The Big Score: Hunters Frank Nero (left) and Raymond Singley turned their luck around.
My dad once told me about the time he and his buddies were conducting a deer drive. Dad was one of the drivers, and the first person he came to on the watch line sat there with a jackknife scraping the weathered finish off the stock of his lever-action Winchester. Imagine that! Yeah, it’s funny, but that man’s refinishing priorities could have set the stage for a big buck, bad luck story. I’ve met three hunters over the years who shared their bad luck to big buck stories. Read on!
Many seasons ago, Frank Nero of Gillett, Pennsylvania, killed a nice buck, tagged it, dressed it out, then went back home to get his four-wheeler to ease the drag. When he returned, somebody had stolen the deer. That incident was the start of how this man earned the nickname Bad Luck Frank.
In his everyday life, Frank was probably perfect, immaculate, flawless, foolproof, spotless, without faults, and beyond compare. But when it came to hunting or shooting, he was a walking case of blunders, mistakes, errors, oversights, slip-ups, and botches—and I’m just naming a few!
One time while he was hunting his sister’s farm in Wisconsin, a 180-class buck walked out of his life when his inline muzzleloader misfired. And that was before he dropped the gun out of his tree stand. A few minutes after retrieving it, another buck showed up, and this time his muzzleloader ignited, but the crosshairs in his scope had been rendered cross-eyed from the fall out of the tree, and he completely missed the deer. I could go on…and I’m going to!
One evening during deer season, Frank set his alarm to go off well before daylight, but he slept through it and didn’t wake up until after seven o’clock. Fit to be tied, Frank leapt out of bed, gathered his gear, jumped in the truck, and headed to his destination—a massive oak tree eight miles from his home and about a quarter-mile walk off a dirt road. He’s hunted that same spot for over twenty-three years. One time when he was bow hunting from that tree, a large eight-pointer came running up to him, and, when Frank came to full draw, both limbs on the bow snapped off the riser.
So, Frank was heading to his beloved oak tree when he pulled up to a stop sign. That’s when he realized he had forgotten his bow. By the time he arrived back home, he figured it was too late to go to the oak tree, so he decided to hunt a neighbor’s property out back of his house. He just wanted to get somewhere, anywhere, as fast as he could so he could waste the rest of his so-called “normal” day.
Well, on the way, Franks spooked a buck, and, judging from all the rubs he noticed on the trees, he had just kicked in the front door to this buck’s bedroom. Sitting down at the base of a tree, he performed a mixture of rattling and grunts. Nothing happened, but he sat there until he was cold and hungry.
That’s when he whipped out a bag of Ritz crackers. Ripping open the noisy bag, he had just shoved a stack into his mouth when a buck stepped out in front of him. He grabbed the bow lying beside him, and, while choking on the crackers with the arrow screeching across the rest as he drew, he let the arrow fly and bagged the deer.
Frank says he doesn’t have a clue why that buck approached, because the wind was blowing his scent right to the buck. Well, I’ve got that all figured out. It’s because that buck—like Frank—was probably a walking case of blunders, mistakes, errors, oversights, slip-ups, and botches—and I’m just naming a few. Scoring 124-1/8 inches, Frank’s buck wasn’t bad for bad luck.
Bad luck started for Terry Bouck of Windham, Pennsylvania, when he found out he had to work one opening day of gun season. But, on his way to work, his cell phone rang. The voice on the other end said don’t bother coming in, because everything has been cancelled. Terry smiled, because that meant he could go hunting. But his smile turned sour when he suddenly remembered he didn’t have a license. So before he could go to the woods, he had to drive to Walmart to purchase one.
When he got there, the line just to buy a license was a mile long, but he pretended he was happy and stuck with it, while valuable hunting time slipped away. When he got back home, he discovered he didn’t have any ammo for his favorite deer rifle, which he’d had plenty of time to pick up at Walmart. But since he and Walmart weren’t hitting it off, he grabbed a different rifle and a handful of shells.
When he got down cellar to gather his hunting clothes, he discovered something else—a tomcat had used them as a signpost, and they reeked of cat piss! So now what? Well, he didn’t have anything else to wear, so he just plugged his nose and headed to a stand. Eyes watering, and stinking like the cat, he was only there half an hour when he looked up and saw the biggest buck ever.
Terry practically cleaned out the magazine of his 6mm shooting at the giant buck, but every shot was a miss! Confused from the shooting, the buck changed course and ran back toward Terry, who finally knocked the deer down with his last shot. Terry’s buck had a net score of 142-3/8. Man, it’s a good thing that buck didn’t get away, because that would have been a CAT-as-trophy!
A gentleman hunter once told me about the time he shot at a buck and missed. When I asked him why he missed, he had a perfect opportunity to feed me a line of lingo, something like this: “Well, you see, the wind was blowing so hard that a twig got in the way, which I didn’t see because the sun was in my eyes and then my gun jammed!” But he didn’t. In fact, his answer was straighter than a gun barrel. He simply said, “I…was…shaking!”
Raymond Singley of Duncannon, Pennsylvania, was a shaking mess when he got his 142-0/8 record book buck, but it wasn’t from nerves. Close friends of Raymond report that the only way Raymond could ever tag a deer was if it was blind, missing a leg, or he hit it from a ricochet. So it was really no surprise when Raymond told me he didn’t get off to a very good start one opening day of a recent gun season.
He was ill for one thing, lost for another, and it was pouring rain. Now, most people who are under the weather wouldn’t be caught out in it, but we’re talking deer season here. While Raymond was wandering around in the dark, in the rain, sicker than a dog, trying to find his stand, he suddenly caught a whiff of something, and he thought it might be a rutting buck that he just spooked.
Totally upset because he couldn’t find his stand, he sought shelter beside a large tree, and stood there holding on to one thing—and it was not his rifle, it was an umbrella. Not long after daylight, he peered out from under the umbrella, and through the pouring rain he saw a big buck. In the process of tossing the umbrella and getting to his rifle, the buck saw Raymond.
However—like Raymond—this super buck hadn’t gotten off to a very good start that morning, either, because he was not faster than a speeding bullet. Fortunately, Raymond got the deer. Unfortunately, he also got something else a few days later—a bill from the doctor who diagnosed him with pneumonia.
As an official measurer for the Boone & Crockett Club, I hear plenty of hunting tales. Some are happy, some sad, some far-fetched, and—like the ones told here—some filled with bad luck. Judging from the size of the bucks that these hunters eventually tagged, I’m beginning to think that having bad luck isn’t such bad luck after all. The way I see it, if these hunters didn’t have the bad luck, they might not have had much luck at all. How about you? Got a bad luck-big buck story to share?