Jeff McCulley would’ve been elated to burn his 2009 buck tag on the wide and tall-tined 8-pointer that had given him the slip all season. It was the biggest he’d seen on the 25 acres for which he’d gained permission to hunt through a fishing buddy who knew the landowners.
The 41-year-old hunter from Stow, Ohio, lived just 10 or 15 minutes away from the dual parcels, which were basically the owners’ back yards, so he spent many mornings and afternoons there in a ladder stand he’d erected. The Summit County parcel held a lot of does, and he saw the big 4x4 several times, but always beyond his crossbow’s range.
He’s now glad of that.
“I scouted the land in the late summer and picked out a good location for a ladder stand,” Jeff said. “It was in place before opening day, and I hunted from it from the start.
“I had other places to hunt as well,” he added, “so I tried not to overhunt that land. But whenever the weather was right, I was there, watching a fairly open stretch between a thicket and a tree-lined fencerow.”
The first time Jeff saw the mature 8-pointer, all he could tell from a distance was that its rack was wide and tall. About four weeks into the season, he got a really good look at it and decided to devote the season to hunting it.
“As the season progressed, I saw the deer several times,” he said. “But each time it came from a different direction and exited the field somewhere else. It seemed to be randomly crossing the open area. There was no patterning that deer.
“I still felt confident, however. The property had not been hunted in many years, and I hadn’t spooked any deer. I just hoped patience would eventually pay off,” he said.
Jeff had several more encounters with the buck during the bow season, but it was never close enough. Since the landowners didn’t allow gun hunters, he stayed clear of the area during the gun and muzzleloader seasons. He didn’t return until after Christmas, and, by then, he was antsy to put venison into his freezer.
“On Jan. 6, I climbed into the stand about 2:00. I had pretty much decided to take a doe, if the opportunity arose.
“I hadn’t been there very long when I saw the familiar 8-pointer come out of a thicket, walking straight toward me. It passed directly under my stand, and the only shot I had was straight through its back, and I didn’t take it. After the deer disappeared, I vowed not to let it get that close again without shooting,” he said.
Frustrated, Jeff got down and began scouting for a better place to set up the stand. There was plenty of snow to cushion his footfalls.
He walked to the back corner of the open area, where the 8-pointer had appeared multiple times, and found a suitable tree. But because it was too late in the day to make that kind of noise, he just scraped away the snow at the base of the tree and plopped down to wait for nightfall.
“Shortly after I sat down, a doe came out of the thicket, walking slightly toward me until she was about 20 yards away. I raised the crossbow and was settling the sight on her shoulder when more movement got my attention. When I turned to look, I saw a monster buck exit the thicket.
“It took two steps and stopped behind a large tree, allowing me to reposition the crossbow. When it stepped clear of the tree, broadside at 25 yards, I squeezed the trigger,” he said.
The deer took off running immediately, and Jeff eased over to retrieve his bolt and check for blood. After confirming a hit, he went back to the tree, sat down and waited about 45 minutes. When he took up the trail, he found the deer a mere 40 yards into his search.
"When I saw it lying there, I could see only one side of the rack. The other was hidden in the snow. And the side I saw looked nothing like what I remembered,” he said. “I was awestruck, even before I lifted the head and saw the other side.”
When Jeff tried to flip the buck so he could field-dress it, he couldn’t do it. The buck had to be 25 or 30 pounds heavier than any others he’d shot. So he put his tag on it and left for home to call for help.
It was dark when he and a couple of buddies returned; well into the night when they got it back to Jeff’s garage. When he drove it to the check station the next morning, people poured in to see it.
“When I got back home, I called Bill’s Taxidermy in Atwater to ask how to skin the buck for mounting. He had done work for me in the past, and I trusted him to do a good job with this one.
“Bill did a fine job,” Jeff added. “And he had it ready in time for the Ohio Deer and Turkey Expo in mid-March, barely two months after I shot it.”
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Hunter: Jeff McCulley
BTR Official Score: 245 7/8
BTR Composite Score: 265 5/8
Location: Summit County, Ohio
Date: January 6, 2010