Steve Davis doesn’t have a place of his own to bowhunt deer, so he must rely on the kindness of others.
In 2016, he had permission to hunt a very small lot. Though the property had little to offer deer, Steve returned at every opportunity to sit in his stand with fingers crossed.
He got lucky eventually, but not there.
“As I was leaving the place one day, I remembered a school friend who lived nearby,” Steve said. “I hadn’t seen him in 20 years, and since I was right by his home, I dropped in for a visit.
“He and I ended up reminiscing for several hours,” he continued. “At one point, he asked what had brought me to his neck of the woods, and I replied I’d been hunting just down the road.”
The conversation then turned to the former classmate’s depredation problem. Deer were eating his crops.
“I asked if I could help, and I suddenly had 33 acres to hunt in Clinton County,” Steve said. “I told him I could take only two deer per year, but I would be happy to help.”
Almost immediately, Steve put up a ladder stand. In short order, he had a better idea of what was going on at the farm. The deer traffic was light and quite far from the stand, certainly too far off for a crossbow. He sat for a few days, seeing absolutely nothing during morning vigils.
Until he did.
“I was sitting one morning and saw this monster emerge from the timber and enter the field close to 200 yards away,” he said. “I took careful note of where it stepped into the bean field, where it crossed, and where it disappeared into another swath of trees.
“I had a blind at home that wasn’t getting used, so I hauled it out there and kind of buried it in the edge of the woods, actually into a very brushy edge where I could conceal all but the front side,” he said.
Steve could look out all the windows, but he could shoot from only the front one. Creating shooting lanes for the others would expose his blind.
Two or three mornings after setting it up, he saw the buck in a 200-yard-wide field about 500 yards long. Thickets and tall weeds border each side.
“When the buck came out to my right, it turned and started across the field, too far for any shot with a crossbow,” he said. “I tried everything I had. I grunted. I rattled my bag. I snorted. All it did was stop, look my way for a few seconds, and then resume walking.
“Once again, I was careful to note where it entered and exited the field. I had to try to get closer.
“I had a climber at home, so I immediately went to retrieve it. When I got back to the farm, I located the path the deer had taken, found a suitable tree about 20 yards away and hung the stand,” he said.
“I decided to go out early the next morning and get up in that climber, but I overslept. Lying in bed, I thought of taking the day off. It was Sunday, and I was tired from work and endless trips to the farm.
“After a while, I finally roused myself, got dressed and headed to the stand,” he said.
“I got in the woods about 8:00 and set out a Tink’s scent wick before climbing the tree. It was pretty warm, so I was working up a real sweat. I sat for a good five minutes, my crossbow still on the string, before cooling down and hauling it up,” he said.
Once situated, Steve reached into his pocket for his dip can and heard something approaching from behind him. His grip tightened on his crossbow.
A doe, moving slowly, was first to exit the thicket.
“She came out to my right about 20 or 25 yards and walked the field until she was 20 yards right in front of me. She stopped and looked right at me,” Steve said. “I was frozen for at least 30 seconds while she stared.
“I was sure that would be the end; that she’d blow and give me away. But she didn’t. She lowered her head, walked on past me for another 20 to 25 yards, and then turned back into the woods.
“As soon as the doe disappeared, I heard more movement and turned just in time to see this buck emerge from the same place she had. It was so close to me and so enormous that I started shaking,” Steve continued. “It walked the same path she did, but it went straight to the scent wick I’d hung out in front of me.
“There, it turned my way and looked me right in the eyes,” he said.
“I was locked up. Shocked,” Steve continued. “At least 20 seconds passed while we stared at each other. Finally, the deer lowered its head and started walking. I let it take three steps before I pulled the trigger.
“I was shaking so badly. I can’t believe I even hit the deer, let alone scored a double-lung shot,” he said.
“The buck jumped, kicked, and even farted. That’s what it sounded like. And then it took off across the field for between 35 and 40 yards and stopped.
“It was looking around. It didn’t know what had happened. When the buck lowered its head, I thought it was over,” he continued, “but it just resumed walking across the field for at least another 75 yards before disappearing in a thicket.
“I couldn’t have been in the stand a half-hour before this all played out in front of me,” Steve said. “I sat there, stunned, for a good 10 minutes before I considered getting out of it.”
Steve found a small puddle of blood where the buck absorbed the broadhead, but there was no trail to follow.
“I thought Oh man, I didn’t get a good shot on it after all,” Steve said. “I knew the way it ran, so I followed along to the point where it stopped to look around. There, I found another pool of frothy blood as big around as a basketball.
“After that, the trail looked like a highway. When I got to the edge of the thicket, I saw it lying in the weeds,” he added.
Hunter: Steve Davis
Official Score: 187 7/8”
Composite Score: 214 2/8”