Scott Rawlings thought he’d never best the 173-inch drop-tined buck he arrowed in 2011.
But that was before the bowhunter from Chillicothe, Ohio, checked a trail camera on Oct. 25. The photograph he retrieved put a spring back in his step.
“By the end of September, I had not gotten a single picture of a buck on my Wildgame Innovations camera,” he said. “I was worried that (epizootic hemorrhagic disease) had hit my area and killed all the mature deer.”
The only reason Scott didn’t panic was because he hadn’t stumbled across any dead deer.
Keeping upbeat wasn’t easy, however. Although he spent many hours in stands the first three weeks of October, he saw very few deer, and none of them bucks, not even little ones.
The best possible antidepressant was the photo he pulled on Oct. 25.
“There was this huge buck with a drop tine that was easily as long as its P2s,” he said. “That fired me up for the upcoming weekend. Plus, my vacation started the following Monday, and I knew where I was going to spend most of it!”
Scott’s parents heard about it. His wife heard about it, too. A lot. That meant she might be a single parent for most of the week, while Scott spent every morning and evening in the stand overlooking the fields where the buck had been photographed.
“One day, I thought I saw the buck way out in the field, but it was just too far away for me to be certain,” he said.
After repeated trips yielded no sightings and the photographs stopped, Scott began thinking about moving to a different setup.
“I was about to relocate, convinced the buck had changed addresses,” he said. “And then, following my morning hunt on Nov. 1 — one week after the deer first appeared on my camera — it reappeared. It had walked in front of the lens at 8 p.m.”
That meant the deer had been on its feet an hour and 20 minutes after dark, but Scott held out hope.
That evening was a bit calmer and cooler than it had been for most of the week. Fifty-mph gusts had been tamed by at least half.
“I went out early, intending to set up a doe decoy in the pasture,” Scott said. “My stand was 22 feet up a good tree in a narrow fence line beside the pasture. On the other side was a field with waist-high grass and weeds, which is where I suspected the deer were bedding.
“About 5:30, something caused me to turn around and look over my shoulder,” he continued. “Out in the cornfield about 200 yards distant was the owner of the farm next door. It looked like he was out checking his trail cameras.”
After watching the man in the distance, Scott turned to see a doe and yearling knifing their way through the weed field, heading toward him from 300 yards.
“As they were coming closer, I saw something else that almost stopped my heart,” he said. “Two hundred yards out into that same field, but way off to the side, a big buck rose to its feet and started heading for the doe.
“I knew I was in trouble,” Scott said. “If any of those deer spotted the neighbor in his cornfield, they’d turn around and go the other way. Also, the yearling doe was going to reach me first, and I was afraid she’d smell me and spook the buck.”
If things didn’t go south, Scott thought he might get a 40-yard shot at the buck, if it paused where the older doe stopped. That the neighbor’s silhouette disappeared over the horizon helped him breathe easier.
One obstacle gone, he thought.
Only later did Scott realize his fear had been needless. There was no way the deer could see what he was seeing from so far up the tree.
“The buck was coming in between the doe and the yearling, and it was closing fast. It all happened very quickly, but it seemed like slow-motion,” Scott said. “Suddenly, the buck was at 15 yards and I was releasing the arrow.”
With a hole in its heart, the buck ran 50 yards before collapsing in the tall grass.
“I was stunned,” Scott said.
“I waited for as long as I could — (translation: 15 minutes) — and then I just had to get down,” he continued. “I could see parts of the buck, but not its antlers. It had not moved in a long time, and I couldn’t wait any longer.”
The closer Scott got to the downed deer, the more he realized that the animal was far bigger in the flesh than it appeared to be in photos.
“It took me a long time, but I finally got the buck back to the house,” Scott said. “By the time I arrived, our home was packed with family and friends. You could say we had a harvest party.”
Since Scott’s neighbor had played a minor role in the afternoon hunt, he called to tell him what had happened.
The man had just seen photos of the giant whitetail from his own camera, and he’d decided immediately to burn vacation days the next week.
“I guess I ruined his plans,” Scott said.
Hunter: Scott Rawlings
BTR Official Score: 175 3/8
BTR Composite Score: 194 6/8
— Photos Courtesy of Scott Rawlings
This article was published in the August 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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