Nobody can accuse John Rolfe of being a fair-weather bowhunter. On Nov. 18, 2003, the hunter from Sabina, Ohio, not only braved freezing temperatures and gale-force winds to indulge his passion, but he also stood his ground in a rainstorm – even as the rain flew sideways.
“At first, I thought I was an idiot for doing it,” John admits.
But then his inspiration wore almost 200 inches of antler, more than enough to lure both John and his buddy, Tom Woods, back out into the cold after lunch.
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John and Tom had hunted the Clinton County farm that morning. Binoculars raised in tandem, they’d seen a massive buck skillfully navigate a 2-foot gap in a fence and bed down in the surrounding vegetation. The enormous whitetail’s antlers were so large that it had to twist its head to clear the hole in the fence. Apparently accustomed to the maneuver, the deer’s motions were flawless.
The two men plotted ways to approach the bedded buck for a shot. Although the 32-mph wind might conceal their movement, neither wanted to risk spooking the animal. Instead, the guys opted to return that afternoon and set up on either side, hoping to cover its exit.
While returning to his home for lunch, John thought about the massive deer he and Tom had left behind in the fencerow. He recalled a buck they’d watched on numerous occasions the previous year, along the same area of the fencerow. At the time, its right antler had nine points; the left was completely gone.
Tom had seen the same buck locked in battle while it still wore both antlers. After seeing that, Tom said he was surprised that it had any antlers left at all!
Convinced that this was the same buck, John returned to the fencerow about 3:15. He threw the dice and chose a likely spot where the buck might present itself. Dressed in camouflaged raingear, including hood, John sat on the ground in a bush.
John spent the next several minutes picking out shooting lanes and estimating distances. He also frequently drew his bow to prevent the wet string from twisting.
Tom arrived on the scene at 4:20 and set up about 100 yards away from John. The wind had begun driving the rain sideways, the drops painfully striking John’s face. The hunter continued to struggle with his string, occasionally pulling the bow to full draw. He knew the buck was only a short distance away, if it hadn’t moved in their absence.
During one such exercise -- with the bow still at full draw and the peep sight in his mouth -- John happened to look into the field. He was amazed to see the buck a mere 15 yards away, staring directly at him. The deer had seen the movement, and it began stomping its foot and bobbing its head in an effort to make John move again.
John quickly spit the peep sight from his mouth and somehow made the shot before the animal could bolt. It happened so fast, he doesn’t remember aiming.
He saw the carbon arrow hit home, although it didn’t pass through the animal. The buck ran for about 100 yards and then, as John watched, went down in the open field. John glassed his prize as patiently as possible, which lasted 30 minutes. After the tense wait, he had to get a closer look!