By Jill J. Easton
Happenstance and a snort-weeze are the undoing for Virginia’s State Bow Record.
Had John Feazell not loaned his muzzleloader to his father on the eve of Virginia’s 2009 blackpowder season, you’d be looking at another whitetail on this page.
The same goes for John’s aborted scouting trip, which might’ve resulted in his choosing a different place to bowhunt on Nov. 7.
Try telling this deer hunter that things don’t happen for a reason!
John had planned to spend the Friday before the muzzleloader opener scouting for buck sign. A bowhunting friend needed help to find a deer, however, so he never made it to the property.
The next morning, while many of the state’s archers had traded their bows for smokepoles, John went to one of his favorite mountaintop bow setups about 20 minutes before dawn. The stand faces a saddle deer frequently use to get from one side of the mountain to the other.
He was wearing his Scent-Lok clothing, further doused with an earth cover scent, and he carried a bowhunter’s bag of tricks.
John saw a few deer early, and the temperature warmed to the low 40s. It was an awesome morning and a great time to see nature in action. About 8:00, he saw a giant deer about 75 yards distant.
“The buck came within 50 yards,” he said. “It was humongous, and it had a drop tine on the left side. I’d never shot a deer with a drop tine, so I was saying to myself, ‘Just a few more steps ... Just a few more steps,’ and ‘Man, I wish I had my muzzleloader.’”
But the buck walked away without ever getting close enough.
A small buck later chased a few does into the opening, and then a few more deer filtered through the saddle. One young buck came to within 60 yards and bedded down behind John’s stand.
All the deer traffic — not to mention his hope the big one would return — is why John decided to stay put until noon.
Eventually, he heard another deer behind him. It was a doe. But then something else farther out got his attention.
“I was leaning way out of the stand to see what was coming when I noticed the tips of antlers. It had to be the big one I’d seen earlier,” John said. “It came in to about 30 yards, locked in on the doe, and then bedded down, looking up the mountain.”
All the activity was directly behind John’s tree. Even with the safety harness, there was no way he could turn around to make the shot.
“I was a little shaken. It looked like a big 12- or maybe a 14-pointer,” John said. “The buck and doe stayed there for 30 extra-long minutes. I had to do something, so I grunted.”
The big buck just looked for the noise.
After John threw out a few more grunts, the little buck got up and started toward him.
“The little buck came within 20 yards of the stand and looked up,” John said. “I did a snort-wheeze then, and the giant buck snapped its head around and was staring hard, looking for the challenger. It then jumped up, and I could see the hair bristling on its neck. It took five or six steps in my direction, and then charged for five more.”
That was too much threat; the young buck, wanting no part of it, left in a hurry.
“I was focused, bow in hand, but my back was still to the area where the buck was standing,” John said. “It wasn’t a good shot.”
John is 6-foot, 4 inches tall, so moving on the small platform of a bow stand isn’t easy for him.
Determined, though, he finally managed to hunch down, turn around and shoot. The arrow hit a limb and deflected, and the monster buck jumped and looked around.
“I just missed the biggest deer I’ll ever see,” John thought. “Even worse, my quiver is under the seat. If the buck stays around, I have to get another arrow.”
The giant whitetail didn’t run, so John groped for another arrow, got and nocked it as the deer was walking toward a shooting lane in front of the stand. When the doe stood up and began feeding away, the buck stopped in some pines and began shredding one.
“The buck was only 30 yards away, but in some thick stuff, so I couldn’t shoot,” John said. “I had to get that doe back to lead it in the right direction, so I bleated with my can. She ignored it.
“By that time, I was a nervous wreck,” he added.
When John flipped the can again, however, the doe started back toward him through the shooting lane. Finally, the buck got tired of ravaging the tree and looked for the doe.
“The buck looked around and started walking and grunting,” John said. “I turned the can again, and she stopped. The buck saw her angling down the mountain and came to within 40 or 50 yards.”
It was still too thick for a shot. John had one last idea on how to bring the giant buck in closer. The snort-wheeze got its attention before, why not try it again?
“I hit the snort-wheeze, and the buck stopped and glared,” John said. “Then it turned toward me and walked stiff-legged a few steps. I hit the call again, and it stopped broadside at about 18 yards. That was my chance.”
The arrow hit the deer, but John wasn’t sure it clipped the vitals.
“The buck galloped away, but after about 100 yards, it hit the ground and rolled down the mountain,” John said. “Getting untangled from the harness never took me so long. Forget waiting 30 minutes. I was following my buck!”
John had nothing to worry about; the broadhead deflected inside the buck and passed through all the major organs.
When he reached the deer, John couldn’t believe the rack it carried. What he thought was a 12- or 14-pointer was actually a 6-year-old 22-pointer with four drop tines, the biggest Irregular ever arrowed in Virginia.
Hunter: John Feazell
Official Score: 208 4/8
Composite Score: 227 7/8
– Photos Courtesy of John Feazell
This article was published in the October 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.