The Powerful Story Behind a Kentucky Hunter’s Monster Buck
Warning: Some images may be graphic to some readers.
She always told him to watch for cardinals. Joe Welsh's mom, Sherry Rust, always told him, assured him, that if he was in the woods and saw a cardinal that a big deer would be nearby. Joe is an avid deer hunter and he'll be the first person to tell you that he's been watching for those cardinals and has been trying his entire life to land a massive buck. This week, just days after his mom passed away, he got it. It seems his mom's early advice about cardinals proved a valuable lesson. As it turns out, Sherry provided an even more important learning moment for Joe.
Joe and a bunch of other local hunters knew this big deer was out there. They had seen it on trail cam footage. Joe had seen it, screen-captured it and tracked it. On Sunday evening, he went into the woods knowing he was going to kill it. And he did.
As you can see, it's massive. The unofficial measurement? 196 inches. 50+ points maybe? It's too early to tell officially. Joe says there are 63 points you can hang a ring on, but the scoring system requires them to be at least one-inch long. So, in 90 days or so, we'll see. But know this. That buck was huge and had an incredibly unique rack.
Hours later, Joe celebrated his long-awaited kill on Facebook. He said, "I don’t know what to even say, but at 6:19 this evening I shot the biggest deer of my life." He even pulled some trail cam footage of him dancing to celebrate.
Besides a couple of photos, that's all Joe was able to share at that particular moment in time. See, his mom Sherry passed away that Wednesday and, in Joe's words, he needed time to gather himself and get through his mom's funeral. It was at her funeral, the close of it as a matter of fact, that Joe walked to the front of the funeral home crowd and shared the story of that big deer and his mom and him.
Joe believes that Sherry had one remaining lesson for him- perhaps the biggest deer of his life was also the biggest lesson. Joe says he had chased that deer (or something akin to it) his whole life. While he was with his friends and family physically, he wasn't always with them mentally. His mind was racing, chasing. He acknowledges that the thrill of the hunt routinely pulled him away from his wife Angel and their kids. And hunters understand this. It's what hunting is about. Strategy. Pursuit. And, ultimately, the kill.
But, for Joe, the thrill of that kill was fleeting at best.
After all those years of anticipating that thrill, it was gone in an hour and reality clapped back in. That initial exhilaration was gone. So was Joe's mom and it was that heartbreaking loss which served as a reminder of how precious time is and the real importance of how to spend it.
Joe addressed the crowd of family and friends who gathered to say goodbye to Sherry and he was honest about the power of her last message to him. He says she "made her son's dream come true one last time before we sent her home." He didn't anticipate understanding the real weight and importance of that word- home. The time spent away from it. Invaluable amounts of time you can never get back.
But here's what Joe learned. Time is a tailor. A weaver. And in Joe's case, it just stitched together his mother, his faith, a cardinal and the biggest deer of his life.