Odo and the doe
have been nibbling, seeking shelter from the snow in a grove of hemlocks in
which they normally spend the daylight hours. However, this is an unsettling
morning, with the sound of gunfire and disturbing scents in the woods. To
escape the alarms the doe leaves the thicket and starts up a transridge trail.
Odo follows. When he comes into the open he halts, testing the air, apparently
trying to locate and identify a strong and suspicious foreign scent. In that
second or so there is a roar from a rifle, and almost simultaneously a bullet
from a .30-06 Ruger smashes into his chest.
What does he
feel? Again this cannot be precisely documented, but because Odo is a mammal
with a highly developed nervous system, he probably feels much as the man who
pulled the trigger would if by some chance the buck were to gore him through
the chest with an antler. From testimony of our own kind who have suffered and
survived somewhat comparable experiences, there is a sensation of ripping and
tearing as the bullet shatters bone and muscle, then terrible burning pain in
the destroyed lungs. In agony and shock Odo makes a final instinctive lunge,
but the marvelous legs can no longer carry him through the woods at 40 mph. The
wound is too severe. He drops on the spot and dies in the snow above Bailey
From that moment
on, by custom and law, Odo, or at least his carcass, belongs to Robert
Stahlman, a 31-year-old steelworker from Warren, Ohio, who fired the Ruger.
Stahlman is immediately aware of, and ecstatic about, the size of this buck.
After tagging and gutting the body he takes it to Dennis Goodenough's
sporting-goods store in Coudersport, which is the official headquarters of the
annual Potter County Big Buck contest. Eventually Stahlman and Odo win it. The
rack scores 32 trophy points (on the basis of antler size and spread). When the
season is concluded, Odo is certified as being the best buck shot in Potter
County. While the measurements are being made, the carcass hangs outside
Goodenough's store, and Stahlman hangs around inside accepting congratulations,
smiling and bursting with pride.
been happy with anything," he says, "even a spike. When I saw that
monster I couldn't believe it. When he went down it was like the big moment in
my life, like winning some big game. I never thought anything like that would
happen to me. I just thanked God for that buck and that I was there and got
"I guess you
felt like God had smiled on you in God's Country."
just how it was."