"Doesn't sound like a very nice boyfriend," Nick opined.
"Got that right," she said.
The buck stepped into a boggy clearing about an hour before, she said. She took careful aim with the iron sights on the trusty rifle and fired one shot from 75 yards. The buck jumped and crashed into the oak scrub, disappearing from view.
"I think I hit it," she said. "I think it's a big one."
"Let's go find it," Nick said.
"You'd do that?" she said, a flush of gratitude numbing the pain.
The two set out on a narrow path through charred pine and oak scrub. After about 200 yards, they reached a leatherleaf bog, about the size of a football field; she pointed to the spot the deer was last seen.
Nick hiked over and quickly found a blood trail, then the jackpot. A massive buck was just 20 yards inside the scrub, its white belly shining in the sun. It was the biggest deer he'd ever seen.
He grabbed the rack and began counting, stopping one short of his age.
"17!" she said. "I don't believe it."
She was now nearing the elation end of the spectrum. Perhaps she was envisioning a come-uppance for her boyfriend. Perhaps she was thinking "ex-boyfriend."
Nick had the impression it was her first deer but didn't ask. He helped her tag the deer. Then he borrowed her knife and gutted it.
The two grabbed opposing antlers and began dragging the 200-plus pound trophy. Nick was sweaty and gassed when they reached the road. He had no hope of lifting the buck into her pick-up.
"I couldn't even get its shoulder off the ground," Nick said.
In time two other hunters came along and helped hoist the buck into the truck; it took all their strength.