“I wasn’t planning on going hunting that Sunday morning before church,” 17-year-old Kristian Vargas of Jefferson County, Arkansas, explains. “I’d been to one of my school friends’ Sweet 16 party on Saturday night and didn’t get home until about 1:00 am. Then my dad, Luis, woke me up at 6:00 am to leave the house at 6:30 to go deer hunting.”
On this hunt on November 22, 2015, Kristian Vargas was 16-years old, and sleep was far more important to him that morning than deer hunting. However, he put on his hunting clothes, got his rifle, walked out the door and climbed into the truck. Vargas knew this hunt wouldn’t last all day, because he and his did had to get back home 5 miles away to go to church later. When Kristian crawled into his tree stand before daylight, at first his dreams focused on being home in bed. As the sun parted the curtains of darkness, he heard rustling in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land in front of him. He quickly saw eight bucks and four does. “Three were 6 pointers, one a huge 8 pointer and one a 7 pointer,” Kristian says. “I made the decision to take the big 8 pointer. He was running a doe through thick brush, and the other bucks went over to see what he was doing.”
Off in the distance, Kristian heard duck hunters going to war. The CRP land ran into a levee that held back the Arkansas River when it flooded. By late November, the winter migration of waterfowl from Canada had put plenty of duck hunters on the river. “I’d been sitting in the stand for 2 hours and realized I needed to leave to meet my dad and drive back to get ready for church,” Kristian says. “Suddenly I caught movement off to my left and picked up my binoculars. About 300-yards from my stand, I spotted the biggest buck I’d ever seen. His long brow tines – appearing to be 10-11 inches long – told me he was a monster buck.”
Agricultural fields where the deer fed at night were on the other side of the levee. The deer usually returned to the CRP land to bed. The big buck was right on the edge of the levee and the CRP land, about to walk up the levee and out of sight. “I knew this shot would be the longest I’d ever taken in my life,” Kristian remembers. “I nervously squeezed the trigger on my .243 rifle and completely missed the buck.”
Not knowing exactly where the shot had come from, the huge buck never took a step but did turn and look in Kristian’s direction. Kristian had time to refocus, get his nerves settled down and prepare for a second shot. “When I squeezed the trigger on my .243 the second time, the buck dropped in the same tracks where he’d been standing,” Kristian says. “I’d been aiming for the shoulder. Later I learned I’d shot in front of the shoulder and hit him in the neck. Since I was so nervous, I might have pulled the rifle off target. But my .243 did the number on that huge buck.” At the crack of the rifle the second time, all the deer in front of Kristian began to run, which took his attention off where the buck had fallen.
Kristian called his dad and said, “You have to come to this stand, because I’ve just taken a really big buck, and I need you to help me find him.” Kristian remained in his stand for three reasons. “I was sweating a lot, I was really nervous, and I wanted to direct my dad to where the buck was on the ground. I kept pointing to the place where the buck had fallen. I was giving my dad instructions over my cell phone, but Dad couldn’t see my big buck. Finally, I calmed down, climbed out of my tree stand and tried to walk straight to where I’d seen the buck fall. I did find the deer. I couldn’t believe how big he was. Once I put my hands on his antlers and started to count, I realized he was a massive 11 pointer – a buck of a lifetime. My dad told me, ‘You’ve just taken the biggest buck on this farm. The landowner and I have been hunting on this farm all our lives, and we’ve never seen a buck that big here.”’
Although several years earlier Kristian’s dad had taken a buck that would score in the 150s from the same property, Kristian knew that his buck was bigger than his dad’s buck. “My dad texted the landowner about the huge deer I’d just shot,” Kristian remembers. “The landowner texted back, ‘I’m leaving church. I’ll meet y’all and help you load the buck up.’ We took the deer home, caped and skinned him, and the landowner took the deer’s head to a taxidermist in Jackson, Arkansas, for me.
“On the following Monday, a Deer Classic was being held, so I took my buck’s antlers and had him officially scored. I was shocked at the score. I was really glad that my dad got me up out of bed, although I’d been at a party until 1:00 am, and that those duck hunters were having a productive duck shoot. They spooked the big buck to come over the levee to where I could get a shot at him. Up until that time, I’d only taken does and one little 11 pointer. I didn’t really know what a big deer was until I took mine.”
Kristian Vargas took his 188-2/8-Arkansas buck on November 22, 2015, that officially scored 172 on Buckmasters.
To learn more about hunting deer with John E. Phillips’ Amazon Kindle eBooks, print books and Audible books and Nook books, click here at http://johninthewild.com/books/#deer. You can type in the name of the book and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer. For a free download on how to make jerky from venison to provide a protein-rich snack, choose “How to Prepare Venison Jerky: The Ultimate Snack Food” at johninthewild.com/free-books.