Soon after he'd gained permission to hunt a vast piece of ground in Greene County, Ohio, Dave Ross set out to do some preseason scouting. The area was full of promising deer sign, so he wasted no time in setting up an automatic game feeder about 20 yards from the edge of a soybean field. He also erected a ladder stand a few yards away from it.
The corn-filled feeder was activated to go off twice a day, in the morning and evening. Dave merely had to keep the feeder filled while he waited for opening day, Oct. 4.
When that day finally arrived, Dave was sitting in his stand well before dawn. Several does and a basket-rack buck came through that morning, but all of them appeared to be extremely spooky. When each deer came close, it sniffed the air and then quickly got the heck out of Dodge.
Dave had no idea what was wrong. Not only was he wearing a ScentLok suit, but the deer were also approaching from UPWIND. He had to wonder, since he shared access to the property with no less than a dozen other hunters, if someone had sabotaged his spot.
Dave left for lunch and returned to his ladder stand about 3:30 p.m. It wasn't long before he began seeing deer moving into his area. Thirteen deer approached his stand, but none stepped into the tree line. Just as the deer had acted that morning, they approached from the bean field, tested the breeze, and then quickly departed.
Dave was aggravated. Sensing that there was no point in continuing his vigil there, he left his stand and began walking back to his vehicle.
The walk was long, and Dave took his time. The deer were moving, and it was prime time. After walking for about 10 minutes down a narrow service road, he thought he saw antlers sticking above some high grass and thick honeysuckle next to the bean field.
Dave quickly pulled the call from his pocket and made a single bleat. Receiving no reaction from the call, he began sneaking toward what had to be a buck. As he drew closer, Dave saw not one, but two bucks, and they were lightly sparring.
As he cautiously sneaked to within 30 yards of the bucks, a sharp "snap" sounded from underneath his foot. He'd stepped on and broken a small tree branch. Alerted, both bucks raised their heads and looked around for a few seconds before resuming their shoving match.
Dave crept to within 19 yards of the preoccupied bucks. The larger one, he guesses, was an impressive 10-pointer.
"From the side, I couldn't tell it had all the extra points," he said.
The buck was standing broadside, slightly quartering away and totally unaware of Dave's presence.
Nervous and shaking badly, Dave raised his crossbow and fired. At the snap of the taut string, the bucks rapidly separated and ran in opposite directions. Dave was certain that he had hit the big buck, but he wasn't sure where. Afterward, not wanting to push the deer, Dave returned to his vehicle to wait.
After about 20 or 30 minutes, Dave returned to the spot and began the search for his arrow. Not finding it, he walked in the direction the buck ran and discovered the first drops of blood about 40 yards from where he'd shot the buck. He followed the trail for 150 yards to the buck.
Dave was happily surprised when he realized his 10-pointer actually carried 34 scoreable points. He had hit the buck in the neck.
Dave still doesn't know if someone tampered with his hunting area. If he ever meets the saboteur, however, he'll likely shake his hand rather than throw any punches.
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Hunter: Dave Ross
BTR Official Score: 231 6/8
BTR Composite Score: 252 1/8
Location: Greene Co., Ohio
Date: October 4, 2003