It’s been said that delayed gratification is almost always sweeter than the instant variety. Anyone who saw Dudley Luckie’s face last week during the annual Buckmasters Life Hunt at Sedgefields Plantation would most definitely agree with that adage.

Luckie was scheduled to be at last year’s Life Hunt, which brings disabled and seriously ill individuals to one of the premier properties in Alabama to hunt white-tailed deer. But surgery to deal with Luckie’s daily battle with spina bifida kept him from attending.

Luckie and eight other hunters were faced with days that are not considered ideal for deer hunting with a full moon and daytime temperatures in the 70s.

And the three-day event got off to a slow start for Luckie, who was only able to hunt two of those days. On the final afternoon of his time at Sedgefields, the situation lived up to his name.

A little before two o’clock, he saw several deer, including a young buck that was off limits to shoot. “Right after that, the monster showed up,” Luckie said. “We spotted him over in the woods.

“All I could see was antlers. I didn’t see the hide or anything. I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ He walked out into the middle of the field, and I blasted him. I didn’t mess around.”

Luckie’s .243 bullet did the job, although the deer managed to wheel and exit the field before it expired.

One of the best aspects of the hunt for Luckie was sharing it with his grandfather, Rick Lewis, who lives right down the road from Luckie on the outskirts of Montgomery.

“We weren’t sure we were going to get to go,” Lewis said. “Dudley wasn’t feeling real well. He ate lunch and got to feeling better.

“We were expecting to see deer. Six does ran off as we were getting in the stand. We were excited to see those deer. The off-limits buck walked all the way across the field. He was a pretty buck. A little later, two does came out in the field. Less than a minute later, this buck walked in behind them.”

Lewis admits he had a hard time focusing on both the hunter and the prey during those anxious moments.

“I had Dudley’s binoculars,” he said. “I’d look at the deer, and then I’d look at Dudley. He had his rifle ready, and he was shaking a little bit. I was shaking quite a bit. The guide, William (Blakeney), leaned over to Dudley and told him, ‘Here, rest your arm on my shoulder.’ He did and he got steady. The deer stopped and Dudley fired. I was pretty sure it was a good hit because he kicked both hind legs four or five feet high.”

Lewis said they didn’t see the deer fall so, after a nerve-wracking wait of 20 minutes, Blakeney and longtime Buckmasters videographer Elliott Allen went to the edge of the field where the deer had exited.

“When they got just out of the field, they started waving their hands,” Lewis said. “We got to shouting then, high-fiving and hugging. It was a celebration.”

Lewis said Luckie has made lifetime memories by participating in the Life Hunt, not only because of the beautiful buck he harvested but the whole experience.

“This is a special place run by special people for special people,” Lewis said. “It’s a blessing that Dudley had the opportunity to come, and it’s a blessing that I got to come with him. You can’t put a price on something like this. It means a lot to Dudley, and it means just as much to me for us to be here together.

“You couldn’t ask anybody to go out of their way any more than what they’ve done to help make everybody who is hunting successful.”

The Hinton family and a bevy of volunteers work year-round to ensure the Life Hunt participants have every opportunity to harvest a beautiful white-tailed buck, likely the largest deer of their lifetimes.

Luckie’s buck sported 12 points with beautiful symmetry and unusual upcurls on the tips of the main beams.

“He’s got a couple of broken tips, so he was the bad boy in the woods,” he said. “I can’t believe it. This (Life Hunt) has been great.”

This wasn’t Luckie’s first deer. He’d killed a 4-point when he was 10, several does and an 8-point last year hunting with his brother, Jake Williamson.

“I hunt the disabled areas and I hunt with my brother,” Luckie said. “My brother spends a lot of time with me. We hunt 23 acres behind our house. A friend built us a special box blind that both of us can get in. That’s where I killed that 8-point last year.”

Luckie’s mother, Terri Shaw, approached Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Conservation Enforcement Officer (CEO) Vance Wood about possible participation in the Life Hunt. Wood referred Luckie’s application to Rusty Morrow, retired CEO who is head of the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association, which sponsors a hunter each year for the Life Hunt.

“We’re excited about Dudley and his buck,” Morrow said. “He was a little off after the morning hunt, but he came back strong for the afternoon hunt. He wasn’t going to get to hunt the last day, so he got it done. And he got it done early. We got great daytime pictures, and there was plenty of daylight for the cameraman. We got it all.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time. We love to take people to this beautiful location to hunt. And our hunters have been successful every time during the last 14-15 years. The people at Sedgefields have made it happen every time.”

Jackie Bushman, Buckmasters Founder and CEO, couldn’t have been happier about the outcome of the 2017 Life Hunt.

“To have all nine hunters get a deer is incredible, especially with this 70-degree weather,” Bushman said. “Jimmy (Hinton) and all the guides come in a couple of weeks early to get the ground blinds ready for different winds. It’s been an awesome event. We’ve got some cute kids with some tough disabilities, and they’ve all gotten their best deer or first deer. That means more to me than anything.”

Go to http://buckmasters.com/resources/disabled-hunters/badf-life-hunts to find out more about the Buckmasters-sponsored hunts for hunters with disabilities or life-threatening illnesses.

Visit www.outdooralabama.com/physically-disabled-hunting-and-fishing-trail to discover the opportunities available on Alabama’s Hunting & Fishing Trail for People with Physical Disabilities.

PHOTOS: (David Rainer) Dudley Luckie of Montgomery can hardly contain his excitement after taking the largest buck of his hunting career at the Buckmasters Life Hunt at Sedgefields Plantation near Safford. Luckie, his grandfather Rick Lewis (right) and Rusty Morrow of the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association, Luckie’s sponsor for the hunt, join in the celebration. In the bottom photo, Genna Williamson of Greenwood, N.Y., and Jackie Bushman, Founder and CEO of Buckmasters, are all laughs after she shot her first buck.