Bagging big buck helps cure Bailey's buck fever
By Bob Hodge, Knoxville News-Sentinel outdoors editor
October 13, 2002
Darrell Bailey's first flare-up of buck fever almost turned into a 24-hour virus.
At first Bailey's case was typical: His sighting of a huge buck was followed by shaking, shortness of breath and tom-tom-like heartbeats. But it was a sleepless night and Prozac-worthy depression that made his buck fever especially virulent.
The cause was a huge Knox County buck that almost became the one that got away.
Bailey's buck fever was compounded by darkness and an uncut hayfield.
"It was a pretty long night," said Bailey, "I didn't sleep much."
A deer hunter for the past six years, Bailey has hunted much of East Tennessee, but prefers a patch of West Knox County woods not too far from his home. He got into the sport at the urging a duck-hunting buddy, and then paid his dues by going deerless the first two years he hunted.
He broke the ice by bagging a Morgan County doe during his third season of bow hunting, then added a 5-point Roane County buck during muzzleloader season that same year.
Opening day this year he killed a 6-point buck in Knox County.
"It was in a different location," Bailey said. "It wasn't a real big deer, but it was opening day and I was glad to get it."
It was a couple of days later when Bailey tried to squeeze in a deer hunt between work and dark. He got off his job at 4:30, took his wife to her job, and finally climbed into his tree stand about 5:30.
Bailey was hunting a tree line on the edge of a pasture. There were acorns on the ground, a little bit of deer sign in the area and rumors of a monster buck that roamed the woods.
"The farmers around there had seen this really big buck, but nobody that hunted in the area had seen it," Bailey said. "I had hunted around there and hadn't seen the first rub or sign that there was a big deer anywhere near the place."
In fact, Bailey was beginning to think he would never see a big buck anywhere in Knox County.
In 2001 Knox was 92nd out of the state's 95 counties with a total 231 deer taken. Of those 183 were bucks, but few would be considered trophies.
"I was beginning to believe the myth that there were no big deer in Knox County," Bailey said.
What happened 45 minutes after he got in his tree stand proved just what a myth it was.
At 6:15 a doe came walking out of a thicket behind Bailey's stand. Within seconds out walked another deer.
Bailey was infected with buck fever.
The buck, which was rough scored at 135, had 21-inch main beams and a 22- 1/4 inside spread. After walking out it stopped to eat an acorn and presented Bailey with an 18-yard shot.
"It sure was enough to get your blood pumping," Bailey said. "I was pretty shaky seeing the size of the rack, but it stopped right below my stand."
He took the shot and the deer bounded off. As he waited the customary 30 minutes to an hour before tracking the animal the sun was well on its way down.
For more than three hours he and some friends searched for any and every little sign of the deer. At about 11 p.m. they called it off, having lost the trail at the edge of a hayfield.
Bailey had to be at work the next morning and called Ken Miller to pick up the trail after daylight. Bailey spent the night tossing and turning and wondering if the trophy of a lifetime had given him the slip.
It turned out Miller didn't have much trailing to do.
"We quit about 100 yards short of the deer and Ken found it in the field," Bailey said. "He gets all the credit for finding the deer."
J.O. Adams is doing the taxidermy on the buck and said it is the biggest he has seen from Knox County.
For his part, Bailey said he'll never doubt another hunter's stories about getting buck fever.
"You hear about it, but you don't know what it's like until you actually experience it," Bailey said. "I've never seen another deer in the woods anywhere close to this one, so I had buck fever pretty bad."
Bob Hodge can be reached at 865-342-6314 or hodge @knews.com.
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
You can always tell who's in 2nd place by who's whining and crying the most. - Old hockey coach.
Dum spiramus tuebimur
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