Major League Sportsmanship – Deer Hunting at its Finest

On a little 200 acre farm in Tennessee, two former major league baseball teammates enjoyed a special bond in the woods after one of them takes a legendary buck. Although it may not have been a record-breaker, the story shows the true and often forgotten meaning of hunting, revealing a lasting bond between two long time friends.

Going into the 2011 deer season, Marty McLeary and former teammate Erik Metzger were eager to get back into the woods to chase whitetail again. McLeary, who had just retired after 14 seasons of professional baseball, was taking on new challenges as a partner in a Franklin, Tennessee, archery pro-shop and the launching of a small medical company.

pirates pitcher

Marty McLeary played 14 seasons of professional baseball.

Metzger, an avid deer hunter himself, owned the small chunk of deer hunting heaven where the two spent many days chasing whitetail together. The former catcher managed his little piece extensively, from planting food plots to hinge cutting for better bedding areas – he did it all. To say he is passionate about land and deer management is an understatement, according to friends.

While checking trailcameras in late October, Metzger got the surprise he’d been working so diligently to achieve. One of the cameras snapped a giant buck at 3:45 a.m. just days before. Elated, he showed the picture to McLeary, and nicknamed the buck “Dagger”.

trailcam of buck

Metzger’s trailcameras captured several pictures of “Dagger” during the night until the 9th of November.

Immediately, Metzger began to hunt the new buck, focusing his efforts exclusively on evening hunts. Between the 14 different trailcameras that he had out, “Dagger” didn’t show himself in daylight hours until the 9th of November.

“Once we got that picture, Erik hunted that deer day in and day out,” says McLeary.

After three days of hard hunting for the elusive buck, both McLeary and Metzger were at a loss. Later in the evening of the 11th, the two hunters discussed the next day’s options over the phone. Metzger told McLeary that he wouldn’t be able to hunt the next day, as he had some errands to do. Not dreaming of hunting the buck without his good friend who worked so hard to manage the land, the two ended the conversation – hanging up the phone.

Not five minutes would pass when Metzger called back, giving McLeary the go-ahead to hunt “Dagger” on his farm Saturday. Surprised by the notion, McLeary instantly refused, explaining that “[he] put too much blood into that deer for anyone else to kill it.”

Metzger continued to insist, eventually breaking down his friend’s resistance not to hunt without him. After several minutes of convincing, McLeary finally caved, and decided to hunt the following day without Metzger.

With winds gusting over 20 mph, McLeary made it into a stand that overlooked a lush clover field just before two o’clock the next afternoon.

Just before five o’clock, “Dagger” made his appearance in the field, and slowly fed his way towards McLeary. Twenty minutes later, the former relief pitcher got his chance, making what he believed to be a great shot on the giant buck. After watching the buck flee into the woods, McLeary got down, backing out to tell his friend what just happened. 

marty mcleary with buck

McLeary says his most vivid memory of the recovery was the excitement showed by his friend and former teammate – Erik Metzger.

It wasn’t until the next day that the two would go looking for the wounded buck, when they found him, all McLeary could remember was Metzger’s reaction. “I can’t explain to you how excited he [Metzger] was for me”, exclaims McLeary.

Marty McLeary’s buck measured close to 165 total inches. The buck was the largest ever taken on Metzger’s farm, and a trophy of a lifetime to be forever shared between two major league sportsmen. 

two dudes near mount on barn

Marty McLeary, “Dagger”, and Erik Metzger are the best examples of true sportsmanship.

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