Rack Magazine

That Smell

That Smell

By Dale Weddle

Walking Lynyrd Skynyrd song might never hunt again without a spray bottle.

Steven Olt had thrown everything he had at the monstrous buck and come up short. Ever since the Green County, Kentucky, hunter had retrieved trail camera photographs of the giant deer, he’d focused on tagging it.

“I never could pattern the buck,” he said. “Its movements were just random. I put up three treestands on the property where it was showing up the most.

“I even hunted out of this 20-foot-high tripod that tends to blow over,” he continued. “I’m about half afraid to hunt it when there’s a strong wind. I’ve wired it to the ground, but it has pulled fence posts out of the ground before.

“I hunted from that tripod and the other stands until I was about worn out, but had no luck. I hunted through the first part of bow and early muzzleloading seasons and still had no luck,” he continued.

“About a week and a half into modern gun season, I told my dad I was going to abandon all the stands because the buck knew where they were. One afternoon, I climbed a cedar tree that had the top broken out. I pulled my gun and backpack up and sat there watching a draw.

“All of a sudden, I heard a grunt, looked around, and the big buck was rubbing against the tree I was in,” Steven said. “The distance I had to shoot was about 5 feet!”

Steven twisted around in order to shoot behind his right side, and the deer’s image filled the scope. When his .280 barked, the buck skedaddled.

“I was devastated. He was the biggest deer I had ever seen, and I felt I had just botched the shot at 5 feet,” Steven said. “I called in four or five friends. We waited four hours, and then attempted to take up the trail.”

The only sign the group found was a bit of hair where the deer had been standing. But that didn’t keep a hopeful Steven from forging ahead.

“I called every neighbor in a 6-mile radius and got permission to look on their property, but there was no sign of the big deer,” he said.

About three weeks later, the buck wandered in front of another trail cam. Steven saw bald spots on both its hindquarters, which indicated the bullet had zipped through the animal without hitting bone or arteries.

“People didn’t believe me when I told them I’d shot a 25-pointer, but it got away,” Steven said. “But it did look to have at least that many points.

“The deer began showing up on random trail cameras again. I got photos of it about every two days. It was completely nocturnal.

“I hunted every single day of late season, but never saw it again. After the buck shed its antlers that winter, I could still easily identify it by the bald spots on its hips.

“In the fall of 2015, I started preparing to hunt the big deer again. I felt like he would use the same area as the previous year, but there was no way to set up because of the prevailing wind,” he continued.

“I needed an edge. So that summer I took a small dozer and cleared a path up into the middle of the thicket the buck had been using. I started feeding a special blend of wildlife feed at the end of the cleared path.

“The feed is mixed here in Greensburg by Central Farmers Supply,” Steven said. “The spot where I put it out was in the middle of the thicket where the buck would still feel safe. Now I had easier access to a wider choice of stand locations.”

That SmellDeer began visiting the site almost immediately.

“When I put out a camera on the cleared path in August, probably the fifth or so picture I got was of the big buck. It was in velvet and no longer had the drop tine from 2014, but it had gained more points,” Steven said.

“I bought a crossbow to extend my season and started hunting the deer early. The perfect wind for the place I was hunting came from the northwest, so I hunted only with the crossbow four or five times, when the wind was good.

“On days I hunted, I’d see four or five does and smaller bucks, but not the big one,” he added. “Then, on days I didn’t hunt, the whitetail would be on the camera. It was frustrating.”

Just prior to the state’s early muzzleloading weekend, Steven’s camera revealed deer regularly feeding in the dozer road from 3:00 to around 7:30 a.m.

“I knew I couldn’t sneak in there to hunt in the mornings without getting busted,” he said. “On the first day, I went to another spot just outside the thicket and hunted from the ground. Every doe that crossed the trail I’d walked smelled me and spooked.”

The does’ reaction truly was an eye-opener.

“I finally figured it out,” he said. “I must have been leaving a scent trail that tipped the big buck off on days I was hunting in the thicket.

“That afternoon, I was tied up for a while working with cattle. It was close to 4:30 when I got out to hunt. I felt confident from photos that the big buck hadn’t been moving in the evenings until around 6:00.

“Before walking to my hang-on stand, I sprayed my boots with scent eliminator until they were wet. I then carefully slipped in toward the tree. Just as I reached my spot, a coyote jumped up and almost gave me a heart attack.

“I shakily climbed into the stand, waited for my heartbeat to return to normal, and then focused on the trail in front of me. About 5:45, I noticed some movement and looked over to see the big buck and two others coming up from the right side of the dozer trail.

“They were almost on me!” he added.

“All three deer were calm. The big deer stopped at 15 yards, but I was afraid I might spook it if I moved. The buck stood there for 10 minutes, occasionally using its rack to scratch its back.

That Smell“I tried to keep calm by breathing slowly. I’ve hunted many years, and that was the first time I’ve been that excited over a buck in probably a decade,” he said.

The other two bucks were just browsing calmly behind the big one.

“Finally, the deer moved and looked away. I put my head down, looked through the scope, and waited for it to step into the open. When it did, I closed my eyes, took a breath, and then opened my eyes.

“I felt like I had my heart rate and breathing back down to normal, so I put the crosshairs back on the deer and squeezed the trigger,” he continued.

“When the muzzleloader fired, there were about three seconds when I couldn’t see past the smoke. When I first saw the buck, it was running. But then it took a hard left, turned again, and came right back toward me,” Steven said.

The buck eventually crashed to the ground.

“I texted my wife, Ange, and told her I’d killed my nemesis deer. Pretty soon, she sent me back a video she took of our 2-year-old daughter, Hadley, running through the house saying, ‘I’m so excited. Daddy got a big buck. Daddy got a big buck!’

“That was the best part of it all,” he smiled.

Hunter: Steven Olt
BTR Score: 208
View BTR Scoresheet

This article was published in the April 2016 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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