By Rick Garrett
Nathan Abbott, left, and Rick W. Garrett found success on the last day of their three-day hunt in Indiana.
-- Most years, my deer season starts when the Kentucky bow season opens in September. Some of those years I have hunted hard from September through the end of January in search of one buck. But one year, my season ended in October, when I took a 130-class buck.
Several years ago with Kentucky's one buck limit this would have ended my big buck quest for that year. But one of the benefits about living in northern Kentucky is the short drive over the Ohio River into Indiana. With the purchase of a non-resident tag, I'm back in the hunt.
A good friend and resident of Indiana, Mike Lavon, invited me on a three-day hunt in the northeastern portion of the state six years ago. Mike had been on a hunt in this area the previous year, and while he didn't take a buck, he was impressed with the quality of bucks he had seen.
It was a fairly simple twist of my arm to make the trip with Mike for the following season's slug gun opener. Mike took a 140-class, 10-point buck. I harvested a 180-class, non-typical 17-point buck. I've experienced a great deal of success during these hunts to Indiana.
Unfortunately, I was unable to make the 2006 hunt, but luckily, I was invited back for the 2007 opener. All the regulars would be back in camp along with a new addition, Mike's son-in-law, Nathan Abbott.
As usual, we arrived in camp the day before the opener. After the normal chores of unloading gear, settling in and catching up with each other, we began to discuss our opening morning strategy. The rut was in full swing and the weather looked to be clear and cool with a mild southwest wind. This would be perfect for a stand location I had hunted a few years back. After a good meal, a restless night's sleep and a few quick cups of morning coffee, we fired up the ATVs and headed out.
Our host informed us that the older bucks had been pushing the does hard for the past week. My plan was to spend the entire day on stand with water and a sandwich in my pack and sit tight until sundown. The day passed quickly as bucks pushed does back and forth across a ridge I had picked for my set-up.
Just before noon, I had a good 10-point buck with its nose to the ground come within 35 yards of my stand but decided to pass on what appeared to be a 31/2-year-old deer. Darkness fell and I gathered my gear for the walk out to the ATV. I reflected on the events and was totally satisfied with the hunt.
Mike and Nathan decided to come out for lunch and pick new locations for the afternoon hunt, so I made the trip back to camp alone. The first thing I always look for when returning to any deer camp is the game pole. I wasn't disappointed. Two bucks were hanging.
On the pole was a 150-class typical 12-point buck taken by Doc Piotrowski, and a very respectable 8-point buck taken by one of the younger members of our group. Mike and Nathan saw shooters that evening but didn't have clear shots. The conversation during supper was positive due to the fact that we witnessed so much deer activity.
The second day was nearly a mirror image of day one. I saw at least a dozen young bucks running does in the area. I arrived back at camp to see an empty game pole. I hadn't heard any shots and wasn't surprised to not see any new additions to the game pole on my arrival back at camp.
After a fine supper provided by our hosts, Darrell and Jill Felling, we put together a game plan for the final day. Mike and Nathan were going to a new area. I was convinced that a shooter would show up in the area I had hunted the first two days, so I decided to stay put.
By now, the pressure was on, and we could not make any mistakes. The wind would be good, I thought, as I made the climb up the ridge. I had left camp a little earlier the last morning. Shortly after shooting light, I could see several deer making their way back to the edge of the ridge and directly toward my location.
It took 30 to 40 minutes for the group to browse its way to within 50 yards or so. I could not see any racks in the group but have hunted the rut enough to know that there could always be a buck tailing the group. If they maintained their current course, they would pass within 35 yards of my stand location. The wind was in my favor, and I held my breath as the group got closer.
At about 30 yards, the lead doe began to get nervous as two of the older ones stepped forward with their ears cocked. I was certain that the does knew I was there. I noticed the girls were looking beyond my stand. I feared that a coyote was coming in and would break up my party. Fortunately, it was a buck coming in.
The buck had come in behind me as I was concentrating on the does and didn't make its first grunt until it was 30 yards to my left and 10 yards behind me. The does had spread out in front of me. I would be busted if I moved a finger. Finally, my buck moved 10 feet forward, and I was able to get a good look at it.
I could tell the does were really getting jumpy as the buck closed the distance. I had to be quick with my shot. Immediately, the does spotted the buck. As it took one more step, I squeezed the trigger, and the buck dropped. The 12-gauge Remington Core-Lokt slug did its job. It was impossible to see where the 239-pound field-dressed buck's neck stopped and chest began. The buck measured 150 5/8 and was estimated to be 5 1/2-years-old.
Not to be outdone on his first trip, Nathan harvested a140-class, 8-point buck. I think we can count on him as a permanent member of our group in the future. Thanks to Darrell and Jill for another memorable hunt.
Rick W. Garrett
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