By Joseph M. Scavone
Patience and hard work pay off for this New York bowhunter.
Bowhunting for my family and friends is not about a season; it’s a lifestyle. We get together year-round, weekend after weekend, to chase mature whitetails. Whether setting cameras and stands or just scouting, we spend a ton more time in the woods preparing to hunt than actually hunting.
It was during some of those preparations in the summer of 2012 that we first encountered a buck we named Zeus.
That nontypical 16-point, palmated freak was at the top of everyone’s wish list. The first photos of Zeus were captured on a property owned by our friend Tim. Zeus was always in the company of a big typical 12-pointer we, naturally, named Tiny Tim.
During the summers of 2012 through 2014, those two bucks showed up regularly on our cameras. When the season opener arrived, however, they disappeared.
This past summer, Zeus was feeding in the same area every afternoon. My friends and I drew straws to see who was going to hunt Tim’s property for opening week of Long Island’s bow season, which began Oct. 1. We were sure those two brutes were going to stick to their summer pattern.
The first 10 days of bow season came and went with no sign of either deer, and they stopped showing up on our cameras.
We are blessed to have great properties, and we keep them that way by checking cameras and setting stands in the best ambush locations with the least amount of hunting pressure. We never want to overhunt a particular property, which brings me to the morning of Nov. 11.
Conditions were perfect with cool, crisp, autumn air and silent woods. The wind was calm, and I felt extra relaxed going into the hunt. It was the first day of a weeklong vacation, and I had the entire time to hunt. I chose that property because I’d found a fresh scrape and rub line two days earlier.
I’d made sure to be in the stand extra early. Way too often, deer have beat me to an ambush site before shooting light. I’d rather get in early and sit in the dark than bump deer on my way to the stand. I’ll sit in the dark for two hours if that’s what it takes.
The morning started off slow, and my buddies on nearby properties weren’t seeing anything, either. My brother, Michael, who was at a hot location 4 miles away, texted to remind me that Nov. 11 is the most important day to be in the woods — the day more record book bucks have been taken than any other day. “Anything can happen,” he said.
With that in mind, it was hard to pack up and call it a morning, so I sat a little longer than usual. Around 10 a.m., while scanning with my binoculars, I spotted an absolute monster buck.
I saw a high rack with lots of mass and palmation, and that was enough to know it was a shooter. After that, I never looked at the rack in hope of avoiding buck fever.
I stood up and got my bow ready. The buck made its way from the grass field into the hardwoods, straight to my stand. He turned to his left at 30 yards and put his head down, giving me time to draw. Next, he headed for a scrape, which gave me a perfect broadside shot.
I saw my arrow connect, and the excitement and adrenaline were overwhelming.
I watched the buck run into a thick patch and knew he was going down. I called my brother to let him know I’d put a beast on the ground. He calmed me down and told me he and our friend Rick would meet me at my truck. Our tradition is to wait for one another before we track a deer.
The anticipation was almost unbearable as I heard the cavalry arrive, diesel engines and exhaust pipes rumbling down the trail. Thankfully, they brought coffee and an egg sandwich. Eating and chatting helped settle my nerves.
Our priority when tracking is to go to the shot location and find first blood. We had no difficulty locating my arrow, as the shot was a clean pass-through.
The blood trail created by the Rage broadhead was unbelievable, and it was only 40 yards from first blood to the buck.
As I picked up the rack, I realized I’d done the unimaginable. I’d shot Zeus!
We celebrated, admiring the buck and enjoying the moment in utter disbelief. Who would have thought Zeus would show up in daylight 2 miles from his home?
The rut is an amazing thing, and my brother was right. November 11 proved its reputation. I didn’t know it at the time, but Rick videotaped the retrieval, and the footage is incredible.
For me, this is what bowhunting is all about: putting in the countless hours of work to capitalize on one special moment.
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This article was published in the July 2015 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.