It pays to listen to that inner voice, especially when it tells you today is the day.
Story and Photos by Harold “Bodean” Johnson
The Daniel Boone National Forest surrounds my home in Kentucky, and I’ll be the first to tell you there is nothing easy about hunting it. The Forest is located along the Cumberland Plateau in the Appalachian Foothills of eastern Kentucky and has more than 704,000 mostly rugged acres. The land is characterized by steep, forested ridges dissected by narrow ravines, and there are more than 3,400 miles of sandstone cliffs.
When you harvest a deer from the Daniel Boone National Forest, you can bet you had to hunt for it. They don’t come easy. You use all your skill and do whatever it takes to get that ultimate buck. You start scouting early in the year for trails, rubs, scrapes and bedding areas ... anything to let you know they are in the area.
Hunting on public land has proven to be very rewarding for me. While living and hunting in Kentucky, I have managed to harvest many deer, but last year’s hunt was the best by far!
I had scouted for months and sighted-in my bow in anticipation of opening day. Weeks earlier, I had gone out and retrieved my camera to develop the pictures. There wasn’t anything promising, just a few does and a spike, but it was exciting to know there were deer there.
I got out my bow one day and set up a target, but from there everything went sour. I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn! I soon realized my riser was broken, so off I went in search of a new bow.
I just couldn’t find the right one for me! Discouraged, I went home, not sure what to do. Then I remembered that my brother-in-law, Eugene Lowery, had given my wife, Penny, a Buckmasters bow the year before. She couldn’t pull it back, so I went out to the garage and hauled it out of storage.
It was the day before opening of bow season in Kentucky. I stripped my old bow and started setting up the new Buckmasters BTR bow. I got my target out and sighted-in, and everything worked fine and felt great. Finally, I was ready to hunt.
It was warm on opening morning. I saw a few does but nothing to brag about. I hunted for three straight days and only spotted does. However, from previous experience, I know the bucks won’t be too far from the does.
Early muzzleloader season was coming, so I felt pressure to get back out there. I grabbed my bow and headed to my stand, basically scouting for the blackpowder season. After seeing nothing, I just walked around and hoped to find some promising sign. Right before dark, a buck jumped out about 30 yards away. Surprised and a little flustered, I hurried the shot and missed.
The next day was muzzleloader season, so I was back in my treestand. Two days out there yielded nothing, not even the sight of a squirrel!
The following Friday, I was at work when something came over me. “Today’s the day,” I just knew. I clocked out and was home by 3:30 p.m. I grabbed my bow, told the Penny I was going to go shoot at my target. If I hit the bullseye, I was going hunting!
One shot. Bullseye!
I put on my suit, grabbed my bow, scent, rangefinder, diet soda and headed to my stand. As I walked through the woods, I got to thinking, If I was a deer, where would I be?
I ended up following a rub line into a big thicket on a ridge, but I quickly backed out of there to find a good view of the hollow below. I put out the scent, scraped out the leaves from around a large oak tree and waited.
After standing there for about an hour and a half, I heard something behind me. It was two squirrels playing tag, but I put the rangefinder on them just to break the boredom – 20 yards. Yep, that’s about what I thought it was.
Ten minutes later, I heard footfalls from the same area. I rolled my sight down to 20 yards and slowly turned. There was a deer coming out of the thicket! I wasn’t sure if it was a buck or a doe, but I finally caught sight of a big white main beam. I pulled back my bow and looked through my sight. I saw antlers, pulled to the kill zone and shot.
The buck was huge, dressing at 195 pounds with a perfect 10-point rack. My first buck with a bow!
This article was published in the September 2006 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.