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Barking up the Right Tree

Paul Gaines

Is a dog call the next must-have deer hunting gadget?

By Paul Gaines

Following Ohio's 2004 season, during which I had multiple close encounters with two exceptional bucks, I set out to learn more about them. One of the deer wore a typical crown that might've tallied in the 160s. The other's rack was maybe 10 inches smaller, but it was more irregular.

Scouting from January through March, I managed to find the sheds from both deer. I also had the opportunity to pick numerous briars from my legs and buy a new pair of boots. I walked so many miles I wore out my old ones.

My focus was on the big Typical, a beautiful 12-pointer with split brows. It was my dream buck until midsummer, when I laid eyes on the gorgeous Irregular, which had grown considerably.

This deer had tines practically going in every direction. On the right side toward the end, there was a cluster of points that resembled a hand.

The left side boasted a large drop tine.

We were only 20 yards apart, and I counted 21 points!

I immediately got on the phone with my hunting buddy, Eric, and told him about it. He said I was probably dreaming and should wake up, but I assured him I was wide awake and that the deer was easily a 200-incher.

"Keep it quiet," I told him.

Over the next couple of months, I glassed this deer on a regular basis. I was very careful not to disturb it for fear it would abandon the huge soybean field it favored. Everything seemed to be falling in place, except that my wife, Megan, was pregnant and due to deliver on opening day of bow season.

Through numerous hours of glassing, I determined my best chance to take the monster would be near the pond on the back of the property in the afternoon. In Highland County, Ohio, we were experiencing a severe lack of rainfall. I'd seen the deer drinking from the pond on several occasions about 4:30 p.m.

Paul GainesTo boost my chances, I invested in a ScentLok suit and a pair of LaCrosse rubber boots. I figured those would cover my scent if the wind were to shift on opening day, which isn't uncommon where I hunt.

I was in the woods on opening day in 2005, though I didn't get out there until 3 p.m. I was very nervous. Not only did I have the whitetail of my dreams in mind, but also my very pregnant wife. I sat there with my anxiety, watching squirrels and other animals.

I snapped out of my daydream when, all of a sudden, I heard the unmistakable sound of deer approaching. I stood up slowly to get a good look. Coming toward me at a rapid rate of speed was MY deer. As it approached, I remember thinking about the steps necessary to end the situation in my favor.

As the buck swiftly approached my stand, I drew. I made a grunt sound with my voice, but it went under my stand and kept walking. Out of desperation, I did the unthinkable and actually barked like a dog. That was all it took. The deer stopped abruptly - in the clear - at 15 yards. I released my arrow and watched it disappear into hair.

Smoke city!

I watched this enormous deer take two or three steps and fall over face first. No death kick; just deceased. I yelled out a couple praises to the deer gods and went to inspect my buck. There were indeed a lot of points - 20 of them scoreable. And that included the drop tine.

Subscribe Today!I called Megan on the cell to alert her that I had taken the large deer, asking her to come and take pictures. Afterward, we tagged in the animal at Rocky Fork Truck Stop, where a large crowd of people gathered around my truck to gawk.

I remember working late into the night to butcher the animal, with my pregnant wife right by my side. Finally at about 10:30 p.m., we were done with the caping, butchering and packaging of the meat. I was so happy to finally get to sleep.

No sooner had I closed my eyes, Megan said, "It's time to go."

"What?" I replied.

She frantically told me to get my bottom side out of bed and into the car. After a long day's labor (18 hours), she gave birth to my second baby girl. Her name is McKenzie Elizabeth Gaines - 8 pounds, 15 ounces ... 22 and 4/8 scoreable inches of joy.

Hunter: Paul Gaines
Official Score: 182 3/8
Composite Score: 198 7/8
Weapon: Compound Bow
Class: Irregular

-- Reprinted from the November 2009 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.

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