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Big Buck Central

Big Buck 411 Blog

Bowhunting Gains a Convert

It took only a few seconds last fall for Calvin Gustus to decide he both loves and loathes bowhunting.

The 2012 archery season was the 55-year-old volunteer fireman's first, though he actually paid $50 for a bow in the mid-1980s. After shooting it a few times, he hung it up, forgot about it and, eventually, loaned it to his wife's brother. It took years for his son, Chad (now 31), to convince him that having more than 100 days to hunt is better than the few afforded riflemen in Kansas.

On Saturday, Nov. 17, just about the time Calvin was having serious doubts about his chances of seeing a decent deer within bow range, the biggest buck he'd ever seen strolled within 15 yards of his ladder stand. If it had been rifle season, he'd have smoked it. But squeezing a trigger requires far less movement than drawing a bow, and the deer was staring at him.

Unable to draw, the hunter from Geneseo, Kan., could only appraise the antlers and watch the animal walk out of his life. Afterward, he called Chad, who was hunting the (diagonally) adjacent quarter-section.

"I just seen a 20-point buck!" he stammered.

Chad and Calvin moved the stand that afternoon. They found a tree closer to the deer's trail, but the only way they could put it there was to leave off a section of ladder, which meant the stand would be only about 8 feet high. Chad didn't like the setup, but Calvin was overjoyed.

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Second Chance in Illinois

A 24-year-old welder from Abingdon, Ill., made short work of dispatching a deer on Nov. 4, but it took the avid bowhunter more than two hours to realize it.

Matt Ford might've pursued the deer earlier, but his stepfather, who was hunting nearby, hadn't carried a cell phone to the woods. Rather than ruin his host's afternoon hunt, Matt remained in his stand, cursing his luck.

Prematurely, I might add.

The hunt began with a 250-yard walk through a Knox County cornfield to reach a narrow draw where Matt had seen some massive rubs. As soon as he was aloft about 3:40, he heard what sounded like antlers hitting saplings.

Moments later, he saw a buck approaching from about 70 yards distant. The left side of its rack was clipping trees and brush.

Matt loosed an arrow when he thought the deer was at 25 yards, but he'd misjudged the distance. It was actually 35, and the arrow sailed underneath the buck.

Fortunately for Matt, who wasted no time in nocking a second arrow, the buck heard the first one hit behind it and actually came down into the draw and closer. When it stopped again, it was at 15 yards.

When Matt released a second time, the buck was standing between two trees and looking at him. The only target was its neck, an iffy shot that he took anyway.

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Double Take in Maryland

Brian Miller knew a shooter buck was among the many deer gallivanting inside the little pine thicket. At least three bucks, in fact (the other two were forkhorns), and 10 does had entered the copse during the two hours he'd been aloft in his ladder stand on Nov. 29, 2012.

Soon after the last trio wafted into the trees, all the deer began shuffling around in there while Brian frantically scanned the gaps for a head with antlers. When the 48-year-old oil deliveryman spotted a rack, he raised his scoped shotgun for a better look.

What appeared in his optics was so outlandish that he lowered his gun and closed his eyes for a second.

"I couldn't believe ... refused to believe ... what I saw," he said. "But it was still there when I opened my eyes."

Even though he was looking at the back of the buck's head, Brian could tell it was a fabulous specimen, far bigger than anything he, his father and brother had seen in the three years they'd leased that 17-acre tract on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

When deer began filtering out of the thicket and walking toward a nearby pond, the lead doe passed within 20 yards, as did the second one. The third deer in line was the enormous buck.

After the kaboom, the deer fled toward the pond and ran over a canoe and two aluminum boats TWICE, and then Brian lost sight of it. The racket must've sounded like the local high school's drum corps.

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Caught Off Guard

A dialed-up riflescope's magnification is okay when you're expecting to take a long poke at a whitetail in a bean field or food plot. Even when a deer is fairly close, the extra power usually isn't a deal-breaker.

But a buck wearing nearly 200 inches of antler doesn't classify as usual. Bolstered by the element of surprise, such an ostentatious display of bone can render a scope as ineffectual as a turkey call in a duck blind.

Just ask Brett Robertson, who knows what it's like to yelp when he ought to be quacking.

In a span of 10 minutes on Dec. 2, the hunter from Valley Falls, Kan., nearly went from hero to goat. The first bark of his .300 Win Mag ended with a solid thump, a dead doe and a thumb's-up from his 12-year-old son, Ridge. The next two shots produced only echoes.

After an unproductive morning hunt, father and son visited a soybean field Brett has hunted for two decades. They followed a fence far enough out into the field to adequately cover it.

Two hours after settling into the sparse cover of the fencerow, Brett spotted a couple of does and shot one. The boom apparently rousted an enormous buck.

“I literally turned around, and there it was, running at 100 yards,” Brett said.

When he threw up his rifle and tried to aim at the fleeing deer, antlers filled the scope's viewfinder. The unit was dialed up in magnification.

[Read the rest of this article...]

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