When Steve Esker knelt in the high weeds, he could’ve been looking for blood. Or not.
From almost 180 yards away, a jittery Travis Vollmar couldn’t tell exactly what his friend was doing.
But when Steve stood, raised his arms and clasped his hands over his head, Travis knew. This was better than blood. Better than tracks.
He sprinted back to his truck and drove around to where Steve had parked.
Eleven days earlier on a different Franklin County, Ohio, farm, their roles had been reversed. It was Travis who helped find Steve’s buck, which was spotlighted in the August issue of Rack magazine.
Payback wore 13 points, four of them drop tines.
A member of the U.S. Army National Guard stationed in Columbus and awaiting deployment to Afghanistan, Travis had been living with Steve for more than a year. They’d grown up in the same neighborhood, their mothers were friends, and they’d shared 14 years in the Guard.
It’s hard not to be fanatical about whitetails while living under Steve’s roof.
“One could not ask for a better mentor,” Travis said. “Steve’s taken three bucks grossing more than 200 inches with his crossbow, and his twin brother, Scott, arrowed a 235 7/8-incher in 2009. They live for it, and they have a lot of great acreage.”
The Eskers monitor the bucks roaming their many tracts with trail cameras. Photos helped Steve pattern the 22-pointer he shot Oct. 14, and they also introduced the gang to the deer that wound up with the nickname Drop Tine.
“We first saw pictures of Drop Tine in December 2009,” Travis said. “He carried a 10-point frame with two drops on the left side. He was so skinny and rundown, we wondered if he’d survive the winter.”
The answer came Sept. 12, when Scott saw and even managed to videotape the distinctive buck —now with FOUR drop tines — about one and a half miles south of where the last photo was taken.
Scott called Travis that evening to tell him about the buck. He’d seen it across the road from a 68-acre farm they goose hunted in 2009. The farm had little to offer in the way of cover or huntable area except for an overgrown fencerow.
“Scott mounted a trail camera overlooking the farmhouse’s back yard,” Travis said. “Three days later, he retrieved photos of Drop Tine. And later still, the buck posed in front of another camera in the fencerow.”
Before any of the soybeans were cut, Travis hung a stand in one of the trees along the fencerow. He also put one in the farmhouse’s back yard. The first three times he hunted from those setups, while the beans were still in the fields, he saw nothing.
“About two and a half weeks after all the beans were cut, Drop Tine was photographed behind the farmhouse in the wee morning hours. From that point forward, he’d appear closer and closer to dawn.”
After being out of town for a couple of days, Travis was eager to get in a stand on Oct. 25. He was aloft by 6:15 a.m. — an hour before shooting light — so he’d have ample time to mount a video camera to the tree.
Once situated, he heard something rustling around beneath the apple trees behind the farmhouse.
“I couldn’t really see anything because I was higher than the apple trees, which still held their leaves,” he said. “It was 7:20 at that point.
“I got my bow in my hands, just in case it was Drop Tine. Chances were great, too, since there were no smaller bucks passing through the area. Also, the trail camera pictures showed that Drop Tine always came out from the apple trees and headed for the middle of the yard.
“While focused on the yard, I glimpsed movement out in the bean field. I had to turn about 45 degrees to my left, and when I did, I was looking at Drop Tine a mere 20 yards from me,” he continued. “I quickly raised my crossbow, centered my sight for a double-lung shot, and tripped the trigger.
“As the buck bolted away in the general direction of the pond, I was frantically trying to hang my bow out of the way and grab my binoculars so I could watch him leave. But I lost him in the tall weeds.
“I did not manage to get any video of the deer or the shot, since he came out to the left side of my stand and I had the camera lined up on the right. The shot was more important than footage,” he added.
Travis wasted no time in calling Steve, who agreed to help look for the deer.
“Overanxious, I got down from my stand and found my arrow. There was very little blood on it, and nothing on the ground,” he said. “I walked an S pattern in the direction the buck had taken, hoping to find some blood as I crisscrossed the field’s edge.
“After traveling about 50 yards, I still had not found a single drop of blood. That’s when Steve arrived.
“He called out to me to stay put while he circled the farm roads to see if he could see the buck lying out in the bean fields,” Travis continued. “After he made the loop, he drove close to the pond. I saw him get out of his truck and walk. I couldn’t really make out what he was doing because of the tall weeds, but he kept moving toward the pond and looking at the ground.
“When he bent over, I could barely see him. He was about 150 yards away.
“When he stood back up, he raised his arms above his head and clasped his hands to signal he’d found my buck!”
Travis quickly went to his truck and drove over to where Steve was parked, and then joined him by his trophy in the tall grass. Despite a perfect double-lung shot, it had left no blood until it finally ran out of gas and fell dead.
“Those four drop tines were just amazing to see up close,” Travis said. “I’d always dreamed of taking a buck like this, but I never really thought it would happen.
“For me, normally, a shooter buck is a 140-incher,” he added. “I feel blessed.”
Hunter: Travis Vollmar
Official: 174 3/8
Composite: 192 3/8
– Photos Courtesy of Travis Vollmar
This article was published in the September 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.