A heart-stopping buck

(Editor’s Note: After receiving numerous photos of hunters who shot hefty-antlered deer with wide spreads, the Sun-Gazette Outdoors section decided to feature their stories in a special series called Monster Bucks. The stories will be published on an ongoing basis, and hunters who would like to be included may submit their photos for consideration. Call 326-1551, ext. 3116, for details.)

JERSEY SHORE – As the end of flintlock season drew near, Jan. 12 marked the last chance for Pennsylvania hunters to bag a deer before the 2013 fall season started.

Daniel Metzger, 58, of Jersey Shore, left his house that day, planning on taking a deer. He got into the woods in Loyalsock Township, before daylight, around 6 a.m.

Metzger said he was suffering from chest pains when he sat down in the woods that morning. He is on dialysis and didn’t think much of the pains.

“I have a lot of muscle cramps,” he said. They are a side effect of dialysis.

Though he endured the “muscle cramps” throughout the day, Metzger still managed to bag an 11-point white-tailed deer that sported a 19 1/2-inch spread. What he didn’t know is, he would end up in the hospital that evening after suffering a heart attack.

The morning started out foggy as Metzger sat in the woods. He picked the spot because he said the deer are known to come down from a cornfield into that section of woods.

His previous spot yielded nothing.

“I sat there until 8:30 and I didn’t see a thing. I saw a guy walking down from a stone quarry. I figured that he just walked through there (so) I may as well move out to the point,” Metzger said.

The land he hunts on is private. Metzger went with the owner while the latter was taking dialysis, so the owner allowed him to hunt there.

Not 15 minutes later, two bucks came down from the cornfield.

The fog made it hard to see them at first.

“The first one was a six- or eight-point. I had that one in my sight until I saw this one out of the corner of my eye,” he said.

The “this one” he referred to was a thick-massed 11-point.

He took a shot and reloaded. He had hit the deer, but it wasn’t a kill shot. When he walked to the spot where the deer had been, he found blood and began tracking.

“It (the blood) went to the edge of the creek and went across the Loyalsock Creek,” he said.

Hither and yon

Metzger didn’t have any hip boots or waterproof shoes with him, so he called his son, Nathaniel, also of Jersey Shore, who brought them to his dad.

His son started across the creek first.

When the did, the deer jumped up. Nathaniel saw its antlers flash and then the deer laid back down.

“I hit it in its back leg and it was bleeding pretty bad, not bleeding out a lot, but it was building up in its leg,” Metzger said.

On the trail to the spot where the deer was down, the two saw it get back up again and then it went back across the creek another time.

“The water was up to my crotch and I was soaked,” Metzger said.

By that time, Metzger was wearing out fast.

“My son, being 21, was able to roam around and chase it,” Metzger said.

After 6 1/2 hours, Nathaniel chased the buck through a hollow to an island on the creek, back and forth through the woods and to the cornfield.

“It would lay down and he (Nathaniel) would get up on it and it would get up and take off again,” Metzger said.

Nathaniel finally followed the deer to within five yards of the point at which Metzger took the shot. It then laid down and stayed down. It was only 50 yards from Metzger’s truck.

“We (dragged) it out, gutted and tagged it,” he said.

A miracle

When he got home, he went to supper with his wife, Melissa, but he still was having chest pains.

His family suggested he go to the hospital, but Metzger refused. He just wanted to relax.

But, his condition worsened and he finally decided to see a doctor.

He was diagnosed with having an acute myocardial infraction – a heart attack.

His doctor told him he basically was experiencing the heart attack all the time that he was having chest pains.

From that Saturday until the following Wednesday, he stayed in the hospital, recovering.

“This was the miraculous thing. If Nathaniel wasn’t tracking the deer, (Daniel) would have not come out of the woods that day,” Melissa said.

The Metzgers said they have the Lord to thank for Daniel still being alive.

“We really feel like it was the Lord that sent that deer so Dan could get out of the woods,” Melissa said, her voice breaking.

“We feel doubly blessed that day because God saved his life and he got a monster buck,” she said.

“I have hunted out there 10 times this year and never saw a buck,” he said.

Metzger has been hunting all his life, from the time he was 13 years old.

He really started into flintlock in the last four or five years. He enjoys it because it is more of a challenge.

“The gun might not go off,” he said as an example.

His model of choice is a .54 Lyman muzzleloader.

Last year, Metzger managed to score a nice 10-point in the Gray’s Run area, but this year he topped it with the wide 11-point.

He pointed out that last season’s 10-point fits inside this season’s 11-point spread.

He planned on a shoulder mount for the deer, but when friends and family found out about what happened to Metzger, they decided to go together and help pay for the mount.

The deer’s weight was estimated at about 170 pounds field dressed.

“It was big,” Metzger said of his buck. “Its neck was (long), like a giraffe’s.”

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