The two men decided to trail the deer to see where it had gone down.
"It had died about 15 feet back onto my property," Arnold said. "In Ohio, where the deer dies determines who can claim it. So by the letter of the law, the deer was mine."
"Neither of us wanted to give the deer up," Ballenger said.
Arnold came up with the solution.
"Jim's a young guy, and he was really excited," Arnold said. "He asked what we were going to do. I told him his family had always been good to mine, and that our grandfathers were good friends, so the only thing I knew to do was to draw straws for it.
"Jim said, 'You've got to be kidding.' I said, 'Do you have a better way to do it?'"
Before they drew straws, Ballenger and Arnold took cellphone pictures of each other with the buck.
"Then Dave snapped off a couple of sticks and held them in his hand," Ballenger said. "I pulled the long straw."
"Jim looked at me like, 'Are you really going to do this?' I told him, 'A deal is a deal, buddy. Congratulations."
Later, when Ballenger field-dressed the buck, he found that Arnold's shot had missed the animal's heart by a scant inch and a half.
"He was that close to having that deer for himself," Ballenger said.
Later, when he'd had time to reflect, Arnold wondered what might have been.
"A couple of thoughts came to me," he said. "If I'd shot a little higher, that deer would have died within yards of where it was shot.
"Also, If Jim hadn't been in that tree, would I have got the deer? It was cutting through a small corner of his property when he shot it. I'd like to think that the buck would have cut across the corner and headed for cover on my property, not run around in Jim's field like an idiot."
Arnold hopes yielding the trophy will give him, as he put it, "some good karma."
Based on others' reactions, karmic rewards aren't exactly a sure thing. As Arnold puts it, "People either say I did a really good thing, or they say I did the dumbest thing they've ever heard of in their lives."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.