By Ben Pierce
As my friend, Todd Leighton, and I pulled into the hotel parking lot on Monday morning, Nov. 10, 2008, Another buddy of ours, Jason Kindzia, was packing up to depart. He'd harvested a 135-inch 9-pointer the previous day and was about to leave Kansas for Iowa, where he was going to film the other three guys in our group of traveling bowhunters.
Todd and I tried unsuccessfully to convince Jason to stay and film for us. We were going to be there for 12 days. We'd driven 17 hours from Pittsburgh in two vehicles with 10 stands, nine sets of steps, clothes and video/hunting equipment - pretty much standard for our yearly trips to the Midwest.
Before he left, Jason shared the story of his Sunday hunt. In addition to the 9-pointer he'd arrowed, he saw an enormous buck while getting situated in his stand. He said its rack made the giant body look small -almost "cartoonish," he added.
Not especially eager to spend a lot of time slogging around in the rain, scouting and hanging stands, Todd and I decided to settle for picking our spots for the next morning's hunt. We drove to the large public hunting tract, an oasis in the middle of vast CRP and muddy winter wheat fields, and struck out on foot.
I went to a place none of us had hunted in the three years we've been going there. I wanted to be as far away from the truck as possible.
The woods were flat and open and, to be honest, did not look like a great spot for a stand. But there were several habitat variations along with several heavily used trails paralleling the CRP that separates the woods from a river 125 yards distant.
I thought that, at the very least, I'd have a great vantage point to scout for the coming days.
Tuesday morning, I saw a few small bucks and a couple of does after daybreak. Because of the rain, it was difficult to hear anything. I had to stay alert and rely mostly on my eyes.
Rather than leave around lunchtime, I decided there was enough rutting activity to merit sitting for the remainder of the day.
Around 2:30 p.m., I happened to look over my right shoulder and saw a giant buck with long tines about 75 yards away. It was about to disappear into the tall CRP field. By the time I stood to turn around, the deer was gone.
I stared at the area for what seemed like 10 minutes, though actually only a few seconds, before I picked out the buck about 100 yards away. It was under the lone tree in the middle of the CRP. I could see its rack and a bit of its back.
I immediately tried grunting, but the animal paid no attention to me.
That's when I decided to try rattling - anything to get it to bat an eye, if not lure it closer. I grabbed hold of my 140-inch rattling antlers and crashed them together violently. I thought that since the buck was in the dense CRP and unable to see the (mock) fight, it might come closer to investigate.
It worked. The giant turned and started trotting straight toward my stand.
Before I knew it, the deer was a mere 35 yards from me.
I was still holding the rattling antlers when it arrived. As soon as it passed behind some cedars, I slowly set them on the seat of my treestand, lifted my bow off its hook and drew.
The deer was confused. It had fully expected a ringside seat, but the fighters had disappeared. Almost dejectedly, it began skirting the CRP. I was able to stop it broadside at 26 yards, and then I sent an arrow into its boiler room.
I found the perfect 10-pointer just before dark. It had traveled close to 200 yards before dying, but at least it had taken its last breath before plowing back into the CRP. I didn't have time to admire the deer because the truck was nearly a mile away and daylight was fast fading.
Back at the parking spot, Todd and I began comparing notes. He'd spotted a huge buck with at least four foot-long tines early in the day that had a bald spot high on its left side. There was no doubt it was the same buck I'd shot.
Rather than walk back to my deer, we drove to our hotel to change clothes and devise the best plan for retrieving it. We wound up calling our friend, the property's manager.
While the three of us were hiking back to the river, Todd and I were discussing the buck's attributes. Our pal was taking it all in, and then he blurted, "I wonder if this is the same buck I hit last season?"
The one he'd hit (but lost) was a long-tined 10-pointer that might've scored in the 160s. The arrow had deflected off a branch and passed through - almost over - the deer's back, too high to clip the spine.
When we finally reached my deer, we all realized that the missing hair was actually a scar. It was, in fact, the deer our friend hit the previous archery season, though he'd been hunting more than two miles away on the other side of the river.
I realize how fortunate I was to have taken such an animal on public land, or anywhere for that matter. Having friends there to share in the excitement made it even more memorable.
Isn't that what it's all about?
Hunter: Ben Pierce
Official Score: 163
Composite Score: 179 6/8
Weapon: Compound Bow
-- Reprinted from the November 2009 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.