Buckmasters Magazine

Buckeye Bookends

Buckeye Bookends

By Mike Handley

Lightning strikes twice in 13 days for this father-daughter duo in Ohio.

The Ross family in St. Paris, Ohio, would prefer not to believe in coincidences. Crediting happenstance doesn’t seem to do justice to what happened to them during the 2013 shotgun season.

That father and daughter wound up with bookend trophies might simply be the result of the perfect stand placement and the care Rob Ross took in building a ground blind.

He and the 13-year-old apple of his eye, Ginny, are more apt to accept divine or familial intervention, or maybe the mystical powers of the number 13. Regardless, neither will forget what transpired last fall.

GINNY’S STORY

Ginny Ross might not have received any high-fives or envious looks when she went back to school on Nov. 25, but that didn’t dampen her spirits.

None of the girl’s friends hunt, so her exploits the previous Saturday — opening weekend of Ohio’s 2013 shotgun season — didn’t merit even 15 minutes of fame. That came only when her father, Rob, took the girl and her record-book buck to nearby taxidermist Rick Busse.

Rick, also a measurer for Buckmasters and one of the nation’s best photographers of dead whitetails, wasted no time in putting young Ginny in front of his lens.

That experience might be second only to what actually happened on the evening of Nov. 23.

Although father and daughter had hunted together often with both bows and guns, opening day of shotgun season marked the first time the then seventh-grader had joined Rob at his late grandmother’s farm in Shelby County.

“We didn’t see this buck until it was practically in our lap, only 30 yards from our blind,” Ginny said, the words tumbling lightning-fast from her mouth. “We’d been there for only half an hour.”

The deer stood behind a bush for maybe 10 minutes, which was almost painful for Ginny. She was certain it was going to see or smell them and leave before she had a clear shot.

When it finally did step clear of the bush, she stared down the 11-87’s barrel and squeezed the trigger. Her dad, kneeling on the ground beside her chair, was whispering — “Take your time. Make sure you’re on it” — the whole time.

“I tried to shoot, but the gun didn’t go off,” Ginny said. “So I checked the safety, or thought I did, and tried again. It didn’t go off that time either.

“That’s when Dad realized the safety was still on,” she added.

As soon as she shot the 13-pointer, which ran about 30 yards before losing its land legs, Ginny began to cry.

“I just couldn’t believe I’d shot one THAT big,” she said.

Ten minutes later, they walked over to examine the deer, which was to be the 17th shoulder mount to hang in the Ross home. Rob had 14 on the wall, and Ginny had a doe and a buck.

Her second mounter has a BTR composite score of 159 2/8 inches.

Buckeye BookendsROB’S STORY

Rob first saw his buck in some CRP while bowhunting with Ginny earlier in the year. They were sharing a blind in a thorn tree thicket.

The 43-year-old, self-proclaimed jack of all trades was impressed, although he didn’t even notice the antlers were festooned with double drop tines and a long kicker. He thought it was a nice 10-pointer.

Ron tried everything to lure it closer, even a snort-wheeze call, but the buck remained aloof and unimpressed.

After Ginny shot her 13-pointer on opening day of the shotgun season, Rob spent entire days afield, hoping to connect with one of his own, specifically any deer that wore at least 150 inches of antler — his personal minimum.

He saw nothing noteworthy until Friday evening, Dec. 6, a day he almost stayed indoors. It was 13 days since he’d shared that memorable hunt with his daughter.

“A big snowstorm was coming, and I wasn’t going to hunt until an old friend, a great hunter, told me that deer are almost always on their feet before a front,” he said. “Afterward, I decided to go to the same homemade ground blind my daughter and I had shared.”

The hidey-hole is near one end of a deep ravine, a pinch-point on the 60-acre farm frequently used by deer. The notch is so steep that, because it’s not accessible to loggers, some 150-year-old trees grow within it.

Rob was in place by 3 p.m. The big “10-pointer” crossed the end of the ravine about 10 minutes before dark. Even then, from only 30 yards, Rob couldn’t see the drop tines in the snow and waning light.

“Ohio had just legalized hunting 30 minutes AFTER sunset, rather than just sunset,” he said. “If that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t have got a shot at this buck,” which appeared 20 minutes after the sun dipped below the horizon.

The buck apparently didn’t get the DNR memo, and it paid the price.

“It was so close, the same distance as Ginny’s, that I could’ve hit it with a slingshot,” he said.

Rob was speechless when he approached the buck and saw the abnormal points. He almost felt as if someone had played a practical joke on him.

“My personal bar is set at 150 inches,” he said. “I honestly thought this one was a squeaker when I first saw it.

“Grandma’s farm has some great genetics, and it’s surrounded by crop fields,” he said. “The really difficult thing to fathom is that this buck was only 3½ years old. It field-dressed at 179 pounds, while mature bucks here can weigh as much as 250 (dressed).

“Last season was amazing, for so many reasons,” he continued. “First, I can’t help but wonder if my Grandma didn’t put these bucks in front of us. Second, there’s the number 13.”

His daughter was 13; born on the 13th of the month. Both bucks were 13-pointers (though only 12 were scorable on Rob’s). And they were shot 13 days apart.

“Something came together for us,” he insists.

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This article was published in the November 2014 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

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