With friends like these, who needs an outfitter?
By Edson B. Waite Jr.
It was a slow day at work.
Don Wilson and his partner were sitting in the office when Don's cell phone rang. It was his best huntin' buddy, Chris Snyder, calling to report that the bucks were on the move in Brown County, Ohio. Don looked at his business partner and asked, "You care if I take off early for some hunting?"
Don told Chris he'd be there in two hours. He left for home, loaded up his gear and was on the road inside of 30 minutes, heading south.
"I got there about noon," he said. "Since Chris already had a stand up for me, we just messed around for a while. We headed afield about 2:30.
"It was a quiet evening," Don continued. "All I saw were two does that wandered through just before nightfall. Nothing else was happening, but I sat there 'til well past dark. I lowered most of my gear and headed back to the farmhouse. Chris had already gone to bed. His mother showed me where I would spend the night, and then she made me some dinner. After that, I headed to bed."
Don was back in the same stand well before daylight on Saturday morning, ready for the action Chris had promised.
"It was a bluebird day with just a slight breeze blowing right in my face - perfect for that setup," he said.
About 8:30 or so, he saw a doe off to his left. Behind her was a sizeable buck. They were way too far, walking slowly, so Don tried his grunt call several times. But the deer paid it no mind. Perhaps 100 yards was farther than the sound could carry, or maybe they were too preoccupied to care. Regardless, the pair of whitetails simply walked out of his life.
"It was disappointing. The buck was definitely a shooter, maybe the biggest I'd ever seen," Don remembered. "I thought that was the end of that. I was never going to see them again.
"But about 10 minutes later, I saw another doe - I hoped it was the same one - come out of the trees a short distance from where the two had disappeared earlier. Then I saw a buck come out behind her. It was the same one alright. They were headed slightly in my direction, so I flipped my can call a couple of times.
"The doe started quartering toward me. When she crossed one of the shooting lanes, I ranged her at 45 yards, but she was still moving and quickly closing the distance. When the buck stepped into the lane, I drew my bow, settled my 40-yard pin high on the shoulder and held tight. The doe was headed for a second lane and a tree that I had already ranged at 34 yards. I felt sure that her suitor would follow and present an even better opportunity.
"The buck kept its attention on her, so I stayed at full draw for maybe a minute or two while it moved right past the tree and then stopped. I released the arrow, which sank all the way to the fletching a little low in the chest, stopped by the front leg on the opposite side," Don continued.
"The buck did the high kick thing and ran off. It stopped about 50 yards away and just stood there, looking back toward me, I guess trying to figure out what had happened, what had made the noise or whatever. Then it started to just slowly walk off. It never stumbled or anything; it just walked off.
"After that, I started worrying about the shot. There was nothing I could do, so I decided to stay in the tree for an hour and a half before getting down to look. I looked at my watch: It was 9:00 on the nose. I sat there awhile, and the next time I looked, it was 9:02; the next time, it was 9:05; and the next it was like 10 minutes past. I sat there, waiting for 10:30, probably the longest 90 minutes I ever sat in a stand," Don said.
"By 10:30, I had already packed all my stuff. I got down from the tree and went over to where the deer had been standing. I found good blood, so I followed it to where the deer had stopped to look back.
There were two puddles there. I followed the trail for probably another 20 yards and found where the deer had bedded down. I could tell that I'd hit lungs," he added.
Don wanted to get out of the woods and wait awhile longer for the buck to settle down again and die, but he had to exit the same way the deer was traveling. He was careful and watched for blood as he went. He only saw a few more drops before he lost the trail completely. He then headed back to Chris' house, where the two decided to wait until the afternoon before renewing the search.
They returned that evening to the last drops of blood and circled the area for almost three hours until there was no more hope of finding the deer that day. Dejected, Chris and Don returned to the house. All the way, Chris kept telling Don that they would find the buck in the morning; they just needed to keep the faith.
After a very restless night, they resumed searching on Sunday morning. It wasn't long before Chris yelled, "Come over here and see what I just found!"
"He didn't say he found the deer or anything like that. He just said he had something to show me," Don said.
When Don arrived, Chris produced a 6- to 8-inch piece of broken and bloody arrow.
"Well you found my arrow. Did you find any more blood or anything?" Don asked.
"Chris just looked at me and said, quite simply, 'Donny, you just took a 200-inch deer.'
"I said, 'You're kidding me!'"
Chris broke into a smile and got very excited.
"Then Chris took me over to where the deer was lying, and, sure enough, it looked every bit a 200-incher," Don said.
Don stayed with his prize while Chris went back to the farm to get the deer cart so they could move the deer from the woods to the four-wheeler. At the house, Chris told his dad, Steve, about the buck.
"Calm down, Chris," he replied. "It's probably a big deer, but I doubt it's a 200-incher."
"No, Dad, this is a 200-inch deer. Wait and see!"
Chris returned with the four-wheeler and the deer cart, and they loaded it up and returned to the house. When they got there, Steve looked it over and declared, "Donny boy, you shot a 200-inch deer!"
"It was pretty neat how Chris and his dad were both fired up over my taking this deer," Don said. "And I never could have done it without Chris and his well-placed treestand."
Hunter: Don Wilson
Official Score: 187 4/8"
Composite Score: 204 5/8"
-- Reprinted from the October 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.