Veterans Day Buck
by Kate Nation
November 11, 2013, is a day Donna Shaver—a 17-year member of Steelworkers Local 3657—will never forget. It was Veterans Day, and she had permission to hunt property in Stanly County, North Carolina, during muzzleloader season.
Shaver hails from a family of hunters. Growing up, she spent weekends traveling with her parents to bow competitions throughout North Carolina, and by age 13, she achieved the state record. Her parents started her hunting, but she didn’t catch the bug until she began dating an avid hunter and decided it was something she really needed to get into.
Since then, she has hunted bear, deer, turkey and doves, often with her family. Whitetail is her favorite with turkey coming in for a close second. Though she enjoys hunting with a bow, she prefers muzzleloader season with its cooler temperatures and bucks running around in the frenzy of the rut.
Shaver and that avid hunter, who became her husband, integrated their son, Jeremy, into the family tradition nearly from birth.
“We bought his lifetime hunting license before he was one year old,” Shaver said. “He used to sit at the bottom of the tree with me. We’d take a sleeping bag and snacks, and he’d tell me to wake him up when I saw a deer coming.”
Now an adult, Jeremy was serving as a Marine security guard at the Israel Embassy as Shaver was heading to her tree stand that Veterans Day morning, joined by her 72-year-old father, James Potts, who asked to sit with her. Potts has had to wear a brace on his leg since he was run over by a logging skidder in 1995 and now has only 40% of feeling in his legs and less in his right foot and ankle.
“Walking up hill is a huge struggle for him, much less climbing into a box blind tree stand, but he was very determined,” Shaver said. “I remember getting behind him and helping push him up the hill in the dark to get to the stand before daybreak.”
Once in the stand, they were elbow to elbow, but it was Potts who spotted a flash of white horns in the pines. Shaver watched him through her binoculars as he came toward an opening and was impressed by the height of his horns, but she hesitated. She knew, from trail cam photos, there was a drop tine in the area, and she only had permission to take one buck.
When she asked her dad what he thought, he responded, “I don’t know what you’re waiting on. I would have already pulled the trigger.”
Her mind made up, she raised her 50 caliber Savage muzzleloader and fired on the buck at 126 yards. It “donkey-kicked” and ran into the trees. Unable to see through the smoke, Shaver asked her dad if he saw the buck, but he was shaking so badly he replied that he “couldn’t see a thing.”
As they laughed with excitement, Shaver pondered her shot and texted her husband and son to let them know she shot a nice buck, but it ran off. Her husband told her to wait an hour to pursue it, but after 40-minutes, she couldn’t take it any longer and climbed down from the stand.
No blood. Anxiety began to creep in as Shaver scoured the woods for any sign of a wound. Then, there it was, 70 yards away—a 10 point with 2 stickers, weighing 197 lbs. She shouted, and her father rushed over as fast as he could.
To Shaver’s surprise, Jeremy suddenly joined them in the woods thanks to FaceTime on her iPhone. He checked out the buck, laughed, bragged on his mom and shared the moment from across the world.
“What a Veterans Day! Celebrating with my Marine son stationed in Israel and my 72-year-old dad over the biggest buck I’ve ever taken,” Shaver said. “Then my husband, mom and friend drove up, and the fun began all over again. It was a very blessed lifetime experience that I’ll never forget!”
Scoring 155 7/8” with a 21 ½” inside spread, Shaver’s trophy earned her the title of Biggest Buck for Female Muzzleloader in the 2013 North Carolina Dixie Deer Classic.