To the person who stole Mike Flanigan’s treestand: Thank you.
A not-so-funny thing happened to Mike Flanigan of Conneaut, Ohio, on the way to his deer stand last Oct. 27. When he arrived at his tree, the stand wasn’t there.
Understandably upset, he could’ve walked back to his truck to stew in his own juices for a few hours while his friend and son hunted. Instead, he channeled his inner squirrel — or maybe his 10-year-old self — and found a tree he could climb.
Had he done the former, his bank account might’ve suffered only the cost of replacing the treestand. He wound up having to pay another few hundred dollars to commemorate the day he discovered the theft.
Mike remembers waking up that day with a gut feeling that great things were in store for the trio about to head to the deer woods in Cuyahoga County. He even exchanged high-fives with his buddy, Doug Brunot, and his son, Matt.
“We got to the farm about 10 minutes after 5:00, still dark because the clocks hadn’t been turned back yet,” he said. “I drove my truck part of the way up the lane from the paved road, mainly to get it around a bend and out of sight of prying eyes.
“After suiting up, we went our separate ways. I got to my spot in just a few minutes, only to discover my stand wasn’t in the tree. Someone had stolen it.
“I walked around looking up into several trees in the darkness, hoping that I was just looking in the wrong place. But no such luck. Even my pull rope was gone,” he continued. “Furious, I started to head back out, convinced the hunt was ruined.
“Thinking it over, however, I remembered a nearby pine tree I’d groomed so I could hunt partway up inside of it. A short time later, I was climbing from branch to branch.
“I would have to stand using two sturdy branches and brace myself against the tree trunk or sit astride a limb. It wasn’t close to perfect, but it would have to do in this pinch.
“I settled in about 14 or 15 feet up and made myself as comfortable as I could, then, using my spare rope, I pulled my bow and backpack up to me. I hung my bow from a spare hook I always carry,” he said.
“I couldn’t find a suitable hookup for my safety harness, but I tied it to one of the branches. I didn’t think it possible to fall out even without the harness as the limbs were very close together.
“Eventually, I was settled in for as long as my body could stand the strain,” he continued. “At least I wouldn’t ruin the day for my son and Doug.”
The deer started moving through between 8:30 and 9:00. After two does passed, Mike saw a couple of small bucks between him and his son, who was about 100 yards away on the other side of a steep ravine.
Shortly after that, he spotted a very respectable 9-pointer approaching from the east at about 80 yards. It appeared the buck was going to pass closer to Matt than Mike, but he watched its progress carefully.
At one point, the buck stopped behind a tree for about 20 minutes. Mike tried grunting, but the buck didn’t acknowledge it. After what seemed like forever, Matt’s grunting lured the buck his way, and he easily made the 15-yard shot.
“From my perch, I could hear and see what was happening on the other side. I even heard the thwack of the arrow hitting home. I watched the buck as it ran up into the timber and out of sight,” Mike said.
“Sometime later, the pair of small bucks returned, grunting and snorting up a storm. I thought they were going to fight, but they never did. What they did, however, was pique the interest of another, much bigger buck.
“It was well behind me when I first heard it,” he added. “I thought it was going to charge right into the smaller bucks.
“The big buck slipped through the heavy brush and down the side of the ravine until it was level with me, directly downwind. I was sure it winded me,” Mike said.
It stood there, nose in the air, trying to identify the smell and its origin, and then it jumped about 4 feet backward and began stomping and snorting, trying to make me move.
“I was in the middle of counting, had reached 14 or 15 points. I couldn’t take my eyes off them, even though I knew I had to, and very soon! Fortunately, I finally came to my senses.
“The buck knew I was there somewhere. It continued to sniff and stare for at least 15 minutes, too far for even a marginal shot, so I waited.
“Suddenly, it whirled like it was going to bolt, but it didn’t. It just slowly sauntered back the way it had come,” he added.
When the buck reached a dirt mound, it stopped and looked back where the younger bucks had been cavorting. Had it kept going, it might still be alive.
“If the deer had angled to the right, I would have lost sight of it. But it turned left, which meant it might pass within range,” Mike said. “I quickly found a 2-foot window through which I could easily thread an arrow, if the buck continued on its path.”
When the buck approached the opening, it stopped with only its head in the window. Mike, precariously astride a limb, had already drawn his bow.
“I’m praying, Sweet Jesus, let him take just two steps!” he said. “My muscles were screaming at me to let down the bow, while the buck was sniffing the air.”
When the deer finally moved, Mike made a slight grunt with his mouth to stop it.
“I got a grip on my nerves, forgot about aching muscles and let the arrow fly,” he said. “The buck reared back on its haunches and took off running. I had to lean back to peer around the tree to watch it, and I saw bright red blood gushing from the wound.
“I started shaking so badly, I had to grab hold of the tree as I watched the buck reach the bottom of the ravine and disappear behind a couple of pine trees. I didn’t see it exit, so I wasn’t sure if it stopped there or kept going.
“I tried to call my son, but his cell was busy; he was trying to call me. He had seen it play out; had seen the buck go down just out of my sight,” he added.
“We both sat back and waited for almost an hour, contemplating our hunts. Texts were flying until we decided it was safe to get down from our trees. That was the first time we’d both taken bucks on the same day.
“I was completely calm when I got to the ground, but the shakes started again as I approached my deer. Doug and Matt were beside me in short order.”
After photographing and field-dressing Mike’s buck, the men set off to recover Matt’s.
Hunter: Mike Flanigan
BTR Score: 194 2/8
– Photos Courtesy Mike Flanigan
This article was published in the November 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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