The story behind Kentucky’s winner of the 2015 Golden Laurel Citation.
The story about David Howard’s 2013 Kentucky buck, then a new runner-up to the state’s compound bow record, appeared in the winter (2014/2015) issue of Rack magazine.
The ink had barely dried when word began circulating that he’d topped it, that he’d arrowed an even bigger whitetail.
Where David hunts is obviously important, but he must also be doing something right.
The man has more than 40 years of deer hunting under his belt and a wall full of whitetail antlers. Still, he says taking big bucks isn’t rocket science.
He does the same few things every season.
He shoots his bow until the act is second nature. He knows the lay of the land he hunts, and he stays out until he’s ready to hunt. He’s also fanatical about scent control.
The one departure from his routine last season was to visit the Todd County farm, where he shot his first giant, a month earlier than he normally would.
“I usually wait until late October to hunt the farm I have leased there,” David said. “However, after the 2013 season, I was itching to get back in the woods and see what was there. So I drove over in late September.”
He wondered, in particular, if the huge Typical he’d seen in 2013 was still alive and kicking. That was the deer he really wanted when he went afield on Halloween, at least until he crossed paths with the big Irregular.
“Archery season opened on Sept. 6 in 2014,” David said. “I drove over on Sunday, Sept. 21. I got there about 3:30 p.m. and decided to walk to the back end of the farm to check out the place where all the action had taken place the previous year.
“It was warm, and the wind was blowing in my face as I neared the weed field where I’d constructed the ground blind in 2013. It was close to 5:00 when I got close enough to see the blind.
“To my left and bordering the weed field was an overgrown thicket with small saplings and briars. A beagle couldn’t go through that stuff.
“To my right on the neighboring piece of property was a soybean field. As I approached the blind to check it out, a big deer came out of the thick stuff and jumped the fence over into the bean field,” he continued.
“The buck quickly went over a hill and out of sight. The impression I got of the deer’s rack was that it had a lot of mass. It was 100 yards away and moving, so it was hard to judge antlers in the short time I had, but it was definitely a shooter,” he added. “And the good part was: I was sure it hadn’t seen me.”
David had several stand locations already prepared with easy access and cleared shooting lanes in the general area. However, the year-old ground blind was positioned perfectly along the route the big buck had just taken from the cover to the soybean field.
“I went over to the old blind and scraped away the leaves in and around it and put some more limbs in,” he said.
It was almost dark as the bowhunter made his way back to his vehicle, but his stand location was all set for his next visit.
On Monday morning, as is his custom, David was in the woods long before daylight. He’d slipped in slowly and silently from the opposite direction of the soybean field where he suspected deer were feeding.
His hunting clothes held an earthy smell, having been packed away in an airtight bag full of dirt and leaves before the hunt. When he reached the blind, he raked the dirt around it to create even more cover scent.
David settled in to watch the travel corridor as the first hint of sunrise appeared over his shoulder. A slight northwest wind was in his face. The trap was set.
It was a lazy fall day. Prime morning time came and went with no deer. David was comfortable in the blind, but the only things he saw were several raccoons. They seemed to be unusually active. By the time the sun set on his first day afield, the few ringtails were all the bowhunter had seen.
He spent 50 hours in the blind on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, even though he never saw a deer. He took it in stride, though, knowing he needed to see only one, the right one, in range, and just once.
At 56 degrees, Friday was the coolest day yet. Ten minutes after sunrise, David’s grip on his bow tightened.
“I first saw the buck coming out of the bean field,” he said. “A 10-pointer was following it. The big one jumped the fence ahead of the other buck about 80 yards from the blind. It acted like it was headed to bed and didn’t have a worry in the world.
“I remember his tail swinging from side to side,” he continued.
“I saw the 10-pointer out of the corner of my eye, and its left ear was twisting. Just then, the big one crossed in front of the blind at 26 yards. I raised my bow, centered the pin and shot it in the left side.”
Once the predator in David kicked in and the decision to shoot had been made, there was really no thought process involved in the shot. It was all instinct from that point, thanks to hours of practice.
The arrow skewered both lungs.
“When the arrow hit, it sounded like something hitting a drum,” David remembered. “I saw the arrow go straight through him, and then blood. The buck wheeled and ran a semicircle around me, and I saw it go down. Afterward, everything was quiet.
“I had stayed calm through it all,” he said. “I could see he was down for good, but I just sat there for 15 or 20 minutes, gathering my thoughts. When I got up, walked over and looked at it, I thought Oh, Lord, what a deer!”
Hunter: David Howard
Official Score: 238 6/8”
Composite Score: 258 1/8”
– Photos by Dale Weddle