If you tried to call someone in Columbus, Ohio, between 7:00 and 8 p.m. on Oct. 18, 2011, and got an “all circuits are busy” message, blame Ronnie Stevens.
By the time he’d finished calling all his friends that evening, his telephone was smoking; there was no skin left on his dialing thumb; and he was perilously close to having laryngitis. It’s a wonder he didn’t lose track of who knew and who didn’t know that he’d let the air out of a world-class whitetail.
“I called pretty much everyone in Ohio,” he grins.
The bowhunter made short work of putting an arrow through his heart’s desire — during his first stint in the new stand — but the 25 days leading up to that long anticipated encounter were anything but routine.
For starters, Ronnie missed opening day of archery season for the first time in 17 years. He had to chauffeur his son to a volleyball game in Sugar Grove.
On the way back home via roads less traveled, he spotted a bachelor group of very nice bucks feeding in a bean field.
“It was only half a mile from where I live,” he said. “I immediately stopped, turned around and drove past a second time for another look. One of the bucks was the most incredible 10-pointer I had ever seen afoot. It had to be pushing 180 inches.”
So smitten with the deer, Ronnie later went to the Franklin County auditor’s office to see who owned the property. He wound up gaining permission to hunt the land and even set up a trail camera over some corn, which snapped several photos of the buck he wanted.
Shortly after setting out the camera, he discovered that the village in which the property is located has a “no projectile” ordinance that applies to arrows as well as shotgun slugs.
A week later, accompanied by friends Steve and Scott Esker, Ronnie attended a council meeting to ask for permission to hunt that farm. When the mayor asked if anyone had any objections, one village man remarked that only residents should be granted such a favor.
Ronnie’s request was denied.
“I then decided to back up and punt,” he said. “Just across the road was a large CRP field that was inside the city limits of Columbus, where there are no projectile restrictions. So I went back to the auditor’s office.”
Another knock on a door gained him access to that land, and he wasted no time in hanging a stand and a camera below it.
He pulled the camera’s card on Oct. 14 and was thrilled to see the familiar buck with the wide rack.
“I realized the deer was bedding in a small woodlot at the back of the CRP,” Ronnie said. “My setup, which I’d chosen because of the rare climbable tree, was probably within 100 yards of where the big whitetail spent its days.
“It wasn’t until the afternoon of Oct. 18 when I felt the wind was right for my stand. I was pumped and ready. I had been looking at pictures of this buck almost daily.
“It was 3:58 when I climbed into my stand. About 6:00, several does came through, feeding slowly as they passed,” Ronnie continued. “One of them spotted me when I tried to reposition my legs. I had recently had knee surgery. It was still tender and stiff.”
The doe tried to catch him moving again for at least 15 minutes. She would turn her head to look away, and then snap back to peer up into the tree. And then something else stole her attention.
“There was the sound of a branch or twig breaking,” Ronnie said. “The doe was looking across the grass field, so I looked that way, too. The wide-racked buck was moving around the perimeter of the CRP.
“It would take a few steps, scent-check, go a few more yards and scent-check again. It kept doing that as it circled closer and closer,” he added. “Soon, it was within 18 or 20 yards, but in some thick brush. There was no way for me to get off a shot.
“I was constantly checking the wind with a hand puffer. Five more yards, and the buck was going to be directly downwind of me. It was 6:20 at that point.
“The buck was locked up in a no-shot zone and staring at the does. This went on for an agonizingly long time. Finally, it just turned and walked. I kept looking along the bill of my cap, trying to keep an eye on the deer.
“It circled and started back the same way it had come until it was almost back to where I’d first seen it. I thought the show would soon be over, but the deer suddenly veered right and started coming straight to me,” Ronnie said.
“The buck came within range, again, but I still had no shot. It was so close, my camera shot 14 pictures of it before I could even draw my bow.
“When I finally drew, I knew that deer was dead as soon as the kisser button touched the corner of my mouth. I shot almost straight down, and the arrow blew clean through the deer.
“I felt confident; knew I’d hit at least one, if not both lungs,” Ronnie said.
“The buck bounded back across the field toward its bedding area, and the does scattered. I was pumped, shaking, and my heart was pounding.
“One of the guys I called reminded me that hunters across the road might cry foul, even though I’d done everything by the book, so I took out my mini camcorder and started videotaping everything around me while I waited for friends to arrive.
“I even videoed myself explaining what had just taken place so it would be on the record, just in case. Then I walked back to the truck, stowed my equipment and waited for the guys.
“They started arriving about 8:10,” he added. “When we had enough help, I led them into the CRP to begin the search.
“My trail camera took a picture of all of us fanned out in the woods. A couple of buddies circled the field and were way out close to the woods when I heard a loud scream from one, and then a shout from the other,” Ronnie said.
“I was so excited that I took off running and plowed smack into a barbed wire fence. It not only took me down, but it also cut my boot all the way around.”
Small price to pay, though.
Hunter: Ronnie Stevens
Official Score: 170 1/8
Composite Score: 192 1/8
— Photos Courtesy of Ronnie Stevens This article was published in the November 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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