John Bruno found the mother lode on a Missouri coal mine’s property last November, but what he took home in his truck was fit more for stoking a taxidermist’s wallet than a furnace.
Because John’s father is president of the coal-fired power plant’s union, he’s among the few who have permission to hunt some of the facility’s Randolph County holdings. And his favorite spot is a scant half-hour from his Macon home.
Four days before the Show Me State’s gun opener, John moved his stand from 15 yards inside the timber, where he’d bowhunted every opportunity since mid-September, to the edge so he could see more of the 400-yard-long strip of CRP. Perfect bedding habitat flanked the field on all sides, and deer typically crossed through the weeds at all hours.
He fastened the stand between 22 and 24 feet up a suitable tree, high enough that his 20-foot-long pull-up rope wouldn’t reach the ground.
He hunted all day on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Nov. 13-15. It was cold with 25-mph gusts on Saturday, opening day, but he saw lots of deer. The wind died Sunday. And it misted rain on Monday. On Tuesday, Nov. 16, he decided to follow a creek bed to access his new vantage point.
John saw deer all day long, including several small bucks he’d seen throughout the early bow season. About 1:00, just when he was thinking about hunting from a different stand the next day, eight does crossed the CRP at 140 yards. They eventually passed within 55 yards of his tree.
Knowing it was unusual for that many does to travel unmolested that time of year, he kept an eye on the timber from which they’d emerged.
“I knew there had to be buck out there,” he said. “When I scanned the timber line with my binoculars, I caught movement and zeroed in on one with a relatively wide rack and several points. Because it didn’t look like it was going to follow the does’ trail, I pulled out my Primos Buck Roar.”
Hoping to lure the buck into the open, John grunted off and on for 10 minutes. He could tell the animal heard him, but it seemed content to stare rather than investigate. The does heard him as well, but they continued on through the weeds until they reached the opposite side of the field.
“I saw the buck’s head moving up and down, as if it were trying to locate me, but it made no effort to come closer,” John said. “After the does crossed the field, I decided to try a snort-wheeze, and that did the trick.
“As soon as the deer stepped into the field, I noticed its rack had mule-deer forks, and the antlers looked a little palmated, just like a shed I’d found near there,” he added.
That shed antler was John’s only clue that a large and unique buck was roaming the tract. It had somehow missed being photographed by the four trail cameras John had set out, and nobody had ever mentioned seeing it.
The buck followed the same path the does had taken. When it reached a low spot in the CRP, John took the 60-yard shot.
Afterward, the deer took off for the trees in which the does had disappeared.
John waited 45 minutes before leaving his stand. He called his brother, Gary, and dad, John, for assistance in tracking what he thought was a “180-class” whitetail.
“My brother told me to let (the deer) sit and to go to the truck,” John said, “but I couldn’t do it. Although I knew I’d made a good shot, I had to know.”
The blood trail was easy to follow. The buck covered another 80 yards in the timber before dying. It apparently took its last breath on a creek bank, its bellows too depleted to propel it across.
The Brunos dragged the 14-pointer to the CRP, and then drove a Rhino in to collect it. When they got home, they taped the antlers at a tad over 191 inches, trying to be conservative rather than wishful. Their tally turned out to be 3 1/2 inches low.
Hunter: John Bruno
BTR Official Score: 177 2/8
BTR Composite Score: 194 6/8
— Photos Courtesy of John Bruno
This article was published in the July 2011 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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