For the past 13 years, Andrew Lawson has been hunting when he could, learning as much as possible from his dad, Mike Lawson, and hoping to eventually put those lessons to good use.
“My plan this year was that I was going to put the time in,” Andrew Lawson said, explaining that one of his dad’s lessons has always involved spending as much time in the woods as possible. “My father is an avid hunter and he’s very successful. He has always said it’s about being in the right place at the right time.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 7, the 23-year-old Lagrange man was finally in the right place. His timing was pretty good, too. And as a result, he wound up bagging his first career deer during a hunt he’ll never forget.
Since you’ve already stared at the photo, there’s no sense in delaying the statistical breakdown any longer: The deer weighed 210 pounds and sported a rack with 16 “official” points.
Lawson said he counted 19 points, and the staff at the Old Town Trading Post, where he tagged the deer, called it a 21-pointer. Toby Montgomery, an official antler scorer, said just 16 of those points fit the criteria for inclusion.
Not that Lawson was complaining, mind you. He was too busy reliving a truly memorable hunt.
He’d just arrived in the woods early that morning when he flushed a ruffed grouse, which nearly hit him in the head as it flew past.
“I thought maybe that was the sign that something good was going to happen,” he said.
It didn’t take long before his hunch proved true. Shortly after sending text messages to his dad and his uncle, letting them know he was in his stand, he used a bleat call.
“Instantly I heard a crash off to the left … and I know it wasn’t a squirrel,” he said. “I texted my father again. I said, ‘I just heard one.’ He said, ‘Well, make sure you don’t call [the deer] again. Just let him come to you.’”
Then Andrew heard more footsteps, as the buck approached through a thicket about 30 yards away.
“I still can’t see him, but I can hear him. But I can hear him grunting, and he’s got a pretty weak grunt. I’m thinking that he’s just going to be a spikehorn. But I didn’t care what it was.”
When the buck stepped out onto the path, Lawson learned that it was far bigger than a spikehorn. But even then, he didn’t have an accurate idea of how big the deer was. Instead, he upgraded his estimate to eight or 10 points.
The deer finally stepped out from behind a fir tree and turned broadside, and Lawson took the shot. A short time later, he found the dead buck nearby.
“I could see him underneath a tree. And before I went up to him, I called my father back and told him I found him,” Lawson said. “I said, ‘This thing is huge.’ He told me, ‘Get off your phone and take a picture and send it to me.’”
Lawson also called his wife, Sha-Lynn, who brought their son, 11-month-old Waylon, down to see the deer. Waylon and his mom were asleep when Lawson called, and Waylon — who appears in photos with no socks — was quickly tucked back into his car seat and covered with a blanket after the photo op.
And the Lawsons will be talking about Waylon’s first reaction to the buck for years.
“He’s looking at the deer and going, ‘Dog! Dog!’” Lawson said.
After tagging the deer in Old Town, Lawson decided to hang him in his front yard for a bit, just to give the locals a bit of a show. The deer quickly drew a crowd, and caused a minor traffic jam in rural Lagrange.
“There had to have been at least 60 [people who stopped to see the deer],” he said. “There were people who would slow down and not turn in, or turn around and drive back by. There was just a pile of people. People honking the horn. And there were a couple of people almost rear-ending each other because they’d just slam on their brakes [when the saw the deer].”
Lawson was quick to credit his dad for teaching him all he needed to know about hunting, but said he doesn’t deserve any more praise than a hunter who’d shot a smaller buck. A deer’s a deer, he said.
“Don’t get me wrong: I’m very tickled to have the big mount, but I think just having the opportunity to take him is very humbling,” Lawson said.
Not that he expects to see such a large deer again in the near future, of course. After all, it took him 13 years to take his first deer.
“My guess is, as I keep telling people, it’s going to take another 13 years [to tag another deer], and it’s probably only going to be a spikehorn next time,” Lawson said.
And by then, who knows? Maybe Waylon will have tagged a big buck of his own.