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Bullwinkle Down!

Gail Miller

After the boys call it quits, Ohio huntress weathers the storm

By Gail Miller

October 26, 2012 finally arrived, which is traditionally the best hunting weekend of the year in Medina County, Ohio.

My husband, Gene Miller, and I had looked forward to this particular weekend since the beginning of deer season. We took off from work early that afternoon to get a jump on our hunting weekend. I was very excited!

Although the forecast was bad, our trail cameras had captured a big 11-pointer we'd nicknamed Bullwinkle, as well as other shooter bucks.

Of course, Bullwinkle was the buck everyone hoped to get, and we determined it was the same deer that eluded us the previous season. We were so glad it survived 2011 and was back in our neck of the woods for 2012.

The weather conditions were deteriorating with the side effects of Hurricane Sandy, which was scheduled to hit the East Coast that weekend.

Temperatures were dropping and a light but steady rain began to fall, however, it was not enough to deter us from hunting.

Our neighbor, Mark Szakacs, met us at our barn, and we put together a game plan for the evening's hunt.

The original plan was for me to sit in the Motorcycle Stand, named for the motorbike junked in the woods nearby, but my husband recommended I move to the South Stand. It had been very fruitful over the years, but it's a difficult treestand for me to get into.

Nevertheless, I took his recommendation and decided to hunt there. Gene and Mark would be hunting at the other end of the woods.

We headed to our stands about 3:30 p.m., settled in and checked on each other via text message to make sure everyone was safe and ready.  

The rain was still blowing light and steady and, fortunately for me, at my back so I was somewhat protected by the tree. An hour passed and a small 6-pointer passed my treestand, eventually disappearing over a ridge.

Shortly afterward, a larger 8-pointer appeared to my left, moving at a pretty good pace. I tried to stop it with a bleat call but it continued on its way.

This activity was a good sign that the deer were on their feet. My excitement grew as best time of the evening was yet to come.

My phone began to vibrate and I looked down to see my husband's number. Gene called to tell me the wind was blowing rain in his face and he was soaking wet. He didn't want to get sick so he decided to call it quits for the night.

Gene assumed I'd be getting down too, but I told him the tree was protecting me from the elements and I wanted to stay. Besides, I'd taken time off of work, so I wanted to make the best of my time off. I hunkered down and waited for the evening to settle in while Gene and Mark headed back to the dry barn.

Around 6 p.m. a 6-pointer came walking down the path to my right. I recognized it as the deer I'd nicknamed Little Buddy.

A few weeks earlier, Little Buddy came in while I sat on the Motorcycle Stand, made a scrape and bedded down less than 10 feet away. It was nice to see him again. 

I was watching it walk to a brushy area about 20 yards to my right, when all of sudden it froze and looked toward my stand.

I thought, oh crap, he made me!

So there I was, in a stare down with Little Buddy, knowing if I moved it would become an educated deer and surely spook everything else around.

While focusing on it, I realized I still had a huge hunting area to my left I needed to check.

I turned my head ever so slightly to scan from the corner of my eye and caught a glimpse of something moving beneath my treestand. 

I slowly looked down, and, holy cow, all I could see was antlers! 

The biggest buck I'd ever seen in my life began to slowly walk away from me while I tried to calm my racing heart.

I quickly, yet quietly, moved my crossbow into position for a shot. It stopped about 25 yards away and turned broadside. I couldn't believe I was given this great opportunity! I felt as if I couldn't breathe, and I was shaking, but I forced myself to concentrate.

I found the buck's vitals in my crosshairs and tried to pull the trigger, but realized I hadn't taken the safety off ... ugh!

Hunting Stories Wanted!The buck turned its head to scratch its side, which afforded me enough time to remove the safety and line up the shot again.

It lifted its head, and I pulled the trigger just in time. A hit!

The bolt lodged in its upper right leg and was sticking out as the buck took off at a dead run. I kept my eyes on it and watched the buck stop 100 yards away. Then it began to wobble, and eventually, fell down.

Oh, my gosh! I'd just taken the biggest buck of my life! I was shaking so hard I could hardly dial my husband's number.

When Gene answered, I told him I'd just shot the biggest #$!*#% buck of my life.

He asked if it was Bullwinkle and I replied, "No, I think this buck is bigger than Bullwinkle!"

While on the phone, I could still see the buck thrashing a bit and it appeared to stand up. Oh no, I couldn't lose this buck! Gene clamed me down and I watched it fall again. I gave my husband a play-by-play of what I saw.

Now, I know a hunter is not supposed to get down to go after a deer unless you know for sure it is dead, but I was afraid of losing this giant and wanted to run to it right then. But I waited for help.

Gene and Mark decided to meet me at my stand, and we'd take a chance of going after the deer since it was raining.

They arrived at my treestand, and we quietly discussed the hit and the path taken by buck after the shot.

By now it was getting dark, and the rain had washed away just about all blood on the trail, so all we could do was quietly walk the path. We didn't have to go far, because there it was, only 100 yards away. It turned out to be Bullwinkle after all!

I jumped up and down with joy, hugged Gene and Mark, and then I began to cry.  This was indeed the best hunting day of the year, just as we expected!

I savored every moment of this experience and enjoying each minute. I hope you like the story of the best hunting day of my life and this once-in-a-lifetime buck.

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