CHAPMANVILLE - Myron Copley couldn't believe his luck.
The buck he'd hunted since opening day stood just a few yards away, scraping at the forest floor with its hooves. Copley gripped his bow nervously, waiting for a chance to draw and shoot.
He never got one. A sudden sound spooked the buck into the next county. Moments later, though, the creature that made that sound gave the 19-year-old hunter the thrill of his young lifetime.
"That morning sure did have its ups and downs," Copley said.
"Downs and ups" would have described it more accurately. Copley had planned to rise at 5 a.m. so he could be in his stand well before daylight. On that particular day, Dec. 3 of West Virginia's 2013 bowhunting season, sunrise occurred at 7:27 a.m.
"I overslept," Copley said. "I only had about 20 minutes to go before daylight. I got to my stand late, so I figured I'd already ruined my morning."
Three hours of fruitless stand-sitting convinced Copley he was right. Not much stirred in the Mingo County woods, and by 10 a.m. the young Lenore resident had about all the boredom he could take.
"I packed up my video recorder and most of the rest of my gear," he recalled. "I was just about ready to leave when I looked up and saw a buck coming in."
It wasn't just any buck, it was the big nine-pointer he'd been hunting for the past two months.
"I had seen him on trail camera pictures, and I'd been laying for him since opening day, but up to then I'd had no luck," Copley said. "And there he was, coming straight toward me."
The buck ambled within 10 yards of the hunter's stand and began working a scrape. Copley waited patiently for it to turn away from him so he could draw his bow without spooking the wary animal.
A loud grunt startled both the hunter and the deer.
"It was a big buck - a really big buck - and it moved in and chased that nine-pointer right off that scrape," Copley said. "I was 10 yards away when all this was happening, and I could see the big buck's rack as plain as day. All I could think was, 'My lord, I hope I don't mess this up.' "
After what seemed like hours, the buck turned and began to walk away.
"I could see that it was headed toward a little tree," Copley said. "I knew that if I timed it right, I could draw my bow as the buck's head went out of sight behind the trunk. But then, just as I drew back, the buck stopped and I had to wait. It seemed like forever before he finally stepped out."