By Gita M. Smith
Lightning strikes twice for Ohio bowhunter Ron Lance.
A tinkling sound. What could make a tinkling sound?
Ron Lance had to think a moment. Then he realized that something — maybe antlers — had been brushing the branches of saplings. The bowhunter from Waynesville, Ohio, couldn’t see a buck, but he got ready, just in case.
This was, after all, the same spot where, in 2005, he arrowed a beauty carrying 191 3/8 inches of antler. His hunting buddies had even named the spot Ron’s Knob.
Despite a few dry years since then, Ron hoped the Knob would bring him luck one more time.
“The week was the same; the place was the same; the bow and arrows were the same,” he said. “Only the hunter looked four years older.”
One week each year and one hump of ground in Ohio are sacred for Ron. For 10 years, he has packed his bow and broadheads the week before Thanksgiving. He then joins a close-knit group, guided by good friend and outfitter Joel Snow, to repeat the ritual that gives him joy and much needed respite from the daily grind.
“Joel has more than 7,000 acres on different properties,” he said. “He’s guided us in Illinois and the Yukon. But this time, our destination was Logan County in central Ohio.”
On Nov. 19, 2009, a Thursday, Ron and Joel were up at 4:30 talking strategy with buddies Johnny Beto and Mike Scancarello. The wind had not cooperated all week.
“We were getting east and southeast winds, but our stands were set up for the north and west winds we’re supposed to get that time of year,” Ron recalls. “Beto had shot a 140-class 8-pointer on Sunday. Scancarello and I were working our butts off to get our deer.”
Joel drove Ron to The Knob farm. They stopped at the entrance beside a barn, got out and stood in front of the truck. A northerly breeze hit Joel’s face, and he smiled. “If the wind starts swirling, call me and I’ll get you out,” he told Ron.
They transferred to the four-wheeler and rode to the edge of woods. Joel grinned, “It’s time. Go do it.”
The terrain at that point yawned into a big ravine at the base of a long, steep hill.
“It’s a pretty tough walk from that ravine — a 400-yard uphill trek through high timber,” Ron said.
He made his way through the big oaks to his left and right, pushing higher to reach his spot.
“As I walked up that ravine, I relived the experience from 2005, and it felt so good. It was tough exercise, but I just felt exhilarated. I was here with my best buddies — I call us a band of brothers — in a gorgeous setting.”
It was as if he’d traveled back in time. When Ron shone his flashlight, he found the same ash tree on which he’d hung his stand many times. He went up, hoisted his bow, put camo makeup on his face and hung the bow on his left side. “I was grinning the whole time,” he said.
Although it was dark, Ron knew there was a food plot about 800 yards away with deer trails leading to it.
“It felt so good. I got my phone out and texted my wife: ‘Back up on Ron’s Knob. So familiar. Hope it happens again. Love you. Ron.’”
Two hours passed, and Ron sat down to watch a little doe in front of him. Thirty minutes later came the strange tinkling sound from behind him.
“I couldn’t see anything, but I was pretty sure I was hearing a buck’s rack coming through the saplings. I looked over each shoulder, but I saw nothing.”
Still seated, he leaned out carefully to peer around the tree. Fifty yards back in the saplings, he glimpsed a buck with a wide and massive rack coming straight toward him.
“I sat back, reached up and got my bow off the hook,” Ron said. “My arrow was already nocked, and I attached my release. Then, suddenly, I heard nothing. Five minutes passed without a sound. I was trying to stay motionless. The doe raised her head and looked at the base of my tree.”
A few more minutes passed. The suspense was a strong itch that needed to be scratched. So Ron leaned out again and saw motion behind and to his left. The buck was picking its way around a big briar thicket and, fortunately, not looking up.
“That buck had no clue I was there. But here’s where it gets interesting. It hit me: I am 49 years old, been shooting all my life, but I’ve never shot an arrow while sitting down. I couldn’t stand up at that point. Deer of that size have a sixth sense.”
Afraid his clothes would rub against the tree bark or that the metal stand would creak, Ron decided to shoot from a sitting position. A dozen thoughts competed for top billing in his mind.
“I knew exactly which trail the buck was taking. It led to the doe. I’d have to wait until the deer came around the thicket before drawing. But should I grunt to stop it or take my first-ever walking shot? Either way, I had to pick an opening.”
Ron found a lane between two small trees at 18 yards. When the buck stepped into the frame, Ron put the pin on its shoulder and released his arrow. The buck took off running, tail down. The doe never moved.
“Moments later, I heard the big snort deer make when they are sucking air,” he said. “The thud came 30 seconds after that.”
“It hit me hard,” he added. “My body just shut down. I called Joel, and then I called my wife and literally lost it on the phone.”
After waiting an hour, Ron got down and found his blood-drenched arrow. The fletching was torn; the 100-grain broadhead intact. The trail was easy to follow.
“There is a gap in the thicket big enough for a man to crawl through,” he said. “Halfway into it, I looked ahead and saw my deer 15 yards in front of me. The shot had gone through both lungs and clipped the top of its heart.
“Joel and I had a joyous celebration on that hillside,” Ron continued. “When he and I walked up on that deer, his arm on my shoulder and mine over his, it was very emotional. That’s the way we all are for each other. We’re like a bunch of kids, high-fiving and backslapping. When one of us harvests a deer, the joy we have for each other is as great as the hunter’s.
“To be along a river’s edge when the sun comes up, to be out there away from the electronic umbilical cord that ties me to work, and to be with these guys is the good life,” he adds. “And it didn’t hurt to shoot two top-class bucks from my own knob, either.”
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