Where you hunt is often more important than how high.
Thirty-eight years of bowhunting whitetails has made James Yelton a bit squirrelly about scent control. So convinced that he’s the orange mist inside a riot cop’s spray can, the lone spud that sours an entire bag of potatoes, or the hapless “before” guy in a deodorant commercial, he spends his days afield as high in the trees as he can climb.
To look in his closet or click on his television, you’d think the 51-year-old was on Scent-Lok’s payroll and that he has a crush on the weather forecasters who tell him which way the wind will be blowing. But it’s just that he’ll do anything NOT to spook deer.
“I’m apparently one of those guys who stink,” he says. “A deer can smell me at 400 yards, even if the wind is in MY face!”
So when James reached the dry river bed where Derrick, one of his landowner friend’s workers, had hung a stand for him a mere nine feet off the ground, he almost turned around and left. It was a beautiful area — a bend shaped like a question mark — but nine feet? Nine?
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the setup was also bad for the prevailing wind.
By Friday, Nov. 11, James and his wife, Helen, had been in Greenwood County, Kan., for nearly a week. The Pennsylvania couple had seen some decent bucks, but none within bow range. Had Derrick, who isn’t a deer hunter, not seen a big buck near the river bend, had he not moved the stand as a kindness, James would’ve gone back to the stand he’d hung the previous Sunday.
Instead, James walked Helen to her stand that morning, and then hiked the half-mile to his and scaled the sticks to his platform. His already shaky confidence took a big hit about 20 minutes after daybreak, when a couple of does spotted the man-thing in a tree from 300 yards distant. They didn’t run or snort, and the 15-mph wind was blowing from the deer to James, but there was no doubt they’d seen him.
Fifteen minutes after they disappeared, James saw a buck round the bend within 20 yards of where they’d stood and given him the evil eye. James rattled twice to get its attention, and the deer jerked its head up to look. When a second sequence got the same result, James stopped, and the deer came all the way to within 22 yards, wind at its back.
Thank you, Scent-Lok and testosterone.
The deer was looking at James when the crossbow’s bolt struck it sometime between 7:15 and 7:30.
After the buck ran off, James had trouble breathing.
“I was shaking so bad, I could hardly get down,” he said. “I couldn’t remember seeing the arrow make contact either, which I normally do. I wasn’t sure where I’d hit the buck.
“I was one sick dude for a while,” he added.
James didn’t find his bolt, and there was no blood where the buck had been standing. Nevertheless, he thoroughly combed the immediate area before leaving.
Before James returned to resume looking, he stationed Helen near the head of the river, just in case he ran something out of there while looking for his buck. When he reached his stand, he encountered a nice 130- to 140-class 10-pointer.
“I aggravated that buck for 10 or 15 minutes,” he said. “It actually came halfway across the creek toward me, at 30 yards.”
After that diversion, James went to where he’d left off earlier and resumed searching. Since there was no sign, he was really just covering ground and hoping.
He soon stumbled across the bleached skull of a fabulous buck, a find almost as rewarding as if he’d walked up on the one he shot. He admired it for a long time, marveling over the forked P-2 and sticker points, unaware that all he had to do was glance up to see his buck lying about 40 yards away, the arrow buried in its side, the fletching glowing like an Olympic torch.
“That buck never bled a drop,” James said. “It’s a good thing I kept looking. Even if I’m sure I missed, and I was beginning to have my doubts about this one, I always go back and look hard.”
Hunter: James Yelton
BTR Score: 194 4/8
— Photos Courtesy of James Yelton
This article was published in the July 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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