New ground and a triptych of day-old trail cam images convince bowhunters to don orange and take up arms.
Ethan Johnson and Will Montgomery have bowhunted together for several years, mostly on land owned by Ethan’s uncle. Ohio’s 2015 archery season wasn’t kind to them.
“I was talking to my girlfriend’s father one evening about hunting a piece of ground he has in Pike County,” Will said. “I’d never hunted it before, but he knew there was deer traffic in that area.
“Late in the season, I bought some corn to put out there. I just dumped it near a place where I could hang a trail camera and maybe set up a blind.
“On the morning of Oct. 29, I checked the trail cam. When I put the card in my tablet, all I saw were old photographs. I had to delete more than 5,500 images before I started seeing pictures from the current setup.
“The first showed this monster buck, in broad daylight at 10:24 on the 28th. There were two more pictures at 10-minute intervals, and then no more.
“I called Ethan and got no answer. I thought Not today, my friend. You HAVE to answer. I tried again, and he answered on the fifth ring,” Will continued. “I told him he wouldn’t believe what was on the trail camera, and he didn’t. He thought I was pulling his leg until I sent him two pictures from the tablet.”
Ethan called Will three minutes later.
They talked about the big deer for a bit and decided to hunt that very afternoon, the last before Ohio’s Nov. 30 gun opener. Who knew what might happen when the orange army hit the woods the next day?
Ethan had just stepped out of the shower. He smelled of bath soap and shampoo. Nevertheless, he gathered his gear and headed for Will’s house. The pair reached the property around 10:45 and made their way to the ambush site.
They were barely situated when a family of hikers arrived in a golf cart and parked 80 yards from them.
As the day dwindled, the pair planned for the following day. Ethan had already scheduled the week off work, and Will decided to do likewise, calling his boss from the woods to get permission.
“Later that evening, I called my dad to see if he had a shotgun I could borrow,” Will said. “I didn’t own one I could use, and he had my grandpa’s Winchester 1300. Neither me nor Dad had ever fired the 20 gauge, so we could only assume it was in good working condition.
“It was well after dark then, so we couldn’t just go outside and try it out,” he added.
Will figured the longest shot they might have would be 30 yards or less, so the (open) sights would be just fine.
“At 6:30 the next morning, I got a text from Ethan to let me know he was sitting in the driveway at the property, so I gathered my gear and hurried on over,” explained Will.
“After Will arrived, we walked to the setup,” Ethan picked up the story. “We heard dogs barking, and then saw several does and a 4-point buck running away from the ruckus.
“We felt the morning was shot, but stuck it out anyway. By 10:30, we had seen nothing else and decided to go to lunch,” he said.
The pair returned just after 1 p.m. and decided to just sit in the driveway for a spell. After 10 minutes, however, both were out of the vehicle and shrugging into their hunting clothes.
En route to their vantage point, they decided to seek another spot allowing more room to maneuver and longer shot opportunities.
“We scouted around just a little and found a pretty good place in some thick brush. We cleaned the spot and settled down with me facing one way and Will facing the other, about 60 yards from what remained of the corn pile,” Ethan said.
“I was sitting on a log facing away from the corn. By 3:30, I was bored and whittling on a stick when Will stood to scan the field,” he said.
Will took his time looking over the field in all directions. When he started to sit back down, something caught his eye. A buck with a massive rack was walking toward the corn.
“I nudged Ethan and told him the big deer was coming to the corn pile. He didn’t believe me because I had teased him earlier about seeing it and got him all excited. He wasn’t falling for it again,” Will said.
“Will was insistent I get up and ready, but just as I started to rise, he told me to stop. Then he told me to get up again, and then sit down again. I was getting upset. I couldn’t see anything, and I was sure Will was playing with me,” Ethan said.
Will continued, “I was standing at that point, with the gun almost to my shoulder. The deer kept looking our way, and Ethan couldn’t stand or turn. The buck was at 35 yards.
“When it stepped into the only opening I had, I fired one shot,” Will continued. “I was pretty sure I hit it; the deer tucked its tail and took off running toward Ethan’s side of the field.”
Ethan, meanwhile, had managed to stand and raise his .45-70 (one of the old rifle calibers now legal during Ohio’s firearms season).
“The buck was running fast and about 80 yards away when I took my shot,” Ethan said. “I thought I hit it as it slowed.”
Ethan’s bullet landed just behind the shoulder, hitting the buck low in the heart. The deer kept going, however, so Will shot again before it reached the woods. That one spined the buck, and it went down hard.
Soon afterward, the pair ran to the downed deer, jumping deadfalls and plowing through briars en route.
“We lifted its head to get a real close look, and it was huge, WAY bigger than either of us had ever seen,” Ethan said. “After some serious celebrating, I got the tag ready and Will headed back to his place to get a four-wheeler. By the time he returned, I had the belly cut open, but I was shaking so badly that I was afraid I might cut myself if I went any farther. I was in shock, I guess. Will pushed me out of the way and took over field-dressing it.
“When Will got that done, we loaded it on the four-wheeler and took it to the landowner’s barn where we rinsed and hung it for a while to drain. We shared the story over and over again,” Ethan said.
BTR Score: 237 2/8
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This article was published in the April 2016 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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