The last morning, I sit a field edge with a jungle of woods behind me and the all-too-familiar flower of doom blooming in my stomach. I keep trying to push Carter’s buck from my mind. Knock it off, I tell myself. Fair has no part in this. Go down swinging. Stay true to the hunt. I wedge a stick between two limbs for a rest to cover the woods behind me. About 9:30, I hear a distant crunch. It’s so carelessly loud that it has to be armadillos or something else heedless of its own noise. The crunch approaches. Thirty yards into the jungle on my left, a disturbance. It’s too big to be anything but deer, maybe more than one. In a small opening, I register the rack of a small 6-pointer leading. Then—same opening—a mass of brown antler. I have no concept of tines, width, height—just the instant and unconditional certainty that I’ll shoot if I can. Despite the unholy noise, they’re traveling slowly. The big buck’s eye appears in another opening, and I follow it down to find the shoulder and fire. I hear no sound as something heavy slams my shoulder. A ball of white smoke rises and dissolves. It has been all of six seconds since the leaves first moved. In a trance, I climb down and beat my way through the thicket to where they stood. There is blood and, 15 yards away, the biggest buck I’ve ever shot. I’m swept along on a flood of regret and elation, pride and humility, joy and sorrow. I stroke the buck’s flank, thank him, ask his pardon. I don’t know that he can hear me. I know something does.