The best thing Jesse Truman has ever done, as a deer hunter, was forgetting about a trail camera on the 200 acres he hunts in Clay County, West Virginia, about 35 miles from where he lives.
He’s hunted that piece of ground for a very long time. Despite the difficult terrain, which is more deer-friendly than hunter-friendly, there’s no place he’d rather pursue whitetails.
“There are woods, hills, hollers, ravines and brushy places so thick you can’t walk through them,” Jesse says. “The deer seem to manage and thrive there, so it’s always been one of the best places to hunt.”
He hunted his latest buck since 2019, when it was a respectable 140s-class 8-pointer. It was a nomad and difficult to predict, often disappearing the minute it shed its velvet. If it did reappear for a few days during the season, it never slept in the same place.
Jesse missed the deer from 40 yards in 2020. His arrow deflected off an unseen limb.
While setting trail cameras prior to the 2021 season, he came across one he’d neglected to retrieve that winter. When he got home and pulled the card, he discovered more than 600 winter and springtime photos, three-quarters of them of the buck he’d missed.
“I knew it was Ol’ Ghost because of the distinctive downward curve of the right main beam. The left side had become a crazy mass of velvet, slowly developing into the strangest cluster of points I had ever seen, including a massive drop tine,” he told Ed Waite, who’s writing the story for Rack magazine.
“Toward the end of August, I saw him lying in a field 20 yards off a roadway. I just knew if he stayed out in the open like that, he would get poached. Just a short time later, he vanished,” he continued. “I was afraid a vehicle had hit him, or maybe he’d been poached until he reappeared near the end of September in what I suspected was his home territory.”
Jesse had brushed-in a ground blind in the vicinity, so that’s where he spent opening day. It was so hot that weekend that he didn’t return to the setup on Sunday, a decision that cost him a chance at the deer, which was photographed there at dusk.
After work on Tuesday, he headed straight for the blind.
Close to 7:00, he noticed a glint of antler in the nearby brush. Just in case, he stood with his bow. At the time, he didn’t realize the antler was attached to Ol’ Ghost, who was bedded next to a couple of holly bushes just 20 yards distant.
When the familiar buck stood and began circling the blind, Jesse began shaking violently.
“I waited until he began quartering toward me and turned his head to look back at another deer approaching from the holler,” he said. “As he turned, he presented a nearly perfect broadside target, so I drew my bow.”
The move almost cost him dearly.
“My elbow brushed the blind, creating a horrendous noise,” he explained. “The buck heard it, too, and knew something wasn’t right. He stood straight up, looking for the source.”
A moment later, Jesse’s arrow sliced through both the alert animal’s lungs.
The 18-pointer scores 198 6/8 inches with Buckmasters, a new No. 3 for West Virginia among compound bow harvests.
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