When daylight’s burning, there’s no better place for a deer hunter to lick his wounds than from a treestand.
The giant whitetail came barreling out of nowhere, running along the edge of the soybean field with its head lowered to battering-ram level, though more interested in smelling the ground than goring Aaron Flanagan.
Aaron, caught completely off guard, stood frozen in place, helpless to respond to the quickly developing situation.
The deer finally looked up when it was only 20 yards away, presumably saw the wide-eyed hunter, and then veered sharply to its right. The last-second maneuver carried it into the heavy cover flanking the field, completing Aaron’s deflation.
“How many chances does a fellow get at a buck like that?” he almost said aloud, already convinced he’d blown his one and only.
Trying to sort out what to do next, the dejected hunter ultimately slinked 150 yards back to his tree and climbed back into his stand.
This encounter took place during the second weekend of Kentucky’s 2012 modern gun season, one of the most promising Aaron had ever known.
Not only were rumors of a giant buck circulating, but a neighbor had also found a world-class shed antler near a pond while doing some summertime bush-hogging.
Aaron had permission to hunt several farms up and down the ridge the buck probably called home. Some of those were planted in beans, making them whitetail magnets.
By mid-July, Aaron had decided to focus on two farms a couple of miles apart. He set up four stands, two climbers and two hang-ons, and put out mineral supplements at several locations, along with several trail cameras.
When the hot days of September gave way to cooler temperatures, Aaron collected photographs of an enormous buck. Spurred by those nighttime images, he bowhunted with renewed enthusiasm, mostly skirting the perimeter of what he suspected was the buck’s core area.
Despite working a full-time job as a drill operator on the Wolf Creek Dam project, Aaron spent as many hours afield with his bow as possible. By late October, he’d still not seen it.
About a week and a half before the firearms season, Aaron and his crew were called in, given bonus checks and laid off from work. You could easily spot the deer hunters in the bunch by the extra wide smiles on their faces as they left the job site.
With unlimited time to hunt, Aaron began trying to pattern the buck for gun season, which opened on Saturday, Nov. 10.
He hunted his bean field stands from daylight until dark the first two days, seeing only a few does and a bobcat. The latter came within 20 yards three times to sniff a wick doused with estrous doe scent.
“It was pouring rain when I woke up Monday,” Aaron said. “I didn’t have a rain suit, so I didn’t go. When I checked the trail cam later, I discovered the big deer had been there at 9:30 that morning, in the middle of the downpour.
“Except for that one time I stayed home, it came to the same place five days in a row, from Nov. 11-15, always during the dead of night,” he added.
Understandably, Aaron continued to put in long hours in his treestands. He understood, however, that he’d probably never see the nocturnal buck unless it made a mistake during the rut’s peak.
“When the second Saturday of gun season arrived, I got in my stand before daylight, as always. There was little or no wind, and the sunrise was clear,” Aaron said. “I decided to stick with the climbing stand near where the buck had been mugging for the camera.
“The soybeans were past the stage where deer were eating them, but I had placed some mineral supplement out in a little draw in the field, and deer had rutted a path to it,” he continued.
“My stand overlooked a little isolated section of the 10-acre field. I could see only about 50 or 55 yards across it. Otherwise, the woods surrounding it were thick.
“I was about 25 feet up a small tree, the only one I could climb to be in the perfect spot,” Aaron added. “When the wind started blowing, I felt like a swaying dandelion.”
Close to 10:30, Aaron decided the reason he hadn’t seen any deer might be because the mineral supplement needed to be replenished. He spent the next half-hour going for another bag and spreading it.
When he’d finished, he carried the empty sack to an old house about 150 yards distant — to hide it there rather than take it all the way back to his vehicle.
“I had just reached the old house when I looked up and saw the giant buck running directly at me along the edge of the bean field,” Aaron said. And that’s where this story began.
“This happened in a matter of seconds,” he said. “After it squirted into the woods, I just stood in place, trying to shake off my inability to react in time. My heart sank.”
Still, Aaron decided his wounds were best licked in his treestand rather than back home. So back up the tree he went.
“I had been in the stand about 15 or 20 minutes when, all of a sudden, I heard leaves rustling and sticks breaking in the thick cover clear across the field,” he said. “After I bleated a couple of times with my call, the buck stuck its head out of the brush, and then pulled it back.
“I could hear it circling around in the thick stuff, trying to get downwind of me,” he continued. “A short while later, it stepped into view and began walking toward the field’s low spot — the draw where the mineral was spread.
“I knew it was crunch time. I got the Browning BAR up and bleated twice more. When the buck stopped, I got it in the scope and shot,” he said.
After the animal charged back into the brambles, Aaron sent his buddy, Nick Devore, a text message saying: If you’re not doing anything, you might want to come on down here. I’ve shot the big buck.
When his friend arrived, the two of them began following blood. Almost immediately, Nick spotted the downed buck and, as Aaron describes it, “went wild.”
The shot had been perfect; right through the heart.
“We couldn’t believe the size of this rack when we got to it,” Aaron said.
Hunter: Aaron Flanagan
BTR Score: 197 4/8
– Photos Courtesy Aaron Flanagan
This article was published in the August 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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