By Todd Jean
Here in Ohio, I have found late season bow hunting to be just as exciting and rewarding as the November rut. That's when I harvested my 150-class 8-point buck, on January 28, 2005.
I am a teacher and coach football, so I don't get into the woods until mid-November. Unfortunately, I miss a lot of pre-season scouting, but I do get to muzzleloader hunt some and enjoy putting on deer drives with my buddies.
This buck was spotted on the last day of muzzleloader season this year, but no one got a shot at him, so I spent the following three weeks getting after him.
About ten days before I harvested this buck I had a quick chance to take a shot, second guessed myself and hesitated. I thought I'd live to regret that.
The herd of deer I'd been hunting was very easy to pattern from their bedding area to a cut cornfield where they liked to feed. The only problem was they were coming out at 4:30 p.m. and working their way toward the cornfield through an open field of clover, then moving around 200 acres of CRP and traveling about a half mile to feed. There weren't many trees in the area suitable for a tree stand.
I began hunting the buck early, before it emerged from its bedding area, but nothing ever seemed to work out right. It came close several times, even within 35 yards on the occasion I second guessed myself. But, I never found myself in the best position possible.
I pondered the situation and held back about 500 yards and observed it for a couple of days, patterning its exact path through the CRP field to a particular spot in the fence were deer were crossing in the evening. I decided to hunt that spot from the ground, hoping deer would be creatures of habit.
The last chance I was going to have to hunt it was on a Friday evening after school, before leaving on a ski trip. I knew this would probably be my last chance this year. My worst fear was that I would see him, only to find he'd lost an antler. It was so late in the season that some bucks had already shed them.
Since I had no trees to hunt from, I set up on the ground near a brushy fencerow. When I approached my chosen spot that afternoon, I saw a herd of deer about 800 yards away, leaving their bedding area.
I thought my hunt was over at 3:15 and it hadn't even begun. I decided to stick with my plan and approach my spot even if I spooked those deer. I simply ignored them and proceeded to my stand. I got settled in and waited.
When the sun began to set, I was very discouraged, having not seen a thing. I was cold and beginning to have trouble sitting still, and about to call it a year. So I stood up and stretched, then spotted the silhouette of a deer about 300 yards away.
Quickly, I sat back down to glass the area. I began to see more and more deer on the horizon. They were heading my way and I searched anxiously for the buck.
It was halfway across the CRP field, moving toward my setup.
Within 20 minutes, several does and young bucks were standing within shooting range. I ranged a doe standing directly in my path at 32 yards and stuffed the range finder back into my jacket.
I got ready and slowly pulled my crossbow up to the deer passing in front of me. I glanced to my left and saw the buck approaching on the same path as the other deer. It was going to give me a shot!
When it was directly broadside, I clicked the safety off and heard a snort just as I was taking a deep breath!
A doe must have caught my scent or heard the safety and gotten alarmed. The herd began to mill around and crane their heads to see why she snorted.
The big 8-pointer spun 180 degrees and turned broadside, now facing the opposite direction. Then it looked directly at me.
I put my sight on the vital area, squeezed the trigger and heard the distinct sound of a solid hit, THUD!
The deer scattered and I grabbed my binoculars to watch it barreling across the field.
After the buck disappeared from sight, I took a minute to calm down and find my small flashlight. I turned it on and tried to use the dim, dying light to search for my arrow.
I shut the light off to save the batteries and paced 10 steps from my setup and turned the light back. I found a long patch of bright red blood in the snow.
The light faded to nothing before I could find my arrow. I took a long, half-mile walk back to my truck to get my spotlight, but when I unplugged it there was nothing. The battery was dead, too.
I decided to head home, give the buck time to expire and find a light that worked. I drove home, plugged in my new spotlight and decided to eat dinner while I nervously waited for the light to charge. Soon, I was headed back to search for the buck.
I went directly to the spot where I'd seen blood and immediately found the bubbly, blooded arrow. A short time later, I recovered the 8-pointer I'd field-judged to score about 140 inches. As I laid my hands on the monster, I said, "This buck doesn't have ground shrinkage. It has ground expansion!"