By Jill J. Easton
Passing up a 9-pointer and ignoring a button buck last year enabled Jason Woodbury of Kouts, Ind., to put his tag on a buck few hunters could even imagine. Being a nice guy helped, too, because he’d never have been on that property had he not offered to take his little boy’s friend hunting.
Jason’s dream season started when his 9-year-old son, Matthew, took a deer during Indiana’s 2009 youth hunt. The boy’s enthusiasm convinced his friend, Jacob, that he wanted to go deer hunting, too.
In return for teaching Jacob about deer hunting and getting the boys set up with a ground blind, Jason gained access to 30 acres that had been hunted only a handful of times in 20 years.
“When we went out to scout and set up a ground blind for the boys, it didn’t take me long to realize a huge buck lived in the area,” he said. “There was a set of tracks twice as big as the rest on the far corner of the property. They were the biggest hoof prints I’d seen in 10 years of hunting.”
Knowing how spooky big deer can be, Jason quickly found a couple of downed trees that were a perfect spot for the kids’ blind – 15 yards from a deer highway.
Jason bowhunted the property prior to the gun opener, for which the boys were waiting, and he never went to the same location twice. He saw deer, but none that could fill the hoof prints of the big one he knew had to be out there.
If anything, he knew how to be patient.
“I’ve gone as long as three years without shooting anything, letting numerous does and bucks walk,” he said. “I was always thinking HE might be following her, or that a bigger buck was close behind. I spent countless hours in the woods with nothing to show for it.”
Jason took a lot of ribbing from friends and family about the monster bucks he never shot; because he always came home empty-handed.
“At 2 p.m. on Nov. 8, the day before gun season opened, I turned on the television. I’d spent the morning with my son and some friends sighting-in our shotguns,” Jason said. “And then my wife asked why I wasn’t heading out for the last day of bow season. If she hadn’t prompted me, I wouldn’t have left the couch.”
With daylight fast burning, he hurried to the property, deciding where he’d hunt on the way there.
“I got to the field at 3:10,” he said. “As soon as my boot hit the ground, I realized the wind was blowing hard in the wrong direction, but I decided to hunt the spot anyway.”
Whenever Jason hunts, even if the vigils are shot, he wears Scent-Lok under his camo and practically hoses himself down with scent-killer. This time, he also had a decoy and a bottle of doe scent.
“I set up a decoy in the woods, which I had never done before,” he said. “The decoy probably had a thousand holes in it. We used it for practice. Then I dumped an entire bottle of Tink’s #69 on it, and on the stump between me and the target.”
Moments later, he was 25 feet aloft in his small climber.
“I was in the corner of the woods with a bean field 35 yards ahead and to the left,” he said. “After I got settled in, I ranged a few stumps and trees to get my bearings. I had about two hours until dark.”
About 20 minutes into the hunt, a button buck came up behind Jason. The young deer kept moving closer, so Jason frequently checked over his shoulder. Three big does were next. They came out in the bean field to his right and started heading toward his stand.
The button buck, meanwhile, walked over to the decoy just 20 yards from Jason.
“About that time, the does suddenly spooked, and I knew a buck was coming,” he said. “It was a good sized 9-pointer, and it followed the does within range. I drew my bow, but I decided not to shoot it. It couldn’t be the buck that had left those giant tracks.”
When Jason let down his bow, the button buck spotted the movement.
“It walked right up to the base of my tree and looked up at me,” Jason said. “For 10 minutes, the button buck would stare at me and then back at the decoy. I was busy watching it and wishing it would leave.”
When Jason finally looked up, he saw a monstrous buck about 50 yards away, following the same path the other deer had taken.
“I took a huge breath, told myself ‘To hell with that button buck,’ and drew my bow,” he said. “When the little guy saw the movement, it ran for its life, and the big buck stopped to watch.”
When Bigfoot continued walking, Jason stopped it by grunting with his mouth. But there was no shot. When the buck took a few more steps, another mouth-grunt froze it inside a clear lane.
“It stopped and looked right at me,” he said. “I let the arrow fly, and the deer jumped, bucked and headed for the woods. I knew it was hit hard.”
The buck ran about 150 yards across the field into the woods and out of sight. In the limited light, Jason couldn’t find blood, but he was sure he’d scored a good hit.
“I walked back and forth, trying to find exactly where the buck entered the woods. But with no blood trail, there wasn’t much I could do,” he said. “My only choice was to leave and return at daybreak.”
The next morning, he and a friend went to look for the buck. The buck’s trail led to the adjoining property, so Jason got permission to follow it.
After nearly an hour of searching, they saw something sticking up by the bean field.
“I could see what looked like branches sticking up through the knee-high grass,” he said. “I ran up and dove on the buck. It took me a day to take it all in and wrap my mind around how huge it was.”
Several people saw the deer afterward, photographed it and wanted to hear the story.
“By the time I got home that evening, I was getting cell-phone pictures from friends telling me to check out this deer. They didn’t know who’d shot it. It was pretty awesome to tell them it was my 22-pointer.”
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BTR Official Score: 225 3/8
BTR Composite Score: 246
Weapon: Compound Bow
Location: Porter Co., Indiana
Date: November 8, 2009