When Eric Williams and his wife, Angela, grew weary of living in a cramped suburb near Cincinnati, Ohio, they began searching for a place where Eric and their three sons could play outdoors.
In May 2010, they bought a house on 17 acres in Warren County.
You’d think Eric would’ve spent every spare moment in a deer stand the next fall, but there weren’t very many of those.
“With Angela and me both working, and three boys who seem to be into every imaginable sport, I was just strapped for time,” he said. “I made a few forays into the back acreage to get a feel for the land. There’s a pretty nice patch of woods between two fields, and there was plenty of deer sign.”
Eric and his sons erected a double ladder stand in a good spot, but it sat vacant the entire season.
“The next summer, I introduced the boys to a crossbow. I figured they would be able to share it, which would keep costs down,” he said. “I also drummed into them the importance of shot placement and maximum range.”
When the 2011 season arrived, Eric decided to allow his son, Tanner, to hunt alone for the first time, but only if he agreed to stay in the ladder stand, and only when either Eric or Angela were home.
“About two hours into that first hunt, my cell phone rang,” he said. “It was Tanner ...
“‘Well, I hit him,’ he said. ‘I found blood!’
“‘You did what? Come back to the house now,’ I nearly shouted.
“Tanner returned, we waited for a while, and then we went out and found Tanner’s first antlered deer,” Eric said. “I couldn’t have been prouder ... and on our OWN piece of land!”
Despite his son’s success, Eric was in no hurry to spend time in the stand. It took a friend’s taking a beautiful 150-inch buck and an impromptu stroll through his acreage to inspire him.
Chris Mullins, the friend who shot the 150-incher, and another friend, Dave, started ribbing Eric about not hunting. And that led to rabbits.
“We decided for some reason that we would rabbit hunt my property, just to get out there,” Eric said. “It was fun, and I saw lots of incredible deer sign. You could smell, see and feel the presence of a dominant buck.”
Nov. 28, opening day of gun season, was not ideal for hunting. Eric woke up at 5 a.m., stood on the front porch and listened to the rain.
“Had I hunted the (earlier) rut as hard as I normally do, I wouldn’t have considered going out in that stuff,” he said. “Now I’m glad I did. It turned out to be one of the best morning hunts I’ve had in 25 years.
“I saw deer everywhere,” he said. “That was the first time anyone had sat in the stand in the morning, and it was amazing, except for the weather. You know how it is: No matter how miserable you are, as long as you’re in the woods and seeing deer, it’s easy to stay put.
“After seeing about 20 deer, I was pretty excited,” he added, “and soaked.”
When Eric went home to eat and to get out of his wet clothes, Angela gave him a list of chores. About 2:30, she told him, “I know you want to go hunting, so go!”
“It didn’t take much to get me moving in that direction,” Eric said. “After hanging some scent wicks and spraying down with scent-killer, I settled back into the stand at 3:20 p.m. I soon saw my neighbor, Mark, walking along a fencerow about 100 yards distant. I whistled like a bobwhite to get his attention, and he signaled that he was going to walk the property he hunts.
“That morning, I had been grunting and bleating about every half-hour, so I continued that routine in the afternoon. Thirty minutes later, a doe and her yearling sprinted out of the woods, followed by a button buck. The threesome was in a horse pasture that separates our property from the property Mark hunts.
“The button buck wound up 10 yards below my stand, eating honeysuckle, while the doe and yearling faded back into the timber. The wind was at my back, and I’m sure she smelled me, even if she didn’t blow and get crazy.
“About 4:30, a massive buck — a shooter — appeared about 125 yards away. I never looked at its rack again. I knew it was bigger than anything I’d ever harvested,” he said.
“After I grunted and bleated, it stopped and looked my way, but then it continued following the path the doe had taken.
“Thoughts raced through my head. I was sure the wind was going to keep that buck well away from me. So I got down and began sneaking to get downwind of it, which meant I’d have to cross the field. Fifty yards into it, I changed my mind and went back to the stand.
“Meanwhile, it was pouring down rain,” Eric continued.
“As I sat there, drenched and convinced the hunt was finished, I glanced back at the field and saw the buck. It was just standing there at 80 yards, partially obscured by a tree branch. Eventually, the deer started walking toward me, sniffing the air.
“I was worried it would bust me long before I could get off a shot,” Eric said. “I was also having a terrible time finding the buck in my fogged-up scope.
“When I finally acquired it, the deer turned broadside and I shot.
“After the smoke cleared, the buck was gone,” he added. “A bit later, I saw Mark over by the fence, and he didn’t appear to have seen anything either.
“I shakily reloaded in the rain, got down from the stand and walked over to Mark. We discussed what had happened, and I told him I thought it was a nice 150-inch 8-pointer.
“Mark hadn’t seen anything, so I figured the buck either fell on the spot, or it had run the other way. We decided then to check for sign before it washed away. Close to 30 minutes had passed, and it was getting dark, so we hurried,” Eric said.
“When Mark saw my deer, he immediately informed me that it was way more than a 150-incher. While he counted points by the beam of my flashlight, I called the family and Chris.
“Afterward, Mark and I went to the house to get the ATV. By the time we hauled the deer into the garage, quite a crowd had gathered,” he said.
The best part?
“A few days later, I took my 11-year-old son, Chase, hunting after work. He was so excited, he was dressed and ready to go before I even pulled off my work shoes. As soon as we settled into the stand, he whispered, ‘Dad, can you tell me about how you killed that big buck?’
“Reliving that moment with my son was emotional, something I’ll never forget,” he said. “I am looking forward to many more days in the woods with Tanner, Chase, Logan and our soon-to-be-born fourth child.
Hunter: Eric Williams
BTR Official Score: 177 5/8
BTR Composite Score: 195
— Photos Courtesy of Eric Williams This article was published in the September 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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