Dibs for Ohio dropper might be the best tip ever given for services rendered.
When Mark Owen decided to help a fellow deer hunter get back in the game, he expected nothing in return for his kindnesses.
He certainly didn’t expect to be handed the Holy Grail.
Mark sells bull semen for the artificial insemination of dairy cows, and he has customers throughout northern Ohio. While visiting with a client in June 2013, they discovered a mutual love of deer hunting.
“The more we talked, it became clear that he was a meat hunter, but not as successful as he wanted to be,” Mark said. “I volunteered to see what I could do to help improve his limited time afield.
“Turns out, the woods on the back side of his farm are prime deer habitat with plenty of mast trees, good ground cover and extra thick spots here and there for bedding. But he didn’t have any stands back there; had never used them,” Mark added.
Ditto for trail cameras.
“While we continued scouting, he mentioned that he had once seen quite a large buck, along with three others, bedded down with a doe back there,” Mark said. “I told him we should set out a couple of cameras to get an idea of what kind of deer were living there.
“On my next trip up his way, I took along a couple of cameras and allowed myself extra time so he and I could go out and hang them in select locations. It was early July before I returned to pull the cards,” he continued.
“There were hundreds of photos, mostly of does and fawns, but there were a few small bucks and a very nice 9-pointer. The 9 was a shooter in my book, and my farmer friend, even though he’s a meat hunter, agreed it would be a target worthy of pursuit.”
They tried some different camera setups after that. And in late July, they collected photos of a huge buck with a substantial drop tine.
“We nicknamed him Mr. Caveman because of the huge club of a drop tine,” Mark said. “We even joked that he was a magazine cover deer.
“My friend had bowhunted years earlier, but he was certain he could no longer pull a compound bow. That was no problem, though, since crossbows are legal in Ohio and he had one. But his was old.
“I borrowed it from him, had a new string installed and completely safety checked,” explained Mark. “He and I practiced until he was comfortable cocking and shooting it.
“At the same time, we talked about stands and what he would be comfortable using. I brought two of mine to his farm because I wanted to videotape him taking Mr. Caveman on camera,” he said.
Mark didn’t tell his friend that part, though. Not yet.
“Through repositioning the cameras, we were able to pinpoint where the buck went every morning and evening, and we hung a stand along the route,” he added.
That’s when the deer disappeared altogether for several days, which worried Mark. He was afraid their frequent forays into the woods had finally spooked the buck, even though farm deer generally get used to the comings and goings of farmers.
The big whitetail returned in early September, when the soybean fields started turning yellow. Midway through the month, the deer began shedding its velvet.
A week before the season opened, Mark told the farmer that he’d like to film him shooting the deer.
“My friend told me he didn’t really want me to film his hunt, but he said that opening day — and the buck, if it showed — were mine,” Mark said. “I was stunned, flabbergasted that he would give me such an opportunity!
“When I talked to him the next day, he amended his offer to include both Saturday AND Monday. He didn’t want anyone in the woods on Sunday,” Mark added.
“He explained that I was much more excited about this buck than he would ever be,” Mark continued. “He reminded me that he was genuinely a meat hunter and would be happy with a doe or even the 9-pointer, if it crossed his path first.
“He said he could see the gleam in my eye every time I talked about Mr. Caveman, so he made the decision to let me have a crack at him.
“All the following week leading up to opening day, I practiced shooting my bow while sitting. I shot between 25 and 30 arrows a day, from a stand I hung by my front porch.
“I wanted to keep my movement in the stand to a minimum as I expected the buck to approach from head-on,” he added.
“Also by Thursday, I started reducing my food intake to make sure that nothing would force me out of that tree on Saturday.
“I was in the stand before 6 a.m. I had the jitters for most of the day, but sat there ’til dark — with the leaves still on, probably half past 7:00. The big 9 came through, but I was not in the woods for him.
“I had to work Monday morning, but I was 25 feet aloft in my stand by about 10 minutes ’til 5:00. It was a beautiful evening. The temperature was about 60 degrees, and there was a light, almost perfect southwesterly breeze.
“I sprayed down as soon as I got out of my truck, again when I reached my tree, and a final time when I was situated in the stand. I pulled out my wind-checking bottle and nearly emptied it. I was worried sick the deer might smell me.
“For the next hour and 45 minutes, I saw only chipmunk races. At 6:45, I heard a noise from within the bedding area and caught sight of something at about 80 yards.
“It was Mr. Caveman. I immediately recognized the drop tine,” he added.
With plenty of time to spare, Mark quickly set about checking his equipment, and then he turned his attention to a very large tree. If the deer cleared it, he’d take the shot.
The buck was in no hurry, which meant Mark’s arms and resolve were put to the test.
“My arms were dying,” he said. “Even when he neared the corn pile, I still had no shot. Finally, he turned slightly and stepped backwards. But just as I loosed the arrow, he moved back again,” he said.
The Rage-tipped arrow blew through the deer’s shoulder and out the other side so quickly that Mark wasn’t sure he’d made a good shot. He remembers seeing the arrow on the ground as the buck charged straight at his tree.
“It sounded like he was choking on his own blood as he passed under me and plowed nose-first into the dirt just 20 yards away,” Mark said.
“I was afraid to move,” he added, “thinking he might regain his feet or maybe his falling was more the result of stumbling. But after 15 minutes or so, I stood, shrugged into my backpack, and then lowered my bow.
“I was shaking so hard, I thought I was going to fall out of the stand,” he smiled.
Maybe he did fall. Or fly. Mark still doesn’t remember descending the tree. One minute he was aloft; the next, he was touching the enormous rack.
“He was bigger than the pictures showed,” he said. “I truly did not understand how much bone was on his head until the moment I touched it!”
Hunter: Mark Owen
BTR Score: 256
– Photos Courtesy Mark Owen
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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