Another one of those first-time-to-hunt-a-stand stories …
For a number of reasons, this deer should still be alive.
Matt Ward and his buddy, Randy Sexton, had hung new stands earlier that day, leaving plenty of human scent in their noisy wakes. And while many hunters would’ve chosen not to return and hunt in them just a few hours later, these guys didn’t give it a second thought.
Then there’s Matt’s decision not to go admire his little brother’s first buck, to remain aloft while his brother had to be vibrating next to him like one of those your-table-is-ready restaurant thingies. How many 11-year-olds would fall for the we-might-get-a-double line?
Marshall Ward did.
The reason Matt and Randy moved their stands on Nov. 5 is they were hoping to corral what they thought was a huge 14-pointer that had been photographed numerous times by a trail camera.
Matt and Marshall hunted together that afternoon, while Randy headed to another part of the farm. They were all aloft by 5 p.m.
That day was warmer than usual in Highland County, Ohio. An approaching cold front, ushered in by strong winds, had the hunters anticipating lots of action. The 60-degree temperature made for a pleasant evening to hunt.
Matt and Marshall were hunting the edge of a secluded field. They were facing the woods, but had a clear view of the field.
Not long after they were in place, two small bucks fed into the field.
In an attempt to help his 11-year-old brother tag his first buck, Matt was going to try coaxing one of them into range. But just as he was bringing his grunt call to his mouth, he noticed another buck approaching through the woods. It was heading directly for a fresh scrape about 15 yards from the brothers’ tree.
With all the calmness of a veteran hunter, Marshall drew his bow, settled the pins and touched off a shot as the buck paused broadside over the scrape. The deer managed to go only 25 yards before expiring within sight of the hunters.
Marshall was elated and anxious to get his hands on his buck. But after some joyous celebration, Matt convinced him to sit tight in the stand. Matt explained that the rut was on, and there might be a chance for him to get a shot.
Matt called Ryan to share the news. Jokingly, he whispered that it was his turn to shoot a monster. No sooner than the words left his lips, Matt spotted a huge buck out in the field.
He whispered, “Big buck,” and abruptly ended the call. Ryan was sure his leg was being pulled.
The buck paused long enough in the middle of the field for Matt to get a good look at its antlers. When it resumed walking, on a path that would take it downwind of the Wards, Matt reached for his doe-in-heat scent and misted the air.
Within seconds, the buck’s nose jutted skyward. It turned and walked directly toward Matt, following a trail that entered the woods not quite 40 yards from their tree.
Just before the buck passed through a shooting lane, it left the trail and turned to skirt the edge of the woods. That strange right-hand turn carried it past the Ward brothers’ tree at a chip-shot distance of only 10 yards.
Matt was in the higher stand. After he drew his bow, he grunted softly with his mouth. The buck didn’t stop that time, but it did when Matt grunted a second time, long enough to be smacked by an arrow.
The buck bounded away, past Marshall’s fallen deer.
Matt lost sight of it, but he heard the deer stop. Marshall actually saw it go to the ground.
After waiting a few moments, the brothers Ward got down and walked over to Marshall’s deer. After taking a few quick photos, the two spent a couple of minutes trying unsuccessfully to find Matt’s arrow before going back to the truck to wait for Ryan and to get flashlights.
Soon after Ryan arrived, they were joined by another friend, Mike Sams. They all returned to search for a blood trail. Marshall kept telling them that he’d seen the deer fall, but the older guys wouldn’t listen.
Mike was first to pick up a blood trail, but Matt felt sure it had been left by Marshall’s buck. He was right, but then they found another trail continuing past the dead deer.
When the trail reached two fallen trees that the buck would’ve had to jump, Matt became worried. He feared that if the deer had the strength to clear the trees, it would be able to travel a long distance.
About that time, Ryan yelled.
As the group gathered around the huge deer, they were mesmerized at the size of the animal and its crown. It was clearly the buck from all the trail camera photos.
Hunter: Matt Ward
Official Score: 175 4/8
Composite Score: 190 5/8
– Photos Courtesy of Matt Ward
This article was published in the November 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.