A sliver of light let Ryan Dietsch know that the tosses and turns of his almost sleepless night had come to an end. Once more, he turned from one side to another, resetting his pillow and rearranging the covers.
“Just go back out there,” his wife, Kari, said.
Ryan had spent the night reliving his afternoon, plagued by doubt and confusion. He’d had not one, but two shots at the biggest buck he’d ever seen. He’d scoured the forest floor afterward, but had found neither arrows nor blood.
Had he missed? Twice?
“The next morning, I drove back out there, and I didn’t even take my truck; just took the car,” he recalled. “I didn’t even listen to music; just drove out there, telling myself that I was done for the season, that I’d had an opportunity and blew it.”
The Logan County, Ohio, bowhunter had been thinking about that particular buck much longer than one night. He’d seen it in November 2010, when it walked directly underneath his stand.
“It had a huge rack with a lot of junk, but just the left side. The right side was completely gone,” he said.
“Instead of grabbing my bow, I grabbed my iPhone.”
Ryan had been bowhunting for about nine years. His wife and her family, mainly her father, Wes Bates, had drawn him into the family’s hunting lifestyle.
“First, her father took me bird hunting. Soon afterward, he was setting me up with a .243 and taking me deer hunting in Pennsylvania when we visited for Thanksgiving,” Ryan recalled. “The first year I went, I shot a buck. And the second year I shot a buck that was the biggest one they’d taken from that mountain in 30 years.
“I was hooked,” he added, “and then I discovered bowhunting.”
Ryan yearned for a chance to put an arrow through the wonky buck.
“I have no idea how it lost the right side of its rack,” he said. “I was hoping to see the whole thing in 2011. I did a lot of scouting.
“I put up a trail camera and checked it Oct. 15,” he continued. “I was looking at the pictures: doe, doe, doe, coyotes, doe, doe, doe … and then this buck. It was looking straight into the camera.
“Just like the previous year, the buck had all this junk. Stuff everywhere,” he said. “From that point on, I was out there every day for the next 15 days.
“I’d get restless and say, ‘Honey, I gotta go out there,’ and she understood,” Ryan said of Kari. “She grew up with it.”
He hunted from several different stands mainly because he couldn’t decide where he wanted to be. He said he never agonized so much over stand selection.
On Oct. 30, he went to one stand and then changed his mind. He wound up at the setup closest to where he’d photographed the buck with the one-sided rack with his phone.
“I saw two does, pushed by a button buck, and they went up a hill. About an hour later, the does came back,” he said. “I was standing up, because it was starting to get dark, and I saw the buck coming down the hill behind them.
“I could see those drop tines, so I knew it was the big one,” he added. “I did a couple of grunts and bleats, and the deer came in to about 40 yards and stopped, broadside.”
Ryan drew his bow, but his head covering bunched under his anchor point. He let down, rearranged his headgear and drew again.
“I remember that my hand was shaking when I put the release on the string,” he said. “His hind end and neck were obscured by trees.”
When the arrow slid through the gap in the trees, the buck did a mule kick and moved in a short circle, stopping in front of Ryan’s stand.
“From elk hunting, I’d gotten into the habit of immediately reaching for another arrow after shooting,” he said.
“I’d actually taken two elk that I’d shot twice with arrows.
“So when the buck stopped in front of me, I was ready. As I drew, it turned and looked straight up at me.”
After the second arrow was launched, the buck merely walked away. Ryan stayed in his stand and sent a text message to his father-in-law. When Wes arrived, Ryan directed him to the first and second points of impact, but there was no sign whatsoever.
“Don’t worry,” Wes tried to joke as they left the woods. “You’ll only think about this for the rest of your life.”
After his sleepless night, Ryan returned to the woods and the two spots, again finding no sign. He walked about 30 yards farther.
“I saw this big white belly,” he said. “I took out my phone and took a picture from where I was standing, to preserve that moment forever.”
He was going to need his truck after all.
He picked up two coworkers from Stanley Steemer, so they could share in the excitement of the retrieval.
“We joke that we stopped Stanley Steemer that day,” he said. “It was more exciting to have my friends along to go get the buck.”
Hunter: Ryan Dietsch
BTR Official Score: 209
BTR Composite Score: 230 6/8
— Photo by Rick Busse 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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