Have Weather, Will Hunt...
Given the choice between going to a classroom and taking a final exam or spending opening morning of the firearms season in a treestand, is there any doubt which a deer hunter will do?
For Andrew Cooper of Hillsborough, Ohio, the decision wasn’t exactly a no-brainer. Until the moment he went to bed on Nov. 28, he was torn between his desire to be afield and his yearning to put the test, for which he’d studied long and hard, behind him.
But the weather forecast for Highland County was perfect for Monday morning, and his accounting instructor had said the final exam could be taken on Wednesday.
He went hunting.
“My parents have a small farm, just 77 acres, and my grandparents own a 160-acre farm nearby, so I had lots of land to hunt,” Andrew said. “I am not a serious bone hunter; just a meat-for-the-freezer guy, for the most part. I’ve never used trail cameras until this past year; never tried food plots. By today’s standards, I’m not a good example of a dedicated deer hunter.”
That doesn’t mean, of course, that size is unimportant.
“We try to manage our farm for quality deer to the extent we can,” he said. “But most of the neighboring landowners don’t care as much as we do about harvesting only mature deer.
“We try to manage the does and don’t shoot button bucks,” he continued. “We ask those who hunt on our land to hold out for bucks in the 130-inch or larger range. There are a lot of transient deer that are here today and somewhere else tomorrow.”
Several hunters have been granted access to the land Andrew hunts, and quite a few stands — available to everyone — have been erected.
“A few of the folks only bowhunt, so they are not here for the gun season,” he said. “Since I was going after my college degree, I didn’t really have time to bowhunt.”
When Andrew set out that Monday, Nov. 29, he chose to sit in a lock-on-type stand about 15 yards inside the woods flanking a CRP field.
“The field is to the right of the stand. A large cedar grove is about 50 yards to the left of it. The thin strip of hardwoods in which the stand is located is a nice pinch point,” he said.
“For whatever reason, there had been only a handful of nice bucks spotted over the five years that the stand was in place, and none had been harvested. Only does had been taken there,” he continued. “Nevertheless, it always struck me as a prime spot. I just had a feeling that was the place to be, and I was aloft before sunrise.”
It was an incredibly quiet morning. By 8:00, Andrew had heard a scattering of shots emanating from the surrounding farms.
“I couldn’t help but wonder if the day was going to be a total bust,” he said. “While wondering if I should’ve gone to class instead, I heard a loud crash in the woods behind me. I turned slightly to look, but saw nothing.
“When I stood and twisted around to get a better view, I saw a huge rack rising above the weeds,” he added. “My adrenal gland just about exploded. I never expected to see a deer of that size, and it was standing just 40 yards away!”
Andrew couldn’t see the entire buck. Only its shoulder, neck and head were visible. Although he wanted very badly to shoot the deer, there simply was no shot.
“I quietly twisted back around, facing away from the buck, and then I started turning my feet so my whole body would be facing it,” he said. “I was more than halfway turned when the stand creaked loudly. I just knew I was busted. I turned my head until I was facing the giant, but it hadn’t moved.”
The buck might’ve heard the noise, but it apparently fought the urge to flee until it discovered the source.
“Fortunately, I had the tree to help conceal my movement. While the buck was frozen in place and on high alert, I finished my turn, brought my open-sighted 20 gauge to my shoulder and braced against the trunk,” Andrew said.
I needed the deer to take one or two steps into the open.
“The longer I waited, the more nervous I became,” he continued. “I was afraid the buck would bolt without offering me the shot I wanted, so afraid that I decided to aim for where its thick neck met shoulder.”
The big whitetail surged forward at the shot, but it collapsed almost immediately. To seal the deal, Andrew shot it a second time.
“I waited 30 or so minutes, watching the downed buck while I called people,” he said. “After about the third or fourth call, I looked up and couldn’t see my buck anymore. I nearly panicked until I realized I was looking in the wrong place.
“After that little shock, I lowered my gun and clumsily got down from the stand. I had no idea there was such an animal on our farm,” Andrew added.
Because the buck fell close to the field’s edge, Andrew was able to drive his truck close to it. Some friends helped him load it.
— Photos Courtesy Andrew Cooper
Hunter: Andrew Cooper This article was published in the September 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
BTR Official Score: 186 6/8
BTR Composite Score: 207 1/8
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