WHAT TORNADO? Youngblood braved storm to get big buck

Published 1:31 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019

After following a deer for two years and shooting it down during a tornado, Michael Paul Youngblood secured the first prize for Fletcher’s Outdoors Big Buck Contest.

“I’ve known about the deer for two years and I think most everyone on Salem Road had pictures of this deer or had seen him over the last few years, but I had not seen him in my field all year,” Youngblood said. “I’d actually seen him about a quarter mile from my home two weeks earlier, while coming home from hunting. I had to stop in the middle of the road and let him cross 30 yards in front of my truck.”

Youngblood had planned to hunt on one of his leased properties that afternoon, but his wife called and was running late, which is how he killed the deer on his property.

“Allison called and was running late and would not be able to pick up our daughters Ivy and Eden from school,” Youngblood said. “I told her that was fine and that I’d pick them up and just sit on the back porch and watch our field behind the house that afternoon.”

He said that his field is about 12 acres and each year it gets planted in cover crops after fall harvest.

“We always have a lot of deer in the field most afternoons and I’d been watching a lot of does and several really good three-and-a-half-year-old bucks and I had seen a couple more really nice older deer earlier in the summer,” Youngblood said. “I was kind of hoping with the rut in full swing, one of the older deer would slip up. That afternoon it was raining off and on and each time the rain would break a few deer would come out and feed until it started raining hard again. Then they would retreat back into the wood line.” 

Around 4:45 p.m., when it stopped raining, eight does came out of hiding, but he did not act on any of them.

“I was watching them for about 15 or 20 minutes when all the does took off running to the north, but I couldn’t see any other deer in the field from where I was sitting,” Youngblood said. “I stood up and took about three steps so I could see around my kids’ swingset in our back yard because it obstructed my view from the porch. Once I cleared the swing set I could see a big deer trotting towards where the does had previously been standing.”

Once Youngblood saw the big deer, he knew exactly which one it was.

“I picked up my rifle and slipped down off the porch,” Youngblood said. “I snuck up to the previously mentioned swing set in order to get a good rest. When I made it to the swing set, he was chasing a half-grown yearling back toward the wood line. The yearling ran just inside the wood line and stopped. The big deer stopped about 10 yards behind her in the edge of the field.”

After the first shot missed, Youngblood thought that his chance was gone.

“I rushed my first shot and I’m pretty sure I shot right over his back,” Youngblood said. “But he never moved. I quickly reloaded and took my time on the second shot, placing the sight right behind his shoulder. I saw him buckle as he spun around and ran into the wood line behind where he was standing.”

Youngblood said that he immediately texted his cousin to come help him find the monster that he had just shot, but he later found out that he was taking an afternoon nap.

“At this point, I jumped in my truck and headed to the west side of the field to try and find my buck,” Youngblood said. “I couldn’t find anything for 10 minutes until I finally found one little speck of blood mixed in with some rain water puddled in the edge of a live oak leaf. That’s is when I started to panic because that meant that all the blood was gone or going to be washed away. I never found another drop of blood, just some kick ups in the ground inside the wood line I saw him enter.”

Now, Youngblood was in the woods, in the rain with his wife texting him, trying to find the buck.

“My wife and oldest daughter were trying to call me so I stopped for a second to answer the phone,” Youngblood said. “I probably wasn’t the nicest when I answered the phone because they were holding up what little progress I was making. My wife told me that we were under a tornado warning and they were already camping out in the storm shelter. I hadn’t even noticed the sirens until they called, because I had been so consumed with finding this deer that I just didn’t hear it.”

Even after learning about the tornado warning, Youngblood was still adamant about finding his deer.

“At this point, I told my wife not to worry, but I wasn’t going to leave the woods yet,” Youngblood said. “After another 10 minutes and 15 yards, I see him just on the other side of the property line fence. I don’t even get to touching him yet and the neighbor texts me, ‘Tornado is about to be on top of yall’s house.’ I immediately text him back two pictures of the deer in the middle of the flashlight beam, with two words, ‘Got him.’ ”

Youngblood, who was now dragging the deer alone, soaking wet and in the midst of a tornado, received another call from his wife.

“I couldn’t be mean to her, so I’m trying to catch my breath and tell her that I am dragging the biggest buck I have ever killed in Alabama out of the woods,” Youngblood said. “I finally get him loaded up and to the house, where I get my daughter to take a few pictures of him for me, which I send to several of my buddies and family, then I turned around and called Fletcher’s to see if I could bring him by for entry into the contest.”

Amidst all of the chaos, Youngblood was informed that he had to take his oldest daughter to pitching practice at 7 p.m.

“We got her practice gear loaded up and headed to Fletcher’s to get my deer scored,” Youngblood said. “By the time we got to Fletcher’s, several people who knew I killed the deer had already arrived and several more showed up during the scoring process. Yes, we missed pitching practice. Yes, I got in trouble, but you’ve got to have your priorities straight when you kill a big deer. I knew my wife would forgive me at some point.”

Youngblood said that he has been hunting since he was old enough to go, but started getting to shoot when he was five years old.

“Most of that time has been with my dad and my grandfathers,” Youngblood said. “My dad has always been an avid outdoorsman who loves deer and turkey hunting and I’ve spent more time in the woods with him than anyone else. My father has been battling cancer for most of last year and has not regained all of his strength, which is why I didn’t want to call him to come help recover the deer with it storming.”

Fletcher’s Outdoors scored the deer by adding its gross score, plus five points for weight. The gross score comes from a tine circumference, tine length, beam length, inside spread and symmetry, which is measured in inches. Youngblood’s deer official score was 157 7/8” gross and 140 1/8” net.