This Kentuckian never imagined he’d burn his only vacation day just to make a trip to the taxidermist.
When the smoke cleared and the buck was no longer there, Roger Poe began shaking. He wasn’t sure if it was due to the December cold or the fact that he’d just shot at the biggest deer he’d ever seen.
Second chances are rare when you’re shooting a muzzleloader, and the hunter from Mt. Olivet, Ky., who’s been hunting with them for a quarter-century, is well acquainted with the make-the-first-shot-count mantra.
He thought he’d done so, but it’s always disconcerting when a deer doesn’t drop.
R.J. hunts private ground in both Robertson and Mason counties, but mostly in the former. And he’s a big believer in trail cameras.
“In 2010, I got a photo of a decent 9-point buck. The same deer showed up again in 2011. It was still just a 9-pointer, but it had grown substantially from one year to the next,” he said. “In 2012, it was bigger still, with 10 or 11 points.
“The last photo I got of it that year was in November, right after the modern gun season, and its rack was all busted up from fighting,” he added.
The deer disappeared after that, and R.J. figured he’d seen the last of it.
As the fall of 2013 approached, R.J. was looking forward to spending time in a 10-foot-high, double ladder stand near a natural spring. The place is an evening staging area for deer en route to a neighboring alfalfa field.
“I call it a warm hollow,” he said. “The temperature change will hit you as soon as you get close to it. The spring almost never stops running there, even in 14-degree weather when everything else around it is frozen.
“I hunted September, October and into November, but I never saw anything I wanted to shoot,” he continued.
On Nov. 27, after the modern gun season had ended, R.J. checked one of his trail cams that he’d set up over a scrape. To his surprise, a photo of the buck he’d been monitoring since 2010 was on it.
“The big deer had grown a huge irregular rack,” R.J. said. “When I saw the buck on that trail cam photo, I told the rest of the family, ‘I’m not shooting another deer other than that one.’”
The buck’s next appearance was in early December at the warm hollow, where it posed in front of a trail camera six days in a row. R.J. couldn’t wait for Kentucky’s blackpowder season to open.
“I had planted a food plot in the warm hollow. It was mostly just throw-and-grow, the majority of it clover, but with some kale and turnips and a little winter oats in the mix. The plot ran parallel to a creek.
“My ladder stand is about 70 yards up the hollow from the spring and overlooks the food plot,” he said. “Unless the buck changed its pattern, I knew I had a chance.”
Optimistic, R.J. scheduled his lone remaining vacation day for the Monday after the season opener so that he’d have a long weekend.
“On opening day, Dec. 14, I was in the stand at the warm hollow by 1 p.m. The weather was rough with sleet, rain and snow. I saw 19 deer that afternoon, including four little bucks, but there was no sign of the big one.”
On Sunday the 15th, as several family members were preparing for the afternoon hunt, someone knocked over R.J.’s rifle. He was worried, at first, but a practice shot proved it was still zeroed.
“I was in a hurry to get to my stand, so I reloaded in a dirty barrel, knowing that my longest shot would be less than 100 yards,” he said. “It was a little later than usual when I got in my stand. I got settled around 3:00.”
The temperature was close to 30 degrees, the wind was blowing, and it was spitting snow.
“Around 4:45, 15 minutes after the wind died, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked up and saw the big deer from the trail cam photos coming down out of the cedars about 90 to 100 yards away from me.
“Despite having four years of pictures of the deer, that was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on it,” he said. “The buck was still in thick stuff up by the cedars, though, and there was no shot.
“It came in slowly and crossed the creek while my heart was starting to beat faster. I tried to pull the hammer back, but I hadn’t completely closed the gun’s breech. I had to open it fully, and then close it back in order to pull back the hammer,” he said. “It made a click, but the buck didn’t hear it.
“The big whitetail, by that time, had turned away and was feeding in the food plot. What am I going to do now? I wondered. I was freaking out. Then, there was more movement. Three does appeared and were heading my way.
“Things were getting more complicated by the minute,” he added.
“After the first doe walked past my stand, I grunted softly at the buck. It turned sideways, but then immediately turned away again. My mind was spinning.
“The first doe was looking around for the source of the grunt,” R.J. added. “I was hoping that the arrival of the second doe might cause the buck to turn, but it didn’t.
“After grunting again, I immediately put the crosshairs on the buck. When it turned, I slowly squeezed the trigger,” he said.
At the boom, all the deer scattered.
“The first thought that crossed my mind was that I’d shot high,” R.J. remembered. “I sent text messages to the rest of my family. They’d heard the shot. I told them to stay put in case I had to track the buck.
“I got down and walked in the direction I thought the deer might have gone, and I found it dead about 100 yards from the food plot. After that, everyone came down and joined in the celebration,” he said.
Hunter: Roger L. Poe Jr.
BTR Score: 200 3/8
– Photos Courtesy Roger Poe Jr.
This article was published in the November 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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