Greg Deckling, like most bowhunters, realizes the importance of practice. If you can’t launch at least a few arrows prior to opening day, there’s really no point in going.
Even if the sights are dead-on, it takes a little conditioning to be able to draw and hold a compound bow.
The college junior has no place on campus to shoot his bow. But because he lives in Ohio, where crossbows and red-dot sights aren’t restricted to the aged and infirm, the lack of practice didn’t keep him out of the woods when the season opened last year.
So they’d be able to hunt together, Bill Deckling offered to let his son use a crossbow that had belonged to a friend who’d lost his battle with lung cancer the previous December.
Even so, Greg missed the morning hunt.
“Dad and I were in the garage about 5 a.m., loading all our gear and going over our checklist,” Greg said. “As Dad ticked things off, he said ‘deer tag,’ and I stopped what I was doing. I’d forgotten to get mine.
“He told me, ‘Well, you might as well go back to bed then, because you can’t go hunting without it,’” he continued.
Later, when the local shops were open, Greg bought his deer tag so he could hunt that evening. He was excited at the prospect of encountering one of the several nice bucks his father had seen prior to the season.
“My neighbor and I started scouting about the middle of July, driving the back roads and glassing the edges of fields,” Bill said. “One afternoon, we saw three decent bucks in a bean field near the property we hunt.
“Two of the bucks had pretty nice racks, but that third one was huge. It was hard to tell exactly because of the velvet, but I thought it might have a third beam. My neighbor thought it could be a drop tine.
“I immediately started putting out trail cameras in hopes of catching some close-ups,” Greg’s dad continued. “I put bucket loads of apples in an area where I hoped we could easily draw them.”
Bill started getting photographs of the wonky deer on July 31. It seemed both he and his pal were right. Not only was there an extra beam, but there was also a drop tine.
They continued baiting three trail cam stations, and Bill kept Greg abreast of the deer’s comings and goings.
“I told Greg that if he wanted a chance at the biggest of the bucks that were frequenting the area around his stand, including the triple-beamed one, he would need to get down here for opening day,” Bill said.
Well, at least half a day was better then missing the whole opening act.
With a fresh license in his wallet, Greg joined his dad that afternoon. Their stands were about 100 yards apart.
To break the monotony, Bill eventually texted his son, asking if he knew the Ohio State football score. After being updated, he settled back into the peace and quiet.
“About 6:45, my phone vibrated. It was Greg, and I thought he might be calling to tell me the final score,” Bill said. “The instant I answered, he shouted, ‘Dad, I got him! I got the big one!’ All I could say was, ‘No you didn’t!’”
But Greg persisted, and Bill got down from his stand and soon joined his son.
“I hadn’t seen much of anything other than squirrels all afternoon, but around 5:45 or so, I saw some brown in the trees to my right,” Greg said. “It was a very nice 9-pointer we had seen on the trail cameras, but I had no shot at it.
“About 6:40, I heard what sounded like a deer running through the cornfield behind my stand. I didn’t see anything, at first,” he continued. “I was wondering what the noise had been and where the deer, if it was a deer, had gone.
“Suddenly, a slight movement caused me to look almost straight down at this huge buck. It was standing only 6 or 7 yards away, looking up at me,” he said.
Greg couldn’t move, and the crossbow was lying in his lap. But then he remembered the red dot scope.
“I very carefully turned it on while the buck was looking at me,” he said. “In slow-motion, I swung the bow around and pointed it downward, trying to get the red dot centered for a shot, but it wasn’t bright enough for me to see it.
“It seemed like hours passed before I finally got the intensity bright enough to see it on the ground. Still, I couldn’t bring the crossbow around far enough to aim,” Greg continued. “I remember thinking, I don’t have a chance.”
Fortunately for Greg, a piece of corn stalk was tangled in the buck’s antlers, which must have been interfering with its view of the blob in the tree.
“When the deer suddenly lowered its head and started shaking the stalk out of its antlers, that gave me the chance to bring the bow fully around, though still in my lap,” Greg said. “I raised the red dot to the buck’s shoulder and tripped the trigger.”
Greg saw the bolt strike the buck, which jumped and ran about 15 yards out into an alfalfa field. It stood there for a several seconds before trotting over and disappearing into the opposite tree line, and that’s when Greg called his father.
“I was pretty excited. I didn’t even think about being quiet anymore. I just wanted to tell someone what had happened,” he said.
Bill told Greg to stay in his stand. When he got there, his son directed him to the arrow sticking in the ground. There was plenty of blood, but Bill didn’t like the color.
“We found only a few spots of blood in the alfalfa field,” he said. “Convinced we were in for a long and difficult search, I called my brother, Steve, who is the best tracker I know. I wanted to get him moving in our direction before dark.”
Steve, however, was attending a wedding, which meant the two of them would have to forge ahead, fingers crossed.
A little farther, they came across a pool of red stuff. There was even more where the deer entered the woods.
“I had thought about backing off, but after seeing all that new sign, I felt pretty sure we’d find the deer,” Bill said.
The trail led father and son into a CRP field. About 20 yards into it, they found the buck.
“I just know old Tom — the bow’s former owner — was watching over my shoulder that day,” Greg said. “If it hadn’t been for that red dot scope and the corn stalk in the buck’s antlers, I never would’ve been able to shoot!”
– Photos Courtesy Greg Deckling
Hunter: Greg Deckling
BTR Score: 222 2/8
This article was published in the August 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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