Brothers shoot record-book bucks just two days and 200 yards apart.
A few years back, my wife and I bought a 53-acre farm in southwest Ohio, smack dab in the middle of whitetail paradise.
I bowhunt almost every day after work and on the weekends. I have harvested many good bucks over the past few years, and I filmed my wife Ronda shooting her first deer ever with a compound bow.
While I enjoy time afield with my spouse, I usually hunt alone. That's possibly because I can be a jerk during hunting season. It was pointed out to me that I might be too obsessed with having everything just perfect in hopes of taking a giant.
Going into the 2016 season, I wanted to be a better person and told my brothers they could hunt my farm whenever they wanted. On top of that, I made it a point to take my 9-year-old stepson Kerry deer hunting. He took his first whitetail doe with a crossbow while I filmed it. What an amazing feeling!
In October, I got trail camera pictures of a giant 6x6 that I named Ribcage since that's what I thought of when I saw the configuration of the long tines. Even though I only had three good pictures of him, all taken in the middle of the night, he instantly became my target buck.
It was 33 degrees on Nov. 5, the coldest day of the year so far. The wind was hard out of the northwest that morning, and I was hunting over a large thicket. Around 10 o'clock, there wasn't a deer in sight. Despite knowing better, I got on my phone to order signs for our family-owned restaurant, Big Buls Roadhouse.
Of course, I looked up just in time to see Ribcage saunter into view. He was alone and slowly inching toward the hardwoods.
My brothers and I film our own hunts, so I immediately pointed my camera at the buck and hit the record button. He was 35 yards upwind but would soon disappear into a thicket.
I was seated 18 feet up in a hang-on, and my bow was resting innocently on its hanger. With the buck about to step into the woods, I grunted with my mouth. He stopped with his head behind some honeysuckle, so I stood up and grabbed my bow.
As I drew, I realized all I could see was the back half of his body. I debated on whether to shoot but felt confident I could put an arrow through his vitals.
It blew right through, and Ribcage disappeared into the woods. I didn't want to push the buck at all, so I walked to the house to review the footage.
The video was inconclusive with shadows and honeysuckle blocking the impact, so I took my brother's advice and waited until morning to look for the deer.
I started the search at first light and found Ribcage just 100 yards into the woods. It was an excellent double-lung shot, but it's amazing how doubt can work you over.
It was my biggest buck ever at 172 inches, and my brothers' interest in hunting the farm skyrocketed.
On Nov. 7, I sent Tony, my youngest brother, back to the thicket and pointed Andy toward the hardwoods bottom. By 8:30, I hadn't heard from Andy, so I sent a text asking what he was seeing.
He immediately called, and I thought, What the heck is going on?
He excitedly told me he'd shot a “decent 10-pointer.” And, of course, he got it on video!
When I got there and picked up the buck, I turned to him and said, “This decent 10 is a giant!” It measured 171 2/8 inches!
Next year, I am hoping to take Kerry out to get his first buck. I have really come to enjoy sharing my little slice of whitetail heaven with my family. More than anything, I can't wait to introduce my first child, Beau, who was born that same month, to the joys and wonder of deer hunting. I am truly blessed and had a record-book year in more ways than one!
The years leading up to 2016 had been a struggle for me in the whitetail woods. I shot a monster 200-incher during the 2012-13 season, and it forever changed my philosophy on bucks. I decided to target only Booners, and I had no idea just what I was getting into when I made that decision.
I ate tag soup for several years and passed many 150-inch bucks. The challenge was taking its toll. I don't own land, nor do I have access to big, privately owned farms. Most of my hunting is done on small acre tracts between two and five acres, or on public hunting. When Steve called and offered permission to hunt his place, I didn't have to think twice.
I had set up my climber that Nov. 7 morning and had settled in before daylight about 200 yards from where Steve had shot his deer. It was a perfect fall morning with temperatures in the 30s and light wind.
I saw a few antlerless deer at about 7 a.m., and then nothing until about 8:00. That's when a doe came out of the hardwoods and walked right under me. She was not acting nervous, and I didn't see another deer following, so I was a little caught off guard when a big buck appeared from the brush about 40 yards away.
He walked toward the doe, which had just made it past my stand. I quickly estimated this buck to be in the high 150s or 160s, a borderline shooter. However, I told myself before the hunt that it would be fitting to take any mature buck and to share the experience with my brothers.
My camera was mounted to a tree, so I quickly adjusted it toward the buck. I opened the viewfinder and hit the record button before reaching for my bow, all with the buck quickly closing the distance.
When he got to 30 yards, he stopped broadside and started to act really nervous. While his attention was still on the doe, I drew and let my arrow fly.
The shot looked perfect, and he ran off into the honeysuckle. I heard a crash, and then he came running back toward the stand. I sighed in relief when he dropped about 50 yards away. I managed to keep my composure and get all the action on camera.
I then made all the customary phone calls while still in the stand. I didn't think the deer was worthy of the record books, so the excitement didn't overwhelm my composure.
That changed when I walked up on him and realized he was bigger than I thought.
Steve and I drug him back to the ATV and eventually to our mom's house, where we rough-scored both deer at around 170-inches.
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