By Louie Stout
Grant Ellabarger had seen the big buck numerous times.
“I saw him twice last year but couldn’t get a shot off,” the Plymouth, Ind. resident recalled. “I saw him again opening day of gun season this year but still didn’t have a shot.”
That gave Ellabarger hope that he still had a chance at the biggest Indiana buck he’s seen during many years of hunting.
He climbed into his tree stand on a private Marshall County woodlot early morning of Nov. 21, realizing he needed some venison for the freezer and the seasonal clock was ticking. If he didn’t see the buck, he’d take a doe or two.
“About 8:15 that morning, 20 or so does ran right beneath my stand,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it, but I guess the wind was right and they hadn’t picked up my scent.”
Two nice bucks joined the group, and Ellabarger thought about taking one, but felt he should hold off in case the big dude showed up as well.
“I shot one of the does and she fell right there,” he said. “What was amazing is the other deer around my stand didn’t spook. They kept munching around on the ground.”
Equally remarkable was that the big buck appeared shortly thereafter, some 40 yards away.
Ellabarger squeezed off a shot with the custom single-shot shotgun his father had built years ago. The antiquated, heavy gun had a 10-gauge barrel bored out for 12-gauge shells.
“I saw the deer kick up and take off, so I didn’t know if I had hit him,” he said. “Some of the does stayed put, so I shot another one.”
He has a comprehensive license that allows him to take a buck and two does during the season.
Ellabarger waited a few minutes then decided to climb down and see if he could pick up a blood trail of the buck he presumed he had missed.
“I walked over to the area where I last saw him and found a blood trail,” he said. “I walked another 50 yards and there he was lying next to a small pond.”
The 12-pointer was huge; it field dressed at 236 pounds, and had a large rack. Ellabarger couldn’t budge him; he was bigger than he even imagined.
“I’m 62 years old and disabled,” he said. “I had to go get help.”
Later that day, he and a friend dragged the deer a quarter of mile to the vehicle, and when they tried winching it into the truck with a hand wench attached to the trailer hitch, the hitch broke!
“It took every ounce of strength we had to drag him by the antlers into the truck,” he said. “I swear his butt was two feet wide!”
Ellabarger plans to have the deer’s antlers scored but is uncertain whether it is record book quality. On the other hand, it’s the biggest deer he’s ever taken and the antlers will be placed on the wall.
“I’ve been hunting for several years and it was finally my year,” he said. “I have the big buck and two nice does for my family to enjoy.”