The kiss of death.
Two snorts, followed by the noisy exit of a deer.
Despite my best effort at stealth, after 45 minutes of crawling in the dark and groping for a limb on which to hang an estrous-scented wick, a briar scratched loudly against my pants.
I was certain that the unbelievable buck I’d managed to videotape the previous evening had busted me. My carefully planned hunt was finished before it even started.
I was smitten with the magnificent whitetail the moment I saw it on Nov. 9.
After filming the deer that evening, I telephoned my wife from my stand and told her not to expect me. I explained how exceptional the buck was and that I did not want to spook it.
I wasn’t thinking clearly, of course, but my wife, knowing how passionate I am about hunting, didn’t put up much of a fuss. I had every intention of spending the night in my stand. But reality began to sink in as the air grew colder. I was not dressed for the occasion.
Two hours later and a few degrees below freezing, I left my crossbow in the stand and snuck down from my tripod. With my video camera tucked into my coat, I crawled across a mowed field in the opposite direction from where I had seen the deer.
My wife was actually surprised to see me when I came through the door, and even more surprised once she saw the video footage. I replayed the video over and over — in awe at how wide and tall the deer’s antlers were. I did not sleep a wink that night.
Around 2 a.m., I decided that I would rather be in my stand. I grabbed a bite to eat and showered. Never before had being totally scent-free been more important than it was that morning.
It was pitch black due to a new moon. I was back at the Warren County, Ohio, property within an hour, and I reached the stand at 3:45.
That’s when the deer blew, from no more than 25 feet away.
My tripod overlooks a thicket, and I believe the buck was bedded right there. My gut reaction was to blow back, and I followed with a few quick grunts. The deer stopped after the third bound. It neither saw nor smelled me.
After the few minutes of "eternity" that we’ve all experienced in the field, I heard the deer moving away. I took that opportunity to climb in the stand and began praying hard, though I was depressed.
The next thing I heard was the deer snort-wheezing at me from some distance away. It was long and loud with a high-pitched squeal. I figured that it thought I was a buck and was flexing its muscles, so I responded with a grunt-snort-wheeze. I had never tried that call in the field, but it sounded amazingly crisp and loud.
In the ensuing quiet, I sat there peering into the dark, praying that the deer would not get spooked. About 45 minutes later, I heard movement from where I’d seen the buck enter the property the previous evening. Thinking it might be losing interest, I used an estrous-doe bleat call and followed it with a few tending grunts. I ended up repeating that routine twice more.
At that point, I just wanted to keep the buck entertained.
As dawn approached, I could make out a few does browsing in the green areas around my stand. Then, suddenly, the bright antlers of the monstrous buck appeared. I could not see much due to the darkness, but I could tell that it was moving between the two does.
The does danced around, not letting the buck get too close. All three were within 25 yards.
When it was finally legal shooting light, one of the does walked directly at me. Before I could do anything, the buck followed her until they were both practically underneath my stand.
The doe kept walking, but her boyfriend stopped to smell the scented wick I’d hung a few yards from my stand.
After taking a few deep breaths, it turned with a huff and quickly disappeared into the thicket. The deer could not have been more than 40 feet from me, but I could not see it.
Throughout the episode, I had been supernaturally calm. Once I had seen the antlers almost glowing in the dark, I’d focused only on how and when a shot opportunity might arise.
I scanned all sides of the thicket intently, but I saw nothing until a doe passed through an opening close to where I believed the buck was hiding. I had already used a rangefinder on that exact spot, even confirmed it nine more times. It was 18 yards.
When I peered through the scope at the doe, I wished the buck was in her place. It apparently wished the same.
Without finesse, it lowered its head and crashed out of the thicket. As soon as the buck emerged, I launched the bolt. The animal was quartering away sharply, and the arrow entered right behind its right ribs, cutting the diaphragm, right lung and taking out the arteries above its heart.
I saw the buck lower its head as it ran, right before it flipped in a spray of legs. The buck had tangled its rack in some vines and somersaulted as if it had been clotheslined, never to move once it hit the ground.
I thanked the Lord and got down without any delay. I’d heard the struggle and knew right where the buck was lying, although I couldn’t see it.
Each time I tell the story and see people’s eyes light up, I am reminded of why we love hunting.
Editor’s Note: To see and learn more about this fabulous 5x5, log onto www.jermanbuck.com. Replicas are available.