The Clute Buck
A Buck On Crutches

The Harold Clute Buck

By Harold Clute

I have hunted every year since I was 15 years old and as the leaves started turning in the fall of 1997, I got that familiar urge to head out into the woods. The only problem was that I had been on crutches for over a year, as the result of a 17 foot fall in my garage. I landed on my leg, breaking it in five places between the knee and the hip.

At 65 your bones are slow to heal, so I decided to try and obtain a handicap permit from New York State DEC. The , I could at least hunt from an ATV. I sent in all the appropriate paperwork from my doctor and began the wait. Two weeks had already passed in the gun season I hadn't heard a thing., so I called to see what happened to my permit. They told me I had been rejected and that I could get into the woods on crutches.

That November we got about a foot of snow, which helped because there was a crust and my crutches held in it quite well. I started going farther into the woods with them each day, starting at a quarter mile and working my way up. Believe me, It's hard to walk with crutches and a deer rifle too.

I like to hunt this one big mountain in my area as I've had good luck there in the past. On the morning of November 21, about 7 am, I drove to the area in my 4x4 pickup and parked on an old wood road. I started up the mountain on my crutches. The going was quite steep and ledge filled, but I was determined to go as far as I could before I sat on watch.

It took me 3 1/2 hours to get to a spot where I had luck several times before. I sat down, got as comfortable as possible, and began my vigil.

When I left home that morning my wife asked me to be home by noon to put a turkey in the oven, as my daughter and her family were coming that evening for dinner. I looked at my watch and it was already 11 am. I thought to my self, "I just got here and now I'll have to start down." I knew there was no way I'd make it back by noon, so I decided to sit there a minute or two longer. I knew I would have to angle my way down the mountain, as it was harder to go downhill on crutches than uphill.

I stood for a moment, gathering up my crutches and trying to decide whether I should go and see if I'd hit the buck. I knew I was supposed to be home at noon, but there was no way I would ever make it. Even if I started right then, I would still be a few hours late.

Suddenly I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I thought at first it was a deer. But, it turned out to be one of my old hunting buddies, Jack. He didn't know I was hunting that day, so he had gone alone. I motioned for him to come over. I told him I just shot at a nice buck, but I wasn't sure if I'd hit him. I told him I had to get home to put in a turkey, so he offered to go up and look for sign of a hit where I last saw the deer disappear among the ledges.

I waited until Jack had reached the spot. Suddenly, he waved and motioned for me to come up. I grabbed my crutches and started trudging through the snow to where he stood. When I got there, some fifteen minutes later, Jack was pointing to a trail of hair on the snow about 30 feet long. I figured I had just raked the buck's side, as there wasn't a drop of blood anywhere.

"He'll be a lot smarter tomorrow", I remarked to Jack.

We walkd a little farther and suddenly there was a lot of blood and a bed where the buck had laid down. I knew then that I had hit him pretty good, a buck doesn't lie down 50 feet from where he was hit.

Then I spotted something next to a big pine tree. I knew it was the right color for a deer, so I set my crutches down and kept watching the big brown spot. Finally I saw it move and caught a glimpse of a horn. I had only brought five shells with me taht morning and had already used up two shooting at the deer. I thought if I could get my scope on him before he took off I would shoot the remaining shells at him. A man on crutches shouldn't be chasing a deer all over a mountain with a foot of snow on the ground.

I took my time, put the crosshairs on the biggest part of him that I could see and shot 3 times. I knew that at least two hit him. With no more shells, I stood there and watched. Hre didn't move. I worked my way down to him and as I got closer I could see his horns. They looked like elk horns!

As I approached the deer my buddy Jack arrived. He remarked that he had seen a lot of big deer in the woods, but mine was the biggest he had ever seen. We dressed the deer and Jack dragged to my truck and loaded it on for me.

The buck turned out to be the biggest I'd ever shot. It weighed 220 lbs dressed and had a 32 inch neck.

Needless to say I was very lucky. Not only to get the deer, but to have my buddy come along and help me drag it out and loa it for me. I guess I can give some credit to ENCON for not issuing me a handicap permit. I wouldn't have been on the mountain that day if I'd had a permit to use an ATV. I am also a taxidermist and couldn't wait to mount my trophy. After the 60 day waiting period I had my buck measured. It scored 160 7/8 as a non-typical and 147 as a typical.

OH yeah, my wife forgave me for not starting the turkey on time!!

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