“I’ve been hunting deer for 10 years with a gun and 4 years with a bow,” Owen explains. “I’ve taken one buck that scored over 140-plus-points Boone & Crockett and two bucks over 130 points Pope & Young. To take a monster buck, you have to find the deer, get permission to take that buck, know exactly what time and when the deer will show up, and then make a clean and lethal shot when you have the opportunity.”
In June, 2013, this landowner told Mark Owen, “When I was riding over my land, I saw four bucks and a doe bedded down. Two of the bucks looked pretty big. There was one buck that seemed to have a lot of horns.” Owen asked the landowner why he didn’t put out a trail camera to try and get pictures of the deer he had seen. Then Owen told him he’d bring his Moultrie trail camera and put it out to enable him to see the size of bucks he had to hunt that year.
“At the end of a week, we took the flash card out of the camera, and I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Owen remembers. “I saw a really-big 9 point that would probably score 140 and lots of little 2-year-old bucks and does. Then, I saw a monster buck that was in the velvet. He took my breath away. He had a drop tine that looked to be as big as my forearm, and the rest of his rack was really huge. I was excited just to see this deer and know that the landowner would have an opportunity to take him. I told the landowner, ‘You’ve got a magazine buck here. If you take this buck, I promise you he will show up in someone’s magazine somewhere.’
“I was so excited to see a deer like this in the wild on my trail camera. I said, “I would do anything to kill a deer like that. But he’s on your property and you need to take him. I just want to put my hands on him after you shoot him. We need to devise a plan to dial this buck in so you can get a good shot at him.” The landowner laughed at how flustered I was about seeing that big buck. He thought my enthusiasm over this big buck was hilarious. I told the landowner, “I’m going to bring another trail camera to pattern the buck better.” The first picture I got of the buck showed the angle he was coming into the feeder. I brought two cameras back to the property, set-up one camera on the left-hand side of the tree that I could see in the background of the photo and put the second camera on the right-hand side of the tree. This way, I could determine which side of the tree the buck came from to go to the feeder.
From the pictures I had gotten from the trail cameras, I knew this monster buck was using the same trail every day and night to go to the feeder on this small area.
As we got closer to deer season, I took the landowner’s crossbow and put a new America’s Best bowstring on his crossbow. I shot the crossbow several times to make sure it was lined up and sighted in and at 20 yards, the crossbow was really lethal. Once I had his crossbow sighted in and ready I went with him to hang tree stands. I picked a tree that had three trunks coming out of the same big trunk because I knew then a deer couldn’t skylight the hunter. I like to place my tree stand about 30 yards from where I expect the deer to appear and high in the tree about 27 feet up.
I was really hoping the landowner would take this buck so I put up two other tree stands so he could always hunt with a favorable wind. I asked him if he would mind if I put a second stand on one of the other trunks of this tree? Then I could video him taking this big buck on the first day of bow season. The landowner looked me in the eyes and said, “No, I’ve been thinking about this hunt. You’re going to hunt this stand on the first day of bow season. If you don’t get him on the first day, you also can hunt him on Saturdays. I am going to hunt the buck too. If you get him, he’s your deer. If I get him, he’s my deer. You have been doing all the work keeping up with this deer. I know this buck will mean more to you than he does to me. I wouldn’t have done the work you have done to find this buck, pattern him, keep up with the trail camera pictures of him and do all the things you’ve done to make sure I would be able to take this buck. You definitely deserve first chance to take this buck.”
For 8 days, from the time I had permission to hunt the big buck in this small place, until the day I climbed into the tree stand, I hardly ate. I had butterflies in my stomach the entire week. I really didn’t realize I wasn’t eating. All I could think about was trying to use my mental powers to make sure that buck would come in on opening day.
I got into my tree stand at 4:00 am on opening day of Ohio’s bow deer season, realizing I would be sitting in the dark for at least an hour. As I sat in my tree stand and waited for daylight, I kept thinking, ‘Did I spook any deer as I walked to my tree stand?’ I didn’t think I spooked any but I wasn’t sure.
When daylight finally arrived, I watched chipmunks and squirrels for the next 2 hours. I used my Bushnell range finder to check and recheck the distance I was from landmarks all around my stand. I know this sounds stupid but I just wanted to make sure and have the confidence of knowing that wherever that big deer came in sight, I would know the range before I drew my bow. Occasionally, I used my binoculars to look up the trail and scan other trails in case the buck possibly might have switched the trail he used since the last trail camera picture I had of him. About 6:45 am, off to my left, I could hear a deer walking near the area where I thought the big buck was bedding.
When I looked, he was walking straight to me, coming down the trail from my west to my east. I knew there was a big tree he had to walk behind before he got into bow range. I had planned for that so when the buck stepped behind the tree, I could make my draw.
The buck came in like I thought he would. When he turned to go around the big beech tree, I came to full draw from the sitting position. Now, all the buck had to do was step out from behind that big tree and the moment I had been dreaming about would happen. From the first time I saw the buck on the trail camera pictures I began to practice shooting from the seated position. I realized if I had a chance to take this buck, I didn’t want to have to stand-up to shoot and give the buck a greater opportunity to see me.
When the buck stepped out, he used his nose to smell all around the corn pile. His right front leg was up close to his nose, giving me a perfect broadside shot to his vitals. Just as I started to release the arrow, the buck jerked his head up and I froze. As he put his nose back down to feed on the corn, he shifted his weight and moved back just a little bit. In that millisecond, just as he was moving, I had released the arrow. My broadhead hit just in front of his shoulder blade. But because the deer turned a little quartering to me, the broadhead cut the vein that fed the jugular vein.
The arrow was moving so fast. I got a clean pass-though. But when the buck took the arrow, he charged forward straight toward the tree where I was, before veering a little to the right, as he passed about 8 yards from the base of my tree. He only went 12 yards from my tree before he hit the ground face first.
When I counted the points, he had 22. Once the buck was scored, he gross scored 256 on the Buckmaster scale. He won’t be scored for Boone and Crockett, because he had three pedicles instead of having two places where antlers come out of the skull. This buck had three. On the Pope and Young scale, the buck should score between 248 and 260. At this writing, the antlers have not been officially scored by P&Y.
This is an excerpt from John E. Phillips newest book “Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big Bucks”. Click here http://johninthewild.com/books/#deer to get more info about this deer hunting book and other deer hunting books by John E. Phillips
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