Does giveth, and they taketh away.
Don Barbour of Mishawaka, Ind., is all too familiar with this bowhunter’s proverb.
On the last afternoon of Indiana’s early archery season in 2010, he jumped a buck and a doe while walking to his stand. They’d been bedded in some tall grass before barreling through a briar patch and disappearing into the adjacent fencerow.
Because the wind was blowing in Don’s favor, they never smelled him, and it’s doubtful they saw him. The dry leaves must have betrayed his approach.
“I froze for what could have been five minutes, my eyes scanning every direction,” he said. “There was only open field beyond the fencerow, and I hadn’t seen them cross it.”
Eventually, his gaze found the buck. It was staring back at him from less than 40 yards.
“It knew something was up, but it wasn’t sure what,” Don said. “It started pacing back and forth along the fence, maybe 15 or 20 yards each way, keeping an eye not only on me, but also on the hot doe bedded nearby.
“I was pretty excited, but I saw no way to thread an arrow through the thick fencerow,” he added.
Don watched the buck through his field glasses. He counted six points on each side, but there was something weird about the brow tines. Forked maybe? They were wrapped with weeds or something.
“I really wanted to get a shot at that buck, so I tried moving parallel. After taking one step, however, I decided I couldn’t do it. The leaves were just too dry.”
That’s when he pulled out his grunt call. The buck jerked up its head and glared, but it made no move to cross the fence.
“After an almost half-hour standoff, my arm was tired from holding the bow in front of me, my legs were cramped from so much stooping, and my nerves were shattered,” Don said. “The hunt ended when the doe stood and took off to the next nearest patch of woods.”
The buck, of course, followed the doe.
He saw the same buck once more in December 2010, when it was running with 12 does. He was relieved to see it was still afoot since that part of St. Joseph County gets quite a lot of hunting pressure. If the deer could survive another few days, Don figured he might get a shot at it the next year.
Exactly one year following his fencerow encounter with the 12-pointer with weird eye guards, Don saw it again. It was Nov. 11, the eve of the 2011 firearms season, and the distinctive buck was one of two he watched from a distance too great for an arrow.
There was no mistaking that animal.
“In my 40 years of hunting, that was the only buck about which I’d had recurring dreams,” he said.
The next day, Don traded his bow for his rifle.
“Nov. 12 was the perfect day, if there is such a thing,” he said. “I awoke, as usual, about 5 a.m., ate a light breakfast, showered with a scent-eliminating soap and gathered my gear.
“The wind was blowing in my face during the half-mile trek. When I reached the deep ravine about 100 yards from the stand, I changed into my sittin’ clothes,” he added. “That’s a regimen I follow with every trip to the woods.”
While waiting for dawn, Don glassed a freshly cut cornfield and realized the field was crawling with deer. To his delight, all were coming his way.
“As the deer came closer and the light level improved, I realized they’d probably enter the woods too far away,” he said. “I entertained the idea of getting down and sneaking into a drainage ditch to see if I could gain some ground, but that notion quickly dissipated when I heard something behind me.
“Four does were feeding just 10 yards away,” Don added.
Just then, he also noticed the literal buck of his dreams following 100 yards behind a doe, and they weren’t going to get any closer. Out of desperation, he pulled out his grunt tube and gave a couple of loud grunts.
“The doe changed directions, angling toward me. She entered the woods about 40 yards away, and the buck was slowly closing the gap.
“When it slowed a bit, I decided to grunt again. The buck lifted its head, and then started to strut my way in that determined fashion a dominant buck assumes,” Don continued. “At 80 yards, it stopped and stared into the woods. I could tell it was still looking at the doe and not at me.
“I was pretty much a ball of raw nerves and very concerned that it might try to charge the interloper it heard within the timber. No longer willing to wait, I shouldered my lever-action .44 Magnum and put the crosshairs on its chest,” he said.
The buck never took another step.
“I’d been calm while squeezing the trigger, but then I started to shake,” Don said. “I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I grabbed my field glasses and quickly found the fallen deer in the corn stubble. It was hard to distinguish antlers from the stalks.”
After sitting and staring at the rack for almost two hours —well, at least 15 minutes — Don got down and headed for the cornfield. He was astounded to see that his 12-pointer was actually a 22-pointer!
“I had to call someone to share my excitement, so I chose my close friend, Dave Thacker. He showed up a little later with another friend of his. Both were very anxious to see what I was so proud of, and Dave’s jaw dropped upon seeing the antlers,” Don said.
After taking the deer to the meat processor and the head and cape to the taxidermist, Don stopped at Wal-Mart to print some photographs from his trail camera’s memory card. One of them showed his buck had visited a scrape twice, five days earlier.
Hunter: Donald Barbour
BTR Official Score: 191 4/8
BTR Composite Score: 212 5/8
— Photos Courtesy of Don Barbour This article was published in the October 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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