Just because a buck changes zip codes doesn’t mean it’s gone for good.
Jamey Collier of Chillicothe, Ohio, is a trail camera junkie.
He sets them out in the early spring and swaps out their image cards weekly, which allows him to keep track of the deer visiting his mineral sites.
After pulling the cards on July 1 last year, he went home to view the photographs on his computer. When he muttered “Oh, my god,” his wife, Keri, glanced over and said, “What?”
“I told her she needed to come look at this monster,” he said.
The buck’s still-developing rack, in velvet, had a big distinctive hook sprouting from the left beam. And that was the couple’s introduction to the buck they began calling Hook.
Jamey kept tabs on the buck throughout the summer, but it became far less predictable when the leaves started falling.
“By early October, his appearances on camera were very random,” he said. “Then he disappeared altogether.”
After three weeks without new photos of Hook, Jamey was worried a neighboring bowhunter might’ve arrowed the deer. Furthering his discontent, Jamey heard rumors that someone else was collecting photographs of a giant buck.
While half-heartedly scrolling through dozens of new trail camera photos one evening, he stopped and gasped.
Hook was on the screen. From that moment on, Jamey considered all other bucks as mere distractions.
“I had never picked a buck and then hunted for it exclusively, but I was so impressed with Hook, I was willing to eat tag soup rather than shoot anything less,” he said.
He started checking his cameras again every two or three days, eager for the reconnaissance. Hook continued to show up regularly.
After discovering the buck had walked in front of a camera for three consecutive days around 5 p.m., Jamey headed to his blind straight from work one evening. He’d convinced himself the hunt was going to end with a dead deer and a phone call to Keri.
But Hook was a no-show.
“I was so depressed, I almost threw in the towel,” Jamey admitted. “I told Keri I would probably never see Hook again, that I would never have the chance to shoot a buck of his caliber.
“It seemed my lows were lower than my highs were high,” he added.
On Nov. 17, after a very long and stressful day, the Colliers decided they needed a quiet afternoon in a deer blind. When they reached it, they were surprised to find that it had collapsed due to the weight of the day’s snowfall. Even the tall grass around it was flattened.
“I was ready to turn around and go back home,” Jamey said.
Keri, however, insisted they might as well stay awhile. So they shook off and re-erected the blind. Meanwhile, the wind was increasing and the temperature dropping.
At 4:30, Jamey noticed his wife shivering. They decided to wait it out for another half-hour.
“At 5:05, Keri whispered, ‘Here comes a doe.’ Then I heard her say ‘Oh, my God!’
“I wasn’t sure what she meant ’til she whispered, ‘big buck.’ As she tried to pull the video camera up, the deer saw the movement, turned, and then disappeared. I never did see it,” Jamey said.
A few minutes later, a button buck and a big doe began feeding in front of them. The oh-my-god buck returned, too, but, again, saw movement inside the blind and left.
“We both figured he would not come back a third time,” Jamey said.
Soon afterward, a big-bodied spike joined the doe and button buck. All three seemed skittish.
“Then Keri said, ‘Here he comes. Get ready!’
“When I saw the mass of the buck’s rack, I knew it was Hook,” Jamey said. “I had to avoid looking at the antlers after that, because I knew I’d never be able to make the shot otherwise.”
Hook made his way to a mock scrape Jamey had made 15 yards from the blind earlier in the season. The deer nuzzled the licking branch and was pawing the ground, while Jamey waited until it moved its right leg forward to expose its vitals.
It seemed like an eternity passed before the buck took that step.
“I remember watching my bolt fly like it was in slow motion,” Jamey said. “Afterward, when the buck sped into the woods, I turned to Keri and yelled ‘I just smoked him, babe!’ and gave her a high-five. Then I jumped out of my chair and bear-hugged her.”
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