Each year, my longtime friend, Don, and I manage to block off a few days away from work and family to bowhunt together. In 2012, we found three days in November.
Our destination was some property in Highland County, Ohio, I’d purchased five or six years earlier, though I’d hunted the place far longer. My family has had several cabins there in the last century.
My great grandfather, who lived to almost 100, hunted this land for most of his life. I still hunt turkeys with his shotgun.
Don and my other hunting buddies have helped me work the land — adding and maintaining food plots, setting out minerals and feeders, grooming trails and erecting stands — for years. We all work hard, and we’ve taken several nice bucks off the place, but none that would qualify as monsters.
We knew, however, that it was just a matter of time.
Anyone who hunts or fishes knows what I mean ... You plan for weeks and months for four, five or six days of hunting or fishing with the dream that This is going to be THE ONE, the trip when the fish or deer gods smile like they’ve never smiled before!
THE ONE for me came on Nov. 9, 2012.
That morning, Don and I started off as we normally do, waking up about 4:30, showering and eating breakfast. I was doing it by the book. I’d washed all my clothes the previous day. Had new arrows. And I’d practiced constantly.
We’d planned to remain in our stands from daylight ‘til dark. I was convinced that the nocturnal deer, the big bucks, could not stay bedded all day, that they’d have to get up to check on the does.
We packed lunches, water, pee buckets and set out in the 26-degree morning, which was supposed to grow 40 degrees warmer as the sun climbed.
I drove the ATV, and Don was behind me, wearing my backpack.
First stop was my trail. I grabbed my bow and walked off in the dark. It wasn’t until after he’d left that I realized Don was still wearing my backpack.
Once he figured that out, he returned to drop it off at my trailhead. I went back, got it and walked to my stand. Fortunately for my nerves, I didn’t jump any deer en route.
I laid a scent trail with a drag rag and used a large bottle of C’mere Deer at my new ladder stand, which was about 20 yards off an old logging trail.
The area was very thick. Any deer passing through were in cover unless they popped out onto the logging trail or wandered into the small clearing around my stand.
I was concerned about the wind that morning. If the deer came from the east, the wind was in my favor; not so if they came from the west.
I was banking on the former.
It was a cold and quiet morning. As the day passed, I focused on keeping my bow in my lap, sitting as still as possible and looking for movement.
By 12:30, I was hungry, needed to pee, and wanted to shrug out of a layer of clothes. Before sitting down to resume my vigil, I decided to hit my rattling antlers HARD.
I made some raucous noise.
Afterward, I sat down, put my bow back in my lap and attached the release to the bowstring loop. When I glanced to my left, I saw a buck at 75 yards, where I’d already decided would be a perfect place to have one approach.
It came up from a ravine, from the east, through some timber. The minute I saw the deer’s rack, I knew it was a shooter and started talking to myself.
Don’t screw this up ...
Don’t look at the antlers ...
Pick your shot, and concentrate on that piece of hair ...
My brain was functioning at 10,000 miles an hour.
Surprisingly, however, I did not panic. I didn’t really have to deal with buck fever. I just knew and accepted that, for once, I was in the right place at the right time, and it was no time to make a mistake.
The buck stepped slowly onto the logging trail, looked around and glanced my way. I could feel the wind on my face, so I knew it couldn’t smell me.
When the deer lowered its head and started up the trail, I had a perfect quartering-away target. I lifted my bow and drew at the same time.
The shot was perfect. The buck reared like a horse, and then it crashed to the ground and spun. It regained its footing, fell again and then toppled into the ravine.
I texted Don at that point, asking him to bring the ATV.
He arrived about 45 minutes later.
I was blown away when the deer wasn’t where I expected it to be. I never thought we’d have to track it.
After following and losing blood for about 100 yards, Don and I took a break. We left, grabbed something to eat and put on our shed-hunting clothes.
When we got back on the trail an hour later, we found all but seven inches of the arrow, which had been sheared.
But the going wasn’t easy after that.
We separated and began walking and looking. I was really starting to feel sick to my stomach.
Toward the end of the day, I was about a quarter-mile from the last blood we’d found when I decided to call it quits. It was getting dark.
Rather than cover the same ground I’d just walked, I cut toward another trail I knew would take me back to Don.
My buck was lying in that trail.
Don heard me screaming.
Turns out, the arrow had penetrated only 8 inches. That buck’s brisket and body were the toughest I’ve ever encountered. It was hard to clean.
Halfway out of the woods, we stopped for a break, or maybe just to look at the deer again.
Don looked at me and said, “Joe, the deer gods have smiled.”
Hunter: Joe Godar
BTR Score: 223 1/8”
– Photos Courtesy of Joe Godar
This article was published in the September 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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