When Wil Branem spotted a second buck approaching his pinch-point stand on Nov. 7, 2020, he incorrectly deduced it was a 10-pointer. The underestimation didn’t really matter, though, because the deer was way bigger than the 4x4 he’d been hoping would step clear of a tree.
That the lesser deer’s vitals were covered is the only reason the 60-year-old’s crossbow still had a bolt on its rail.
The deer hunter from Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, was hunting 500 acres of private land in Ohio’s Clinton County. About 60% of the tract had been planted in soybeans, and his treestand was in an oak flat between beans and a tall bluff overlooking the Little Miami River.
Wil chose the funnel because of an active trail leading up from the river to the protein buffet. He and a friend had seen some impressive bucks in the vicinity in seasons past.
The first buck to appear that day was a nice 8-pointer.
“It was feeding on acorns just 30 yards from my stand, but I couldn’t take the shot because it was standing behind a maple tree,” he told John Phillips, who’s writing the story for Rack magazine.
While Wil was waiting for his chance, he spotted another whitetail approaching. The newcomer’s rack was thicker and carried a couple more points, he thought.
The 10-pointer he imagined was actually a 22-pointer.
“The buck was looking around and lip-curling,” Wil said. “Then it slowly turned and walked back down the trail from where it had come.”
Before it could leave, however, it made the mistake of passing through a clear lane at 40 yards, easy-breezy for Wil’s crossbow.
The hunter took aim at the deer’s shoulder crease and fired, the noise followed by the thwack of the broadhead hitting its target. Soon after the deer disappeared, Wil thought he heard it crash.
Rather than pursue it, he used up a year’s worth of restraint and waited until early the next morning to take up the short trail.
Sign was sparse, at first, but the floodgates opened 10 feet into the deer’s exit route, which spanned only 30 yards.
“The woods looked like a murder scene,” Wil chuckled. “There was plenty of blood on both sides of the buck’s trail. The bushes seemed to be painted red.”
Shooting the animal was the easy part, however. Retrieving it was incredibly difficult.
Because the deer was too big to drag uphill, Wil decided to lower the field-dressed animal by rope, 25 yards from bluff top to the river. When the rope took the full weight of the animal, Wil couldn’t hold it, and the buck plunged to the bottom
Since he couldn’t very well jump, Wil was forced to follow the bluff for 100 yards until he reached a point he could descend to the water’s edge. From there, he alternately floated and portaged the carcass — 10 yards at a time — at least a quarter-mile to where his buddies were waiting with an ATV.
Even with the extra backs and arms, the men had to use the ATV to drag it to a knoll from which they could roll it onto the vehicle.
Wil’s buck scores 240 by Buckmasters’ yardstick.
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