Cincinnati hunter discovers I-275 is the road to Heaven.
Just in case the grass WAS greener on the other side of the state line, Ryan Hancock of Cincinnati, Ohio, found himself a 60-acre farm to hunt in Indiana last season.
He simply wanted more options, and the tract is far larger than any he hunts in his home state. Plus, the Hoosier farm is a buffer zone between 400 and 500 acres of forestland and crop fields.
Ryan considers it Heaven on earth.
He and a friend set out and monitored several trail cameras prior to the season opener. Many deer were passing through the property, though mostly at night.
In addition, Ryan sometimes joined the landowner on his back deck — the perfect spot from which to glass the neighborhood whitetails coming to the fields.
“The landowner is a great resource for me, being as I live in Ohio and he lives there,” Ryan said. “He’s not a hunter, but he’s well acquainted with the comings and goings on his property.
“When he told me a giant buck was traversing his property several days in a row just after sundown, I checked my cameras and was able to pinpoint its path from one camera to the next.
“The buck was coming to this farm by crossing a roadway during legal shooting light, which meant it was too dark to shoot by the time it reached my stands at the rear of the farm,” he said.
Worried that moving one of the stands might tip off and spook the deer, Ryan built himself a ground blind under a spruce tree and settled in with fingers crossed.
“About 4:30 or 4:45, I actually spotted the big buck about 300 to 400 yards away, coming across a field of waist-high weeds and grass. It was not hard to distinguish those antlers as the buck slowly made its way toward me.
“I had to remain calm and motionless. Fortunately for me, I don’t usually get the jitters until after the shot,” he said.
On cue, the buck and its three female companions crossed the road. The buck stopped at a low spot in front of Ryan.
“I had a clear shooting lane,” he said. “The buck changed directions a couple of times, just milling around, so by the time it was facing north, I had a perfect broadside shot.”
The crossbow bolt passed through the deer and fell to the ground just beyond it. Ryan saw it lying there as the buck fled at full speed. After a reasonable wait, he retrieved the arrow and immediately started looking for blood.
There wasn’t much.
“We tracked very cautiously, searching for the sparse droplets. We ultimately lost the trail when the buck crossed the county road and left the farm I was hunting,” said Ryan. “We didn’t want to push him any farther, so we backed out for the night.”
The following day was Ryan’s bachelor party, and he had a ton of things to do back in Ohio. So he returned home after the landowner agreed to resume the search in his absence.
The landowner knocked on his neighbors’ doors and scoured property for hours. He also glassed fields and kept an eye to the sky, looking for buzzards.
Back in Ohio, Ryan was far more interested in the search for his buck than he was in a bachelor party. He spent most of Saturday on the phone.
“I returned to Indiana on Sunday, and we repeated Saturday. No blood. No buzzards. No buck,” he said.
“I was sitting in front of my computer on Sunday evening, spinning my wheels, wondering what else I could do, and what steps I hadn’t taken. Then I clicked on a favorite site called connectedafield.com, where hunters share information and such,” Ryan said.
“As I scrolled through the messages, I came across a photograph of my buck with the notation ‘Found in pond dead.’ I tried to contact the person who posted the picture through the app, but without success,” he added.
Ryan is friends with the people who run the site, so he contacted them to ask for help. They steered him to an email address, and Ryan sent a message.
Turns out, the person who posted the image was a juvenile. When he received the message from Ryan, he shared the email with his father, who eventually called Ryan.
They shared stories.
“The father and son were driving down the county road adjoining the farm on Sunday morning when the lad spotted what he felt sure was a deer leg sticking up out of the water in a farm pond. The father turned around and went back for a better look,” Ryan said.
They drove to the nearest home and told the owner what they suspected. The man grabbed a rope and went out to investigate.
It was indeed a deer leg, which the man eventually lassoed. He was unable, however, to pull the dead animal out of the water. He had to go for his tractor, which easily handled the job.
“They were all shocked,” Ryan said. “They had never seen a buck that big.”
Pictures were taken but apparently not widely shared in the surrounding area, except for that single post Ryan happened to see.
The landowner dragged the carcass up to his shed. As the buck had been in the water for a long time, it was difficult to determine how it died.
The man told the landowner he’d like to have the rack if nobody claimed it and if he didn’t want it.
A couple of passers-by witnessed the tractor pull and stopped for pictures. They even tried to buy the deer from the farmer, but he wouldn’t sell it.
Later that day, he dragged the stinking buck behind a barn.
Ryan spoke to the man and his son on Monday. Afterward, he drove back to Indiana and found the farmhouse.
“It was a house where we’d knocked earlier, but no one was home to grant permission to search,” he said.
“As I explained to him all the circumstances that led me to his door that afternoon, I could see him weighing my testimony,” Ryan said. “He wasn’t just going to hand it over to me without evidence to prove my claim.
“I was able to show him game camera pictures of the buck, and when I started to explain where I had been hunting when I shot the deer, his attitude softened noticeably,” he added.
“He explained that my host landowner and he had been friends since childhood, and that a simple phone call would quickly solve the dilemma.
“After that, he took me out back to the deer. I was ecstatic beyond belief at that point! I was sure the buck might have been long gone had anyone else found it. It wouldn’t be hard for anyone to stick a tag on a buck that size and claim it for themselves,” Ryan said.
Ryan took his deer to Todd Miller, a taxidermist in Hamilton. He didn’t mind springing for a new cape.
Hunter: Ryan Hancock
BTR Score: 197 2/8
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This article was published in the April 2016 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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