Illinois Boilermaker Scores Last-Second Success on Brotherhood Outdoors Axis Deer Hunt
by Kurt Beckstrom
In the world of hunting, what Eric Davis—a USA member and Business Manager for Boilermakers Local 1—did during his Brotherhood Outdoors hunt for Axis deer was the equivalent of blasting a walk-off homer or launching a 3-point buzzer beater.
The three-day hunt in Southwest Texas seemed destined to end as a series of missed connections and missed opportunities. Davis, a native of Shorewood, Illinois, is a veteran hunter, however. He’s pursued whitetails, mule deer, elk, wild hogs, predators, as well as waterfowl and upland birds over the years.
Though he’d never hunted Axis deer, a sub-species imported from India and known for impressive antlers on the males and beautiful fawn-spotted coats on both sexes, he understands that having the will and tenacity to forge on is how a person gets to where they want to be—in the field as well as in daily life.
In 1998, a few years out of high school, he joined Local 1’s apprentice program, and with hard work and experience progressed to becoming a superintendent/project manager. He was asked to join the local’s staff as Referral Officer in 2014, then later ran for and won the vice presidency. After serving as the president, and later assistant business manager, Davis is now in his second term as the local’s business manager.
With USA Conservation Manager Forrest Parker as his partner on the trip, Davis set out on his first Axis deer hunt. Little did he know that success would require as much dedication and determination he’d shown throughout his professional life.
“Excitement was high the first day,” Davis said. “We put our eyes on animals, but none of them were the right one, so we held off.”
Day two turned out to be the same. “It was another day of seeing a lot of deer, making some great stalks and getting really close,” he explained. “A lot of them looked good to me, but our guide said we could do better, so we continued hunting for the right one.”
As it sometimes happens on a hunt, things change overnight. The deer seemed to have disappeared and the hunters saw very little during the early hours of the third and final day.
“It was the last opportunity for a successful hunt, but the animals were scarce,” said Davis. “Not many in sight.”
By late morning they decided to set up on a vantage point and wait for things to develop.
“We chose a bluff with a great view,” Davis explained. “After an hour or so, a shootable buck appeared and offered the first opportunity for a shot. It sailed high.”
“We found a buck that was old enough, big enough and in the open. It just didn’t work out the way we wanted,” said Parker. “We still had plenty of daylight left, though and our confidence was high.”
The hunters broke for lunch and took that time to regroup for the afternoon session.
As the day wore on, deer were still scarce, however. “It was getting late when we finally saw a group and attempted a stalk but were never able to get into position for a good shot,” Davis said. “That’s when things began looking grim, and we started to accept that we wouldn’t be able to harvest an Axis deer. We hadn’t given up though.”
With the final day fading, the hunter’s luck began to swing. On the trek back to the truck, they saw yet another small herd and set up stalk. “But by the time we reached the shooting position we’d picked out, they were gone. As they headed for the truck once again, Forrest spots yet another group neither I nor the guide could see.”
One last time the hunters make a stalk, sneak within range and find that the small group of deer contains not just a shooter buck but a true trophy. “I wait for a good shot and when it comes, squeeze the trigger. The shot goes high—again!”
Fortune smiled on Davis that moment because the big buck didn’t realize where the noise came from and stood in its tracks. “I chamber another round, find its shoulder in the crosshairs and shoot again. Success!”
Indeed, Davis’ third shot was a deep one to center field in the bottom of the ninth. Watch “Third Time’s A Charm” on the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance YouTube Channel to see the whole nail-biting adventure unfold.