Jason Hardin’s first racked buck was faster than a speeding bullet. Three of them, to be precise.
Had Superbuck kept on flying in the same direction instead of thrice looping around like a scared rabbit, it might still be in Jason’s head instead of on his wall.
You just don’t give a determined deer hunter that many tugs on your cape.
Jason and his son, Quentin, were hunting a new piece of ground when this saga unfolded last year. They had no idea that the place would become a shooting gallery on their very first outing.
Two weeks prior to Ohio’s 2012 firearms season, a coworker invited Jason to hunt his land.
“He was starting to build a house on 10 acres of land that’s backed up by another 300 acres overrun with deer. He told me I could hunt there as often as I wanted,” Jason said.
“As soon as I was able, my son and I drove out to take a look. When we pulled into the property and got out of the truck, we jumped four does,” he continued.
“After scouting the area and taking note of the property boundaries, we set up two ground blinds, a single and a double. We also attached a climber to a tree.
“We didn’t return until the weekend before the opener, just to make sure nothing had been moved,” Jason said.
“Once again, as soon as we pulled in, we busted several more does, maybe the same ones as earlier. We also noticed tracks everywhere, and there were a few new scrapes.”
Jason and Quentin’s third trip to the property was on Nov. 26, opening day. Quentin chose to hunt from the one-man blind, which was close to where they’d seen all the does, and Jason opted for the double blind.
They were about 150 yards apart.
“About 9:30, I heard a single gunshot. Judging from the closeness, I knew it had to be Quentin,” Jason said. “I waited for about five minutes before walking over to him.”
Father and son combed the area for sign before surmising that Quentin had missed. Afterward, they walked to the truck to have lunch.
Bellies full, they decided to switch places for the afternoon.
“I got myself situated and was watching several squirrels running about, then along came two dogs,” Jason said. “They didn’t stay around long, and then everything grew quiet until I heard another shot, very loud and very close. It had to be my son again.
“I was on full alert, looking in Quentin’s direction, when I spied something moving within a thick grove of pines,” he continued. “Eventually, I could make out two very long tines on a rack’s right side.
“I didn’t need to see anything else to know they belonged to a shooter,” he added.
When the buck exited the pines, it was at a fast trot. Jason raised his year-old shotgun and swung past the running animal, leading it before squeezing the trigger.
He was expecting the buck to fall, but it didn’t even stumble.
“I blew up a small tree, completely missing the buck,” he said. “I was too stunned to fire again.”
The buck veered at the shot, went uphill and out of sight, probably forever, thought Jason, who collapsed back in his chair to ponder the errant shot’s only wound: his pride. There wasn’t much time for self-loathing, however.
“Suddenly, I heard a bunch of noise, and here came the buck, back down the hill. I couldn’t believe it was coming back,” Jason said. “I quickly pumped another shell into the chamber, drew a bead and promptly ... exploded another tree, while the buck disappeared into the thicket.
“I sat my gun down without pumping another round in, then sat back and held my head in my hands,” he continued. “That was the first racked buck I’d ever seen while hunting since 1996, the first buck I had ever shot at, and I’d missed ... not once, but twice.
“I was extremely upset with myself and felt a wave of depression sweep over me,” he added. “I was truly at a loss to explain what happened. I was actually talking to myself out loud.”
The one-sided conversation, however, must not have been too loud, because the buck with a death wish came back for more.
“It stopped just outside the pines that time, but it was still in some very thick cover,” Jason said. “All I could see was its head.”
When the confused animal started toward the blind, Jason grabbed his shotgun and got down on one knee. He then picked out a window in the brush and waited.
“As each second passed, I seemed to regain my composure,” he said. “When the deer stepped into that opening, I fired.
“After about 15 minutes, my boy came over to see if I ‘got them both.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, both?’
“He said, ‘Well, I had a doe come out about 40 yards in front of me, and I was getting my gun up to shoot when the buck came out right behind her. I decided I would shoot the buck rather than the doe, so I switched targets.
“‘I guess I missed, and both of them ran in your direction. Then I heard you shoot three times, so I just thought you must have shot them both,’ he told me,” Jason continued.
“We sat there for a little while, and then headed over to the pine thicket to take a look for blood or hair. We found good sign and were able to track the buck through the thicket and into a 200-yard-wide field.
“The grass was about a foot tall, and we didn’t get very far before we lost the trail,” he said.
The Hardins backed out at that point. They walked to the truck to call for reinforcements.
Twenty minutes later, Jason’s father-in-law pulled in behind them, and the three men set off to resume tracking.
The search ended as they neared the far end of the field, 50 feet short of where the animal would’ve crossed a road onto another property, which might have signaled the end of the line, had it not died.
“There are no words to describe how I felt when I walked up to that beast,” Jason said. “I’d never seen such a deer other than in pictures.”
Hunter: Jason Hardin
BTR Score: 196 4/8
– Photos Courtesy of Jason Hardin
This article was published in the October 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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