When it comes to reflections on the recent Ohio primitive weapons deer hunting season, no hunter had it more primitive than Matt Langlois of Grand Rapids.
He had to kill an eight-point buck with his bare hands - in self defense.
Here's the story:
It was opening day of the statewide primitive weapons or “muzzle-loader” season, and Langlois was part of a six-man crew from Grand Rapids, hunting in southwest Wood County.
“It started at the Pue stone quarry on Weston Road in Custar,” Langlois said.
The hunting party, which included Ed Cline and his sons, Jason and John, Rusty Hefinger, and Paul Bowser, planned a deer-drive through a woodlot on the quarry land.
“We set up and were pushing the woods. Ed Cline shot the deer, an eight-point buck,” Langlois said.
But it didn't go down, and the hunters began tracking it.
Langlois set off on the buck's trail while the others circled around in hopes of heading it off. Meanwhile, Langlois followed the trail into a creek bottom.
“Every once in a while I'd see a glimpse of him up ahead. I knew I wasn't far behind.”
As he neared the end of the creek bottom, Langlois heard a shot and thought one of his buddies had finished the deer.
He climbed the banks and saw the buck at the edge of a field about 70 yards away. He pulled his rifle to his shoulder to shoot.
“All that happened was my (percussion) cap went off.” The powder in the muzzle-loader did not catch.”
Langlois reached for a new ignition cap as he approached the deer, but the animal bolted over a rise, out of sight. When the hunter reached the top of the rise, he could not locate the buck; it had circled back into the creek bottom.
“At this point I looked to my right and saw him trying to cross the creek.”
Langlois ran down to within 10 feet of the buck and tried to make a killing shot, but his rifle misfired again.
He said he cannot explain what he did next, but he slid down the creek bank to within five feet of the deer. The antlered animal turned, bristled, faced him off.
“I went to turn and run because it appeared the deer was going to charge.”
Then Langlois slipped and fell. In a heartbeat the buck was on him, goring his boots and legs with its antlers.
Langlois crawled under a fallen tree for protection as the buck continued to slash with its antlers. The hunter wrapped his legs around the buck's neck in a wrestling hold and grabbed its antlers with both hands in hopes of subduing it and to prevent being seriously gored. Fortunately, Langlois said, the buck kept slipping on the creek ice.
“We separated briefly and I stood on the opposite side of the fallen tree.”
When the buck closed again, Langlois struck it on the side of the head with his rifle. The deer turned and ran across the ice, only to fall through near a stretch of open water.
“Every time he tried to get out of the water the ice kept breaking more. The whole time I'm screaming for help.”
With the deer thrashing in the shallow creek water, Langlois closed on it and tried to pole-axe it with the barrel of his rifle.
“I broke my gun in two, and when I swung I went through the ice too. Now I'm up to my thighs in water.” With a fighting buck.
Rich Hite of Neapolis, who had been standing at a bridge over the creek and had been hunting nearby, was first to arrive at the scene. Initially he thought Langlois was hollering to alert his buddies that the buck was headed toward them. Then he thought that Langlois had fallen into the creek.
So he told his partners he was going down to check.
“I rounded a bend in the creek and there he was on top of the deer, wrestling with its antlers and his gun was broken all over the ice,” Hite said.
“It was something,” added John Cline, Langlois's buddy, who also ran down to help. He had been posted above the creek, “and I heard Matt yelling. He was rolling around on the ice and hollering for someone to get him a gun.”
By the time Cline arrived, the buck was dead.
“I could not hold him down,” said Langlois, a 24-year-old, 180-pound former high school and college wrestler. “The whole thing lasted about four minutes. But it felt like forever.”
Langlois said he has taken a lot of ribbing and teasing from sportsmen in the community, and he suspects he will never live down the incident.
“I've still got bruises. I've got holes in my boots.”
And, now that he can look back and realize he survived without serious injury, he knows he has a story to tell.
Steve Pollick is The Blade's outdoor writer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.