The Halloween Buck

My father and I decided to make a trip out to Southern Ohio for an archery hunt on leased land this fall. This was a fair chase hunt during the late October early November pre-rut. We packed the usual gear, climbing stands, coolers, bows, etc. but this year I was determined to try a buck decoy. On our second day of hunting, October 31, 2010, I decided tonight’s the night to set up the decoy. After all, Halloween was good to me back in 2006 when I harvested a large 120” eight point with the bow. The temperature had dropped significantly overnight and the third hunter in our group, a buddy of mine, saw a big buck that morning coming out of a thicket parallel to mature oaks dropping acorns. The plan was set; the three of us wood stagger our stands along the edge of the thicket so that one of us could hopefully intercept any bucks working the transition which held numerous scrapes and rubs. With so much gear to pack in for the evening hunt, I decided to head in early at 2pm and drop off my climber and decoy. After taking several practice shots at the 3d targets back at camp, we took scent showers, sprayed down, and did a gear check for the evening hunt.

At 4pm the guys dropped me off at my gear and I proceeded to set up for the hunt. Because I was hunting over such thick cover I decided to set the decoy up very close to my tree, around ten yards and facing me. With the decoy so close and the thick cover I knew I would have to climb as high as I could tonight to give myself any chance of a shot! With the decoy facing me, mature buck scent placed on several nearby trees, and me thirty feet up in my climber, the stage was set! After taking a quick picture of the decoy with my cell phone to share with the other hunters I made a couple of real soft grunt calls toward the thicket.

Before I could secure the grunt call back into my vest I saw a large rack buck walking out of the thicket at my far left. As the buck approached the top of the hill he immediately saw the decoy. Without hesitation the big buck ran toward the decoy and stopped to the decoys left at around fifteen yards. With his head down, the buck very stiff legged began to circle the decoy clockwise in a very aggressive state of mind. It was all happening so fast! Would I get a shot at this mature buck? Was he going to engage the decoy, realize it was a set up, and run off back into the thicket? As I stood up in the stand and came to full draw, the buck with a sort of sixed sense spooked and jumped several feet to my right landing on the other side of a triple tree between he and the decoy. This was it, the moment all bow hunter aspire to have, and I’m at full draw without an ethical shot on a monster buck. As I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself the buck took two steps forward offering me a perfect twenty five yard quartering away shot. I placed the arrow on target and let her fly. It felt like a great shot as I saw the buck run away with just the fleshing of the arrow showing above his right front shoulder. As I somehow quietly celebrated with myself after the shot, my cell phone began ringing. It was my buddy hunting just below me on the same ridge. He said, “Did you just shoot that deer?” Without hesitation and excitement in my voice I said, “heck yeah.” He said, “That buck is huge” and I replied, “I know.”

As we discussed the shot and the encounter with the decoy we had no idea what was getting ready to happen next. By the time I lowered my gear and climbed down to the ground I could hear what sounded like two bucks fighting aggressively. In disbelief, my phone rang again. “Do you hear those bucks fighting,” my buddy said. Before I could reply “yes”, he said, “The buck you just shot is fighting a bigger buck.” I couldn’t believe what I was just hearing. We had two dominant bucks, one shot with a 100 grain broad head, fighting down the ridge. As I got my gear together on the ground he said, “Ok, it’s over, the other buck just ran away.”

In relief I attempted to slip out of the area as not to disturb my father who was also hunting the same ridge. I walked about two hundred yards and laid down behind a blown down tree to wait for dark. Laying there I couldn’t help but wonder about the shot. Was it a good shot if the deer could get up and fight another buck? Had I shot the deer too far forward or too high and not closed the deal? Would the bucks rack be damaged during the fight? As all these thoughts ran through my head my phone began to ring again. It was my buddy and the buck had returned to fight, again. But this time, we were hoping the shot buck had expired and would not be pushed too far to recover. The other buck, which we felt was bigger than the one I shot, was attacking and goring the shot deer whom just lying there and not fighting back. This went on for ten minutes or so as it got dark and we decided to approach the area to attempt to scare the aggressive buck off and maybe even recover my buck.

At 7:35 PM as the three of us approached the top of the far side of the ridge, we could see a massive chocolate rack sticking up out of the leaves with our flash lights. A huge 250lb, twelve point mature buck laid before our eyes. It was the biggest buck I had ever harvested with any weapon and I was very happy to share the moment with my father, a seasoned and dedicated bow hunter, and a good friend!

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