Ohio hunter derails deer train’s caboose.
Donita Elder knows that blowing out candles takes a backseat to hunting. Her birthday falls on Oct. 30, when bucks are chasing does in Perry County, Ohio. She spent last year’s getting a makeover, a gift from her family, while hubby and the kids took to the woods.
Daniel “DJ” Elder took their 13-year-old daughter, Savanna, to a favorite ridge he’d hunted for 17 seasons. She’d never shot a deer, and the plan was to let her take a doe; her dad would shoot if a buck showed.
Son Justin followed the ridge for another 300 yards to watch a saddle.
About 8:30, a single doe led a string of 14 bucks past Daniel and Savanna.
“They were strung out like a train behind her,” Daniel said. “We were able to look at and count each one as it passed. The first 13 were too far away to chance a shot, but the last one came close enough. It was a big-bodied deer, and it looked tired, like it had been running for quite awhile.
“When it loped behind a tree, I got my crossbow ready. I thought the deer was going to stop, but it didn’t. So when I shot, the arrow passed through its hips,” he continued. “It must have cut the femoral artery because, when it jumped a small tree before disappearing, I saw a lot of blood spraying.
“After about 15 minutes, I went over to investigate. There was a pretty good trail to follow,” Daniel said. “I took up the track and started across the top of the hill.
“When I cleared the ridge, the deer must have seen or heard me because it took off into the bottom and started up the other side of the hill. I knew right then that I should back out and give it more time to bed down and bleed out,” he added.
When Daniel rejoined his daughter, they waited another hour before striking out to find his buck.
“Eventually, Savanna said, ‘Dad, here comes another buck.’ I turned and, sure enough, an 8-pointer was moving in our direction at a steady pace. It looked as if it would pass us at about 40 yards,” Daniel said. “Savanna asked me to use my can call to stop it if it kept coming.”
It did, and Daniel obliged.
“It stopped in clear view,” he said. “And before I could even say ‘Go ahead and shoot,’ she’d already let fly the bolt. It entered the left shoulder and exited the right one. The buck instantly bolted to the top of the ridge and down the other side. We then heard what I thought was the buck crashing to the ground.”
Father and daughter cooled their heels for another half-hour, and then they went to find Justin. When they all returned, Daniel explained the two scenarios to his son. They found blood only where his buck had been standing.
“Justin didn’t find any blood from Savanna’s deer, but when he looked over the top of the ridge, he could see where the buck had slid down the bank. At the bottom, it had turned sharply and kept going, so we let hers go for a little longer and got on the trail of my buck,” Daniel said.
“We went to the last spot I’d seen mine before it took off running,” he continued. “There was very little blood to follow, so Justin and I spread out to cover more ground. I found some deep tracks that were made by a running deer. I was sure it was my buck’s track, and I followed it into some tall yellow grass.
“I had not gone too far when Justin told me he’d found blood. At that point, we were about 30 yards apart. I moved over to see what he was looking at and decided his was the right path. The two of us followed the blood to the top of the next ridge, and we saw the deer about 100 yards away, on its haunches, rocking back and forth like it was trying to rise.
“I thought about that old saying, ‘When in doubt, back out!’ I was afraid if we got too close, it would run again and be lost for good. So we backed off a short distance, marked the trail, and then headed back to the big tree,” Daniel said.
That’s when they decided to go back to the truck, where Donita was waiting. It was lunchtime anyway.
“While eating lunch, we talked about the whole situation. It was my wife’s birthday, and we had planned to do a little celebrating at some point. But after discussing and reliving the hunt, she decided we needed to get back out there and try to recover both deer as soon as possible; not to wait until Sunday, which is what I was considering.
“We drove back to our spot, unloaded our deer dolly and, once again, headed to the big tree. Justin and I started from scratch by looking for my arrow at the point of impact. We didn’t find it, but we were able to follow the blood trail back to the place where we’d last seen my buck.
“When we got close, we realized it wasn’t where we’d last seen it struggling,” Daniel said. “I was terribly disappointed. I feared we would lose the track. I could not believe that buck was still going after losing so much blood.
“Fortunately, the trail led us to the downed buck. In all, it probably traveled between 350 and 400 yards from where it was shot.
“I was totally excited,” Daniel remembers. “There was no ground shrinkage. In fact, the rack was much bigger than I thought. Even so, I didn’t realize what I had until we checked it in Reynoldsburg.”
Father and son quickly tagged and field-dressed the buck, and then they went back to search for Savanna’s. They found it 30 yards beyond the last splash of red.
“We quickly set about getting her deer field-dressed and ready to move up the hill to the top. However, the dolly was still up and over the ridge, so we went to retrieve it,” Daniel said. “We decided to go all the way back around the ridge to load mine first, come back through the bottom and load Savanna’s, and then haul both up the hill in one trip.
“With both deer tagged and legal, we headed out of the woods to the truck. I guess it was about 3:30 Saturday afternoon. It had been a very long day of hunting and tracking, but we recovered both bucks,” he added.
At the check station in Reynoldsburg, the family ran into another hunter coming out of the store. The man, Steve Esker, was astounded at the size of this nearly perfect 7x7 rack. After talking with the Elders for a short time, Steve called his brother, Scott, who joined them in short order.
“Those fellows knew how to measure deer,” Daniel said. “They did a very quick rough score and said it would likely go about 194 inches. I was completely stunned!
“We followed them to Steve’s home, where we unloaded the deer and more pictures were taken. Steve even took the time to check the Buckmasters website to see how it would rank among crossbow-taken Typicals. It’s No. 9 in the world!”
— Photos Courtesy of Daniel Elder
Hunter: Daniel Elder This article was published in the September 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
BTR Official: 172 6/8
BTR Composite: 191 5/8
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