hunting all around me at different times trying to kill the same bucks that I was after. Eight different camp members had come and gone during the week. It sounded like a war had started at times. Hogs were being dropped left and right, but nobody reported a huge 9 point being seen, or shot at.

The majority of the time, I was self filming and hunting. A buddy named Cody Clemons had filmed for the first couple of days... And then I was the one man band! I was determined to lay down the perfect kill for the self-film hunter. Still in yet, any offer by someone to video would have been gladly accepted. On the final 2 days of the hunt, my good friend Zack Byerly text me and asked if he could come give me a hand. I was pumped knowing that a huge cold front was on it's way, and a camera guy that had laid down my 1st Arkansas kill from last season would now be taking over the camera. Two afternoons later, we took off the blaze orange and felt like we'd been whipped. It was tough to ask Zack for just one morning more with a bow in my hand. But when I did, he said "sure, I'll stay till you get ready to go home". "Just give me one morning in the Scrape Set and that's all", I reassured him.

A big hog came walking by at 65 yards after the first glimpses of the forest floor and tree's could be made out. "Are you gonna shoot?", Zack whispered. I shook my head no, wanting to give the buck the first few hours to present himself. After a few more minutes, the hog began to come into easy bow range. The doubt from the lack of success over the past 9 days had started to persuade me into blasting that hog in the side with a Rage. A friend, Chris Vogel, had sent me an arrow wrap with his son's name on it. His son passed away just 45 minutes after being born. He assured me that if I'd use that arrow-wrap that stated "Carter Vogel Forever In Our Hearts," that Carter would push me out a huge buck. I never doubted him. He said Carter had already done that very thing for him, as well as his father. I reached up and swapped arrows not wanting to use my special arrow on a nasty hog. Well, apparently all I had to do was have it in the quiver for Carter to work his magic! I told Zack to turn the camera on and start to film the hog as I began to talk smack about the waxing I was fixing to put on the "stanky pig sooie." I turned back around in preparation for the shot, when I noticed a huge buck had just slipped into an opening that was heading right to our location. The buck had been in the frame, unknown at that moment, the entire time I was jaw jacking!... With the hog now feeding on acorns, the big buck began to veer off to the right as to avoid the hog at all cost. At 40 yards, I drew my Evo and began to settle the pin. "Maaaa!" The buck paused as I let the EVO smoke! The Rage tore a whole through the back of his lungs and there was instant blood, and lots of it! It sounded like the woods were being torn apart as his head ducked down while running carelessly, in no attempt to dodge any of the cypress knees that were ahead in the old swamp. I heard the big crash and then absolutely exploded into a rage of excitement that can only be caused by one thing... That feeling we all long for... When you know you just made a perfect shot on a buck you've been after all season. I punched the tree, Thanked the Lord, acted a fool, and then punched the limbs while screaming and hollering! I'd say I kinda got it all over me so to speak... But that's that feeling we all get... Some of us try to hide it. Some of us try to contain it... But me, It's the reason I hunt...