One for the ages

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Go back to Tuesday of this week and put yourself in the bedroom slippers of Tracy Laird.

The Natchez Community Hospital emergency room director logged in a late night Monday, but jaded by some unsuccessful afternoon trips with his bow and arrow this hunting season Laird decided to press on and head out into the woods before punching in at 7:30 a.m.

Now feel free to lace up Laird’s hunting shoes and step into his world, which has turned into a three-ring circus since that venture yielded the Columbus native a possible state record 27-point non-typical beau buck.

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&uot;Man, I’ve made so many friends in these last few days I don’t know what to do with,&uot; said the modest and overwhelmed Laird. &uot;I have gotten 5,000 taxidermist cards handed to me in the last three days. You see those big boys on TV and in the magazine and think, ‘Man I’ll never kill anything like that.’ Once you do, you don’t know how to react.&uot;

Half-awake and encouraging himself to be on the deer stand, Laird &045; who moved to Natchez in January &045; did not have to wait long for the massive beast to wander by.

He stretched his compound bow back, fired and slew the hulking 250-pound beast.

&uot;He never knew I was there. I probably heard him coming about 30 seconds before I shot him,&uot; Laird said. &uot;He came through and started slowly walking. From then to when I hit him was less than 15 seconds.&uot;

Stricken immediately with buck fever, Laird waited about 20 minutes before he began his journey to find the harvested buck, which was only approximately 50 yards from the stand.

&uot;He was a big dude,&uot; Laird said.

Laird left the woods (&uot;South of town. That’s about as far as I’m willing to say.&uot;), and made one phone call to a friend to say he was bringing it by the hospital parking lot to show what a strong cup of coffee and a little motivation can get you.

Remember this is the Miss-Lou, and we know how much we love our hunting and fishing around here.

Like the old children’s game telephone, word spread of Laird’s harvest like wildfire. In addition, once Laird hit the road, a small convoy began following him like a restraining order stalker.

By the time he wheeled into the parking lot, one would have thought President Bush was getting off Air Force One, with a crowd of more than 50 hunters behaving like Christmas morning.

&uot;This kind of deer creates all kinds of panic,&uot; said Peter Dale, manager of Bowie Outfitters and one of the many overflowing that parking lot Tuesday. &uot;A weird phenomenon exists with a big buck like this. One, it makes hunters terribly jealous. Also, if you’re involved at all in the hunting business, there’s the opportunity to make some money off of it.

&uot;That’s not (Laird’s) instinct or his first priority, though. It doesn’t seem important to him.&uot;

But, while trying to remain cautious, and attempting to downplay the magnitude of the buck in case his hopes are dashed, Laird does want to know if it’s a state record.

He’ll have to wait a couple of months, 60 days, according to protocol of the Pope and Young Club, recognized as the official repository for records on bow-harvested North American big game.

&uot;I think my dad gave me the best advice when he said, ‘Son, it doesn’t matter what it scores, he’s a big deer so enjoy it,’&uot; Laird said. &uot;I’ve been in the woods a long time and never seen anything like that.

The 60-day window allows for any shrinkage that might take place. The state record currently is a 204, with third place belonging to head Giles Island guide Jimmy Riley, whose buck several years ago registered a 173 on Pope and Young.

The minimum entry must be 155, and Dale believes Laird’s buck could potentially be 50 points higher than the nominal number, which would break the state record.

&uot;A deer like that takes quite a while because you have to be so meticulous,&uot; said St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge Manager Randy Breland, who is the local Pope and Young measurer and briefly saw the buck Tuesday. &uot;This deer has a lot of crazy points. It’s a pretty rigorous process to do this.&uot;

All measurements are in inches and eighths. Simply put, Breland tallied the inside spread, beam length, circumference of the beams in four places and marks of any necessary deductions. In addition, non-typical deer, such as Laird’s, require all the points to be totaled.

Once those numbers are determined that are added up and the sum is the final score.

&uot;When you see a deer that is that gnarly and that non-typical, you know it’s going to be off the charts,&uot; said Dale, who is optimistic about the Miss-Lou’s hunting season. &uot;This is a buck that comes along once in 20 years in this country. There’s going to be a lot more exposure as word gets out on the deer.&uot;

Which is the furthest thing Laird wants. On Friday, he pulled his green Toyota Tacoma into the hospital parking lot and was making his way to the ER when he discovered Community’s Plant Operations were having a little fun with him.

Plant Operations is the department that has the responsibility of hammering those &uot;Reserved For&uot; signs into the ground.

As Laird approached the back of the parking lot he noticed one that had not been there before. As he got closer, he couldn’t help but start laughing when he read these words on a piece of paper taped to the green-and-white metal sign:&160;&uot;Moose Killer.&uot;

&uot;Most hunters live their entire lives and do not see a deer like this, much less are fortunate enough to harvest one,&uot; Breland said. &uot;He’s a good hunter and a very fortunate man.&uot;

A framed black-and-white picture of a 10-point buck he harvested with a rifle, Laird’s previous trophy, hangs from the wallpaper in his ER office.

While that one probably won’t be coming down anytime soon, he’ll certainly have to make room for his monumental morning.

&uot;I wish I could tell you it was a stroke of brilliance and planning on my part, but man I got lucky. I was in the right place at the right time,&uot; Laird said.

&uot;I’ve a lot of people say, ‘I’m going to the woods this weekend.’ If it gets more out there (hunting), then that’s great. I think people need more therapy. The world would be a better place.