Don’t always have to get you down.
My father introduced me to hunting when I was 10. He put an Ithaca single-shot 20 gauge (which I still own) in my hands and showed me the proper way to handle, respect and shoot a gun. He started my brothers and me on rabbits, and it didn’t take long for us to share his love of hunting.
I took to the challenge of bowhunting at age 15. Over the years, it has become my true passion. I am now 48 and have bowhunted black bears in Maine and Canada, elk and mule deer in Colorado, wild boars in Pennsylvania, and turkeys in my home state of Ohio.
But the one constant in all of my years of hunting has been the pure joy and excitement of hunting whitetails. Each year, with a lot of hard work and preparation, I have been fortunate to fill my tags, taking some nice bucks and cultivating lots of great memories and stories along the way. Yet with all that success, I’ve always dreamed of that one buck that would stand out. The 2011 hunting season was when that dream finally came true.
As I started to prepare for the season, Pop and I scouted several areas at a relative’s farm in Butler County. We have been hunting there for 17 years, and we know the property and the habits of its deer well.
It was late August and we had just set my dad’s ladder stand. As we moved toward my chosen spot, I caught a glimpse of a huge buck in velvet. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Pop and I jumped him out of the field, and the monster headed toward Pop’s stand.
That’s when I set my sights on him. It was my goal for one of us to take that buck.
I put together a strategy and placed a trail camera close to where we first saw him. I got 48 pictures of various deer, but not one of the big buck. It was exciting to see all the activity, yet disappointing not to see the one deer I most wanted. He had to be out there somewhere!
Six weeks into the archery season, I was still confident and determined. I was sitting in my stand, glassing the field of standing corn when I saw movement between the brown corn stalks and a finger of woods. Although I couldn’t be certain, I thought it might be the big buck. I decided to move my stand to that finger of woods. Upon closer inspection, the location appeared to be just outside his bedding area. You can imagine my excitement.
Two days later on an evening hunt, I saw him at 200 yards. I grunted and used bleat calls, but he ignored them. Obviously, this was not your ordinary buck. I needed to come up with another strategy.
With the rut approaching, I figured my odds were getting better. Two days later, on Nov. 14, I was at work and itching to get to the woods. The weather didn’t look good, however, and the forecast called for rain, rain and more rain, along with wind.
Of course I decided to give it a shot anyway. Since my previous attempts with calling the buck were unsuccessful, I decided to use doe scent on wicks. I covered the entire area and then prayed the wind would shift in my favor.
After an hour and a half in the stand, I saw movement about 50 yards out in the cornfield. When I saw the antlers, I knew it was my buck, and he was heading directly toward me. I think my heart stopped beating for a moment or two.
I grabbed my bow, stood, drew my bow and waited for him to walk into my shooting lane.
He got to about 30 yards and stopped, nose in the air. I stopped breathing and pulled the trigger on my release. I kept my head still and watched the arrow sink right into the buck’s boiler room.
He ran out into the open field and made a sharp turn before I lost sight of him. Then everything went quiet, except for the rain.
I knew I was going to need help tracking, so I immediately called Pop. While waiting for him to arrive, I got out of my stand to retrieve my arrow. It was covered in blood.
Not wanting the rain to wash away the sign, I started tracking him almost immediately. Just 40 yards into the job, there he was, already expired.
As I got closer, I realized the antlers were even bigger than I imagined. Here was my dream buck, a 14-point non-typical monster!
When Pop finally arrived and got a glimpse of the behemoth, I think he was more excited than I was — and that’s saying something. It was a moment Dad and I had dreamed of, and now we were sharing it.
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This article was published in the September 2012 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.