Few deer hunters would trade big woods serenity and fresh air for the ambient noise of a nearby highway and a breeze tainted by diesel fumes. But one bowhunter from Fort Wayne, Ind., has learned that aesthetics have little to do with one’s chances of taking home a buck.
Wayne Leazier Jr. logs a lot of miles each fall in his quest for whitetails, mostly between home and southern Michigan. Give him a few days, and he’s going to watch his odometer spin en route to the deer woods. Give him a few hours, however, and he’s going to find a way to hunt much closer to home.
That’s what happened back on October 2005. Faced with a drizzly afternoon that didn’t involve masonry or construction, Wayne set out for a friend’s place in his own Allen County, a 150- to 200-yard wide strip of timber so thick it would’ve made beagles turn tail and run.
Even though he hadn’t hunted from it in a couple of years, Wayne had a treestand in the middle of those 30 acres, which back up to a highway rest area. Truthfully, it’s not the kind of place that would appeal to anyone looking for a deer. Sign always is sparse, visibility is low, and it’s hard to distinguish a deer blowing from a semi’s air brakes.
“It’s close to home,” says Wayne. “That’s the biggest plus. It’s one of those after-work places. You’ll never see a lot of deer – maybe two during a six- or eight-hour sitting. I hunt it only once in awhile, because anything that does come through is completely unaware.
“It’s always been feast or famine there,” he added.
It was definitely feast on Oct. 24, 2005, and it was in the form of one whopper of a serving – the only deer Wayne saw that evening.
He didn’t know if it was a buck or a doe, at first. All he could see was deer legs floating through the nearby thick undergrowth. Just in case it was a buck, Wayne prepared to draw his bow. When the deer finally emerged from the trees at 25 yards, the bowhunter’s mouth dropped open.
“It was the biggest whitetail I’d ever seen in the wild,” Wayne said. “It came in with the wind at its back.”
He didn’t bother trying to stop the enormous buck. He drew, swung the sight pin onto the moving target and released. After the loud thwack, the big deer vanished back into the jungle.
Wayne eased down the tree just before dark to look for sign. And when he couldn’t find any, he decided to leave and return the following morning.
He wasn’t alone when he went back to the “rest area” woods. His dad and a couple of friends joined him for the search. They soon found the arrow in two pieces, but there was very little blood. With no trail to follow, the three men spread out to comb the woodlot.
“We hadn’t gone far when my friend, Glen McClure, hollered that he’d found the deer,” Wayne said. “It had gone only 75 yards, dying not far from a cell phone tower in the middle of the woods.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he added.
Wayne knew the buck was the best he’d ever seen before he loosed the arrow. But he was still shocked that the rack carried 17 points and that five of the uprights exceeded 11 inches. In his wildest dreams, he never thought he’d see such an animal in that little forgotten stretch of land.
“I spend a lot of time and money each year deer hunting, because I absolutely love every aspect of it,” he continued. “You can put things in your favor to shoot a big buck, but I truly believe that when it’s your time, it’s just your time.”
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View Official BTR SCORESHEET for Wayne Leazier Jr.
Taken By: Wayne Leazier Jr.
BTR Official Score: 188 6/8
BTR Composite Score: 207 4/8
Weapon: Compound Bow
Location: Allen Co., IN
Date: October 24, 2005