Rack Magazine

Itchy Palms

Itchy Palms

By Ed Waite

A mother’s advice is right on target.

When T.J. Schulz and his wife, Mandy, moved from Michigan to Goshen, Ohio, a few years ago, they found themselves with no place to hunt deer. Knocking on doors yielded no invitations, and the nearby public lands were crowded.

A buck in the back of a truck probably kept the couple from writing off their new home.

“One evening, my wife was returning home and passed a truck with a huge buck in the bed,” T.J. said. “The driver was pulling into a driveway about 10-12 houses down from ours. She turned around and pulled into the driveway, just to get a better look.”

Mandy introduced herself and struck up a conversation with the proud hunter, Justin Williams. She was dazzled by the 15-pointer in his truck.

So began a friendship.

“I had tried several times to gain permission to hunt farms only to be told some other hunter held the exclusive rights,” T.J. said. “Justin suggested I put a trail camera out behind my house, just to see what was in the area.”

The Schulzes don’t own much ground, and the neighbors are pretty close, so T.J. had never considered hunting there. But he listened to Justin.

“After a few days, I checked the camera and, whoa, there was this huge 8-pointer, right in my back yard,” he said. “I had to run down and show Justin, and he was like ‘Yeah, that’s a nice buck! Just give it a couple more years, and you’ll have a really great buck.’

“I was flabbergasted,” he added.

T.J. did not hunt his back yard that year, mainly because he just didn’t think it possible. He thought shooting a gun would be unsafe, and he’d never taken up archery. Meanwhile, his camera was taking more and more pictures of bucks, which really primed his pump.

“Mandy and I continued searching for someplace to hunt. We tried public land, but it seemed too crowded. We began searching for a small lease. I finally found a tract in Adams County: a few days for a few hundred dollars,” he said.

“Well, I had no gear to speak of, so I asked Justin if I might borrow a treestand, which he was happy to loan. Finally, I was in the woods again for deer season. It rained every day that year, but I went anyway,” he said.

Because they’d become fast friends, Justin texted T.J. to see how he was doing.

“I was seeing deer, but not any shooters,” he said.

“Then one day, almost out of the blue, Justin offered to take me to a farm for which he has permission to hunt.

“I thought long and hard before I proposed another option,” T.J. continued. “My wife had pretty much given up hunting to raise our four children, while I was able to do at least some hunting. So I asked if he would consider taking her instead of me.

“He didn’t even hesitate before saying yes,” T.J. added.

As the 2013 Ohio season approached, Mandy became more and more excited with the thought of the hunt. Trail camera photographs helped fuel her anticipation.

There were several nice bucks on the farm, and Mandy was able to close the deal on a nice 10-pointer with the crossbow she had received for her birthday.

“Six months later, while I was working down in Florida, Justin called to invite us both to hunt his farm. I was stunned,” T.J. said.

Justin later introduced T.J. to the farmer and arranged for the Schulzes to gain permission to hunt during the 2015-16 season. Trail cameras took nighttime photos of a really impressive buck.

It was so muggy on the afternoon of Oct. 4, T.J. almost stayed home to nap and devote the evening to watching football. Mandy persuaded him to go.

T.J. gathered his gear and headed for the farm where he was graciously allowed to hunt, thanks to Justin.

“I climbed into my borrowed ladder stand and settled in to look at pictures from my trail camera. The battery in the viewer went dead, however, which ended that process real soon,” T.J. said.

“It seemed like only minutes had passed when I heard a deer walking. It was a pretty nice 10-pointer. Had I not known better bucks were there, I would have taken the shot,” he added.

“The 10-pointer came back later, sniffing and testing the air. It milled around, tempting me, but my resolve held. When the deer finally departed, about 30 minutes of shooting light were remaining.

“I used to sit tight until it’s too dark to see, but that night I resolved to get down while I still could,” he continued.

Itchy Palms“My grandmother used to say that if your palms are itchy, you’re in for some good luck. Well, my hands started to itch — so bad I was rubbing them on everything: the bow, the cams, even the stand. It was wearing me out, burning even,” T.J. said. “I just had the premonition that I was going to tag one that night.

“When I heard twigs breaking, I looked over my right shoulder to see two deer coming my way. The first one was the buck Justin had nicknamed High Tower, and I began shaking.

“The deer were moving slowly, very cautious as they approached. High Tower’s companion was a 12-pointer and far more nervous than he was.

“Moving in front of the 12-pointer, he stopped broadside just inside some thick growth, just short of my shooting lane,” he said.

By then, T.J. had the crossbow ready. He needed the animal to take only a few more steps.

“Sure as rain, he stepped out. I picked my spot, squeezed the trigger, and it went Click! My eyes closed, and my shoulders drooped. It was heartbreaking.

“I’m not sure how long I remained in that state, but I finally opened my eyes to see the buck still standing there,” he said.

“I had to lower the bow to reset the string, then carefully raise it again, reacquire my aim point, run through my checklist, and finally squeeze the trigger. I was shaking, but I still saw the bolt slice into the buck, a good 6 inches higher than I wanted!”

He’d spined the deer.

Right at dark, T.J. got down, reloaded his crossbow, and stalked close enough to administer a coup de grâce.

“After he expired, I moved in and tried to drag him out in the open. He was tangled in honeysuckle, and I had to cut him loose. Even then, I was able to move him only a foot or two at a time,” T.J. said.

He wound up calling Justin, who arrived 45 minutes later. During the wait, T.J. tagged and field-dressed his buck.

“I was soaking wet and totally exhausted. I imagined at one point that Justin would arrive and find us both lying here dead,” he smiled.

Editor’s Note: Ed Waite is a master scorer and regional director for Buckmasters Whitetail Trophy Records. A longtime contributor to Rack magazine, he has also published two volumes of big deer tales, “Wallhangers” and “Wallhangers II,” which are available at book stores, online and through WallhangersUSA.com.

Hunter: T.J. Schulz
BTR Score: 198 1/8
View BTR Scoresheet

This article was published in the February 2016 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd