With land like this, there’s no such thing as a buyer’s market.
If Walt Fanthorp ever decides to quit deer hunting, it won’t be because of the price of gasoline or for the lack of a place to hunt.
Walking is cheap.
Walt’s 10 acres north of Cincinnati is mostly open ground, but there’s a wooded creek bottom at the rear of the tract. The property on the other side of the creek is choked with brush, and that’s where deer chew their cud.
“On my side, there’s a wide V-shaped ravine, not too deep, that drains my field. At the bottom of the ravine, near the creek, there’s also a lot of cover dissected with shooting lanes my friends and I have created,” he said.
“My philosophy has changed to the point where I no longer think I have to have four or five hours to get in a good hunt,” the 41-year-old continued. “If I have an hour and a half, I’ll take it.”
It helps that his favorite trees to climb are barely 150 yards from his back door.
Walt didn’t get a whole lot of those 90-minute (or longer) windows last season. But he saw a chance on Nov. 13, and he’s thankful that his wife, Denice, was sympathetic.
“Denice had just returned from an out-of-town trip. We had very little time together Friday evening, and, on Saturday, I had to drive down to Kentucky to check on some issues at a couple of our furniture stores. I didn’t get home until almost 4 p.m.,” he said.
With a little daylight to burn, Walt had to choose between family time and a deer stand.
“The rut had been very spotty in Ohio that year. With the full moon in October so early and the November moon late, it made for a spread-out rut,” he said. “The weather had been very inconsistent, too, so it was hard to tell if the rut ever hit full swing.
“Knowing a cold front was moving into southern Ohio, I told my wife I wanted to go hunting. Really supportive of my habit, she said to go ahead, that she was taking our daughter, Haley, to town for a little shopping trip,” he said.
“Well, it was still pretty warm out, so all I put on was my Scent-Lok and some 3-Ds, which were all real light,” Walt continued. “I grabbed my climber and bow and headed for the woods.
“My field is overgrown. I’d let it go for about six years, and there was lots of good cover. Sometimes, deer are in there early, which meant I needed to take my time going to my stand. I didn’t want to spook something and ruin the evening.
“After I passed over the small hill at the back and started to drop down into the bottom, I had to loop around to the side so, if I happened to jump something during the last few yards, I might get a shot,” he said. “The direct route in does not give me that chance.
“I crept very slowly up to my tree. Before I even got the stand off my back, I saw a doe about 35 yards in front of me. I couldn’t even think about hanging the stand, but I did manage to set out a couple of scent bombs.
“Ultimately, I decided to remain on the ground. I had a big tree behind me and a thick cedar tree in front to provide cover.
“Not long after I shrugged off my climber, I heard footsteps and spotted another doe coming toward me. Both were within 40 yards, feeding and unaware I was there. Then, off to the left, I heard a very strange sound, almost like a real loud cricket.
“I lifted my bow and nocked an arrow, just in case. I had only one shooting lane close to where I’d heard the noise. If a buck came in, it would have to walk down into the creek,” he added.
After about 10 minutes, the does started moving off, and Walt heard nothing more from the cricket to his left. That’s when he decided to climb the tree partway, as quietly as possible, just enough to give him more shooting options.
“When I was about seven feet up, I heard leaves crunching, and my bow was still on the ground,” he said. “I grabbed my rope and quickly pulled it up, unhooked it and tried to get ready again.
“I noticed then that the two does had not really left. From the higher elevation, I could see them on the other side of the creek.
“While they were preoccupied, I quickly strapped myself in and began watching them. They were both fidgety. Suddenly, they both took off running, not real scared, like they were running from the devil, but quickly. The wind was blowing in my favor, so they obviously saw or heard something other than me,” he said.
Still worried about seeing over the cedar in front of him, Walt decided to climb a bit higher, even though he was holding his bow.
“I placed it between me and the tree and inched the climber higher. I stopped when I could see and shoot over the cedar. The move gave me five or six clean lanes instead of two,” he said.
“Just as I got comfortable, my cell phone vibrated to indicate a text message. It was a buddy, wanting to know what I was doing. I texted him back that I was in a tree and would call him later,” Walt continued. “I noticed the time was 5:05. It had taken me an hour to finally get situated.
“About 20 minutes later, I heard a crunching noise behind me. With the tree to my back, I turned and saw two legs at the creek. I figured if it was a buck, it would come across behind me.
“I kept watching until it moved, and then I noticed the head and rack, or at least two tines on the right antler,” he added. “Even though I couldn’t see everything, I knew I was looking at a shooter.
“I stood, turned to my right and prepared for what I hoped would be a 10-yard shot. I was peeking around the tree at the buck, which was in no hurry. It was taking one or two steps, and then stopping to sniff the wind before taking another couple. I couldn’t really see it that well because the cover was so thick.
“I kept hoping it would turn toward the field, so I’d have a better than face-to-face encounter at such close range. And it obliged,” Walt said.
When the buck was at 40 yards, it veered left, which forced Walt to shift his position as well.
“I’ll admit I got buck fever,” he said. “My tree was almost shaking.
“Heart pounding, I managed to get turned just in time to watch the deer stop at the field’s edge. I had to remind myself to breathe slowly, to use my top pin, to hold low and not to look at the buck’s rack. I kept repeating that last line over and over as the animal just stood there, making sure the field was safe.”
After four or five minutes passed, the buck started into the open, and that’s when Walt drew. When the deer took a few more steps, he triggered the release.
“At the shot, the deer did a hop-step and trotted up the slight hill toward my house. When it stopped and didn’t fall, I fought the urge to scream because I was convinced I’d shot too low,” Walt said.
“I tried to nock another arrow, but I was shaking too violently. I probably would’ve shot myself or my house if I’d succeeded,” he laughed.
“When the buck started down the slight grade toward the creek and heavy cover, it stopped about 70 yards from me, stood still for a moment, and then suddenly sat down before falling over dead. I couldn’t believe it!
“I watched for several more minutes before calling a couple of my hunting buddies to share the news. I was so excited, neither knew for sure what I was saying or what kind of buck I’d shot. Nevertheless, both said they’d come.
“Almost panicky, I had to force myself not to jump out of the tree. I eventually calmed down enough to secure my gear and lower my bow before joining it on the ground. Afterward, I nocked an arrow and walked over to the downed buck.”
Official Score: 200
Composite Score: 217 5/8
– Photo Courtesy of Walt Fanthorp
This article was published in the October 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.