Even though some may not consider our general area the breadbasket of hunting and fishing opportunities, like other parts of the United States, trophies can be taken and memories made that endure a lifetime, regardless of age or experience. No one knows this better than 67 year old Roger Ford.
The Russiaville resident was raised in consumptive outdoor activities hunting small game, fishing and trapping. They remain an interwoven fabric of his life. You would think after nearly seven decades of pursuing wild game he has witnessed pretty much everything, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. “But what I experienced over the past three days I will never forget,” Ford said, when recalling a recent event. “I started deer hunting over 30 years ago and had lots of experiences but nothing like this one.”
Several weeks back on Halloween’s Saturday afternoon, Ford made his way to his favorite stand overlooking a large patch of weeds and brush. After getting settled in he thought back to a huge eight-point buck he’d seen in 2012. Unfortunately he had already filled his buck license with a much smaller deer. So he did the only right thing, he watched the deer walk out of sight, but not out of mind.
In 2013 he had two chance encounters with the same buck but was never presented with an ethical shot. Then last year he stomached humility when he shot over the bucks back with his crossbow. “I was sick about it,” he said.
As evening drew to a close Ford knew it would only be a few minutes before he would descend the stand and make his way back to his truck. Suddenly movement caught his eye. Turning to the left he noticed antlers making their way through the weeds and knew it was the huge buck he’d first seen in 2012.
Time seemed to stop as Ford readied his crossbow. With an opening through the brush he sent the bolt on its way. “I watched the buck run off and my heart fell within me,” Ford explained. He watched the buck clear a fence and disappear on a dead run.
After waiting for a short time Ford came down from his tree and looked for the bolt. “It was covered with blood so I was sure I made a good hit,” he explained. “I have spent four years trying for that buck and thanked the Lord for that special opportunity.
Ford trailed the deer for a short distance before calling his son, grandkids and family friend to help. “I wanted to wait at least an hour before tracking him,” he said. “Plus I wanted all the help I could get.”
With family and friend in tow the group took off to find the buck. The once easily noticeable trail turned nearly invisible. Several hours later in the ink black darkness Ford’s son Steve jumped the buck. Risking pushing the deer even farther they decided to wait until the following morning before resuming the search. “Then it started to rain,” Ford said, knowing it would wash away any sign the buck had left.
That night he couldn’t sleep. “My mind was racing,” he said. “I wondered if the deer was alive or dead and began to question everything I did.”
Daylight couldn’t come soon enough and after a restless night Ford was back on the search this time with Steve and his father-in-law Denny Heaton. The trio spent the majority of the second day scouring the entire section including woods, fields, fencerows and ditch. Nothing. The only break they took was for church. “We couldn’t even find tracks in a plowed field because the rain had washed them away,” he explained.
Later that Sunday night when returning home, exhausted, Ford recalled the book ‘Where the Red Fern Grows.’ “I thought about the part when the boy’s dogs did their part treeing that raccoon and he was going to do his part by chopping that tree down with an ax,” said Ford. “I thought I did my part, everything I could to retrieve that buck.”
Monday morning Ford decided to place trail cameras in the weed patch to hopefully capture pictures of the deer, thinking it was still alive. On the way he decided to look along a thick ditch where they had looked previously. Amazingly there stood the buck standing in the middle of the shallow water. Even more amazing, a coyote was also close by sensing the deer was injured and waiting for an easy meal.
Both the buck and coyote bolted. Ford watched as the buck ran a short distance and bedded down. He again called Heaton. While waiting for his friend, Ford saw the deer get up, jump a fence and race across a field on a sprint. “I lost sight of him and my heart sank again,” he said.
After driving around the entire section they spotted huge deer tracks in a freshly plowed field with coyote tracks behind it. They tracked the deer through several more fields before eyeing a thick row of pine trees. The pair decided to give it a look.
Approaching the trees they decided to split up to cover both sides. Several minutes later Ford noticed Heaton motioning him over. “I saw antlers moving in the pines but he’s not raising his head anymore,” Heaton explained. “We slowly walked up to him and there he was,” Ford said with jubilation.
Now the pair jokingly wondered how two elderly men were going to load the deer, and with good reason. Ford’s buck sported a live weight at 270 pounds and a field-dressed weight of 230 pounds, a great deer in anyone’s book.
“The only reason I found him was because of perseverance and the Man upstairs,” said Ford. “On the way home we discussed the three day event and all the special memories hunting has provided,” he continued. “But I will always remember this one!”