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Last month, we published a collection of short essays titled, “My Trophy,” in which F&S writers and editors told the stories of their favorite personal—and, in some cases, oddball—hunting and fishing trophies. We also asked for readers to send us their similar stories. What follows is a collection of our favorites. Thanks for sharing.
The Buck Blade
The timing of the December–January “Trophy Issue” could not have been more perfect. Two days before its arrival, I was pulling ivories from this year’s elk when my wife asked why I kept such a thing. My reply was simple: Every game animal has its trophy—a turkey beard, an elk antler, a pheasant tail… She walked away not understanding but accepting it. To my delight, I was able to share with her some of the trophy stories in the issue. She then asked what my trophy was. After literally making a list, I narrowed it down to one item. Here it is.
This knife was given to me by my father, and later modified after I broke the handle. (That’s another story.) The handle is from a two-point buck I shot the first time I was allowed to skip school for deer hunting. I dressed the deer not knowing what would take shape and that every deer after would feel the same steel. I was 15 years old, and the inspiration for the orientation of the antler came from the movie Legends of the Fall. I drilled out the handle to fit the tang, cut off the points, sanded the ends round and smooth, cut the base to length for my hand, and wrapped it in leather and sinew. It’s now been bloodstained from more deer than I can count, and means more to me with each deer it cleans. Almost like a tribute of one animal to the next. —Justin E. Brown
The bullet on the left is from the first buck I killed with a muzzleloader. The other two are from my beloved .270. They also happen to be from the two biggest bucks I’ve killed. I know they don’t look like much, but after growing up slug hunting up North, it means something to me to have recovered them. And the two .270 bullets, and bucks that came with, finally got my wife’s family to quit calling me a “damn Yankee.” And I proved to them that you don’t have to sit in a tree. —Joshua Porter
The Squirrel Sheath
On my 17th birthday, my dad asked me what I wanted to do. I had just bought my first gun earlier that year (a Remington 870) and I wanted to go squirrel hunting to break it in. So he and I went to a small acreage we had access to, and we went about two hours with no kills, before we decided to head back. We heard two squirrels cutting in the distance, so we quietly walked over to the area, and soon enough I had two of them scurrying around a tree. Three shots later and I had my first kills with the 870. I was happier as I could ever be, and wanted to use as much of my harvest as I could. After we got home, I skinned the squirrels, careful not to puncture or rip the skin. We went on with cleaning the squirrels and enjoyed a nice meal out of them. I took the two hides and tanned them. I didn’t really know what to make of them, so a few days later while I was fishing along the Illinois river bottoms, I found some pieces of driftwood that had floated from a beaver den. I gathered them and took them home with a genius plan—make a knife! At home, as I tried to figure out what material to use for the blade, I remembered an article I had read in F&S about how to make a D.I.Y. knife out of a saw blade. So my dad gave me his dad’s old table-saw blade to cut a design out of. This thing had to be 50 years old. I cut out a rough blade with an angle grinder, made a handle from the driftwood, and used one of the squirrel pelts to make a stealth. I was so proud of my treasure, and I still am. —Alex Reed
The First Buck Award
With the pull of the trigger, my shotgun fired and a thick-horned 8-pointer fell. I had shot my first buck. Heck, I’d shot our first buck. My brother Jeff, who is two years younger than I am, took up deer hunting a couple of years prior, and this was the first buck he or I had ever killed. One month later it was Christmas. I unwrapped a gift from Jeff. It was a handmade plague in which he used a wood burner to inscribe a picture of a big buck and the words: “1st Buck Award.” Now that’s a trophy! —Jerry Lambert
The Door Prize
Pictured here is the 9 ½-inch turkey beard that has been hanging over my doorknob for the past eight years. This was from the first game animal I ever killed—a 17 ½-pound New Hampshire gobbler. My dad and I had covered about three miles on a run-and-gun hunt the day before. We then returned to the one spot where we’d heard a gobble, and upon making a few calls, he answered us. About five minutes later, my ears were ringing from the shot, and my father was shaking my hand. —Alex Martin
Hulls of Fame
In 2011, after 25 years of deer hunting, I bought a shotgun and went turkey hunting; I’d been listening to friends talk about it for years. I never went with anyone else, just by myself. In 2012, I called up and shot my first turkey…and my second…and my third. I kept the shotshell hulls and labeled each with details of the kill. I didn’t know how well I was doing until I tried to book a hunt in Texas and saw what they were offering. My turkey beards were 10 1/2, 9 3/4, and 9 5/8 inches. The heaviest weighed 22 pounds 10 ounces. The last is a story in itself. —Mark T. Weathers
The Brain Teaser
This past summer I had plenty of time off between work, so I fished away the summer days. I traversed the local fishing spots along the river and caught plenty of fish. To save gas, I would occasionally fish in my own backyard. Behind my house is the same river from where I catch all of my fish, but it’s at a part of the river where catching anything is almost unheard of. One day in late August, I threw out some lines baited with freshly picked nightcrawlers. I figured, Why not? Summer’s almost over anyway. After about two minutes of fishing I glanced over and saw one of my rods bent over. Soon I was fighting a 7-pound freshwater drum. The fight lasted for 15 minutes, with my line nearing the breaking point several times. My brother helped net the brute with a makeshift umbrella net trap, since our main net had been stowed away elsewhere. And we caught a handful more.
I had heard about “brain rocks” in freshwater drum, so I took to it with one of the smaller ones we had been caught and filleted, and dislodged a pair of small, smooth stones. They now serve as mementos for the wild ending of summer—all from my very own backyard. —Mikael Ranta