Joey Pender coached high school football for 33 years, retiring from West Ouachita high school after the season just ending.
He has coached teams to a plethora of wins with the possibility that somewhere along the way, he was unceremoniously doused with Gator Aide. Pender would have had no complaints had former player, Rusty Autry, poured a bucket of the drink on his head the morning of January 4. Autry came with a blood trailing dog that ended Pender’s frustration at not being able to find the big 10 point buck he shot.
“I have been after this particular buck for the past two seasons,” said Pender. “I would see him occasionally on my trail camera but all the images were taken at night.”
On this particular morning, Pender was hunting on his stand in Bienville Parish located on some 400 acres of private land. Autry and another former player were on stands on adjoining property and all three hunters had their eye out for this big 10 point they knew was somewhere in the area.
“I have been seeing a big old doe just about every time I hunted my stand. I knew it was the same one because she always had three little ones with her plus she had a deformed ear; it sort of drooped down,” Pender said.
About 7:15 that morning, the doe came out right on schedule but this time, there was something different about her when she stepped out.
“This morning, she was alone; the three little ones that were with her every time I saw her were nowhere to be seen. I felt like maybe something was up, so I picked up my binoculars and was looking past her down the shooting lane when all of a sudden, he stepped out right beside her at 160 yards. I have 10 power binoculars and all I could see was a wall of horns, so I put down the glasses and picked up my rifle,” he recalled.
Simultaneously with Pender picking up his rifle, he looked up to see that a 6 point buck had joined the pair. As he was getting in position for a shot, the trio of deer quickly stepped back into the thicket.
“I was sick. After hunting this buck for two seasons and finally seeing him, it looked like I had blown my chance at getting him. About that time, all three of the deer came back onto the lane,” Pender said.
Pender shoots a Thompson Center 30.06 and putting the scope behind the deer’s shoulder, he touched the trigger, the buck reared up and took off. Pender was confident of a good hit on the buck and when he walked down to where the deer was standing, he expected to find him just off the lane. However, after following a good blood trail for 10 yards, he could not find another drop of blood.
“Rusty and the other former player heard my shot, called me on my phone, I told them I couldn’t find the buck so he volunteered to bring his blood trailing dog. Once they got there, the dog hit the trail and led them to the buck. It had taken a hard right where I lost the blood trail, went up a hill and fell in the middle of a clearing,” said Pender.
The buck was rutted down, weighing approximately 185 pounds, sported a heavy symmetrical rack with 10 points and had G-3s and G-4s all exceeding 10 inches. Main beams were roughly 24 inches each with bases measuring 5 ¼ inches. The rack scored 155 7/8 inches.
“I’m glad those former players were willing to help,” said Pender. “I guess they didn’t hold it against me all those hot days I had them pushing that seven-man sled across the practice field.”