By Tim King
Until he saw the buck in his shooting lane, Ohio’s Tim King had no idea that a deer of this magnitude was hanging around his hunting lease.
Last September, my wife changed my computer screensaver to read, “Tim, you are awesome and I hope you score big on your hunt this year! Love you, SK.” So when the alarm buzzed at 4:30 a.m. on the cool, crisp morning of Oct. 28, 2005, I was confident in her “prophetic” message.
Rising early to fill my backpack and pack a lunch is just one of the tasks in this passion for hunting whitetails with a compound bow. The anticipation for what would be seen in the woods that day, let alone what would be harvested, was almost too much to handle. There are approximately 170 years of hunting experience between the 10 guys in our hunting club. Many big bucks have fallen to our arrows.
Pursuing the Goal
I had spent months prior to the hunt scouting the land and looking for the right tree for a stand. I had placed three permanent stands and cut shooting lanes for two other trees in which I would use a climber. My choice of stand on Oct. 28 actually defied some of the rules for hunting trophy whitetails. I had hunted it many times, but it was best for evenings, hanging 10 yards off a field edge.
I had observed many deer coming out of the woods into this field to feed in the evening. Although I had never hunted this stand in the morning, I thought that if the rut was kicking in, the big bucks would come out and begin to troll for some hot does. The area was also riddled with buck sign. My fellow hunters and I had seen many big bucks on the Guernsey County (Ohio) property, and trail cameras confirmed it.
Once all the guys had loaded up their vehicles and had wished one another a safe and successful hunt, I drove out a lane to the base of the hill where I would climb along the edge of the woods to get to my stand.
I have been taught by some of my mentors in life that if you fall you get back up and keep striving toward your goal. Ironically, in 2004, I had fallen while getting out of the same tree that I was about to climb. I regret not using my fall restraint system at the time, but this fall did not keep me from focusing on my goal of harvesting a trophy white-tailed buck.
Doug Kaufman, Tim King, Mark Hufhand and
the “King of the Hill.”
Living the Dream
I was settled in my tree at 6 a.m. Around sunrise, approximately 6:45, I began to notice some deer activity in the fields around me. At the opposite end of the field, I saw a number of does and even two small bucks sparring. While watching with binoculars, the thought occurred to me that I was not going to shoot these bucks that were hundreds of yards away, and that I should begin to pay attention around my stand in case a trophy whitetail came within shooting range. When my hunting buddies and I had cut shooting lanes, we’d left most of the saplings and brush for cover.
I was facing the thick woods. The tree was actually on the side of the hill, so the grade steepened as I looked out from the stand into the woods. I positioned the stand so the tree would hide my body from a deer walking the edge of the field. I knew that if a buck was to show up there I would only have two opportunities for a shot because there were only two narrow shooting lanes cut to the edge of the field — one over my left shoulder and the other over my right. At about 7:40, I hit a bleat call. Five minutes later, I thought I heard some activity to my far left.
Straining to see movement through the leafy woods, I finally spotted something about 45 yards distant. I knew it was a deer. I still didn’t know if it was a shooter, but I stood up and got my bow in hand. By now, the deer had crested the top of the hill, entered the field and turned left toward my shooting lanes. When the buck was approximately 30 yards out, through a hole in the brush, I saw enough of his rack to know he was a shooter. At that moment, I was concentrating on stopping the deer in the shooting lane. I was so focused on a good shot that I did not take a look at the rack.
The deer was walking slowly along the edge of the woods. I could not have gotten a good look at the rack even if I wanted to due to the thick, brushy cover. I was about to take the shot of my lifetime over my left shoulder through my first shooting lane. If I was not able to take that shot, I would have to do an almost 360-degree turn and aim for the shooting lane over my right shoulder.
The deer walked slowly into the shooting lane while looking for the hot doe. I made a grunt call sound that stopped him in his tracks. (The deer had no idea that I was there, thanks to my scent-free clothing.) I took careful aim and let fly with a 21-yard shot. I knew I’d hit the deer. He immediately whirled and took off in the same direction from which he had come.
Within 15 yards, the deer was down over an embankment and out of sight; however, I had seen my arrow sticking approximately 3 inches out of his side. Had I shot too far back? I thought I might have overcompensated for avoiding a shoulder shot. I listened intently as I heard the deer running down the steep grade. After a brief silence, I heard the awesome sound of crashing.
I sat down, collected my thoughts and gave thanks for the opportunity to be hunting. I stayed put for about an hour. I knew not to walk toward the deer, so I went the opposite direction — down through the field toward my vehicle. Then I took off a layer of clothes and drove around the property to see if any of my hunting buddies had come out of their stands or had been successful. Nobody was to be found.
I used my walkie-talkie to check in with my hunting buddies, Larry and Joe, and see how they had done. When asked if I had seen anything, I responded by saying that I had hit a shooter, but that I did not know how big he was. I then drove to the top of the hill where I had cell phone reception and returned a few phone calls and called my wife, Stacy. By this time, it had been two and a half hours since the shot. I drove back to my original location and walked up to my stand. Enough time had passed to walk toward where I thought the deer fell. I am color blind and have a very difficult time seeing the blood trail. I sure didn’t want to jump this deer if I’d made a bad shot, so I backtracked to my stand and to my vehicle.
A Celebration Yelp
As soon as I drove out of the lane, I found some of my fellow hunters coming out of the woods. After de-bating whether enough time had elapsed to track the deer, we decided to look for a blood trail. Three of my friends — Brian, Gaylord and Pat — spread out with 10 yards between them where the buck entered the woods. I showed them where I had hit the deer, and we walked down the steep embankment.
As soon as we got into the woods, Gaylord said that famous phrase that is music to the shooter’s ears: “I’ve got blood!” I sprinted toward him. It was bright red, and I was again assured I had made a good shot. We walked forward about 15 yards and I found my arrow. The deer obviously had been taking huge leaps down a steep embankment, and therefore, it was difficult to follow the trail.
After walking approximately 125 yards and then losing the trail, I thought: Oh no, I shot a little too far back ... We have to be off the blood trail ... I know I heard the deer fall. I then stopped and looked back up the hill toward where I thought my stand might be. I left my fellow hunters and began to walk toward my stand. I had walked 15 yards uphill and over a little knoll when I saw the rack.
The buck had run approximately 115 yards and was hit in the very back of the lungs and the liver. The shot was indeed a little farther back than I would have liked, but I am not complaining. It was all I could do to contain my excitement. I swear that people in the surrounding counties could hear my celebration victory yelp! I did not take time to count points because I was just astonished at the enormity of the rack. Gaylord was the first behind me to arrive where the trophy buck fell. He started counting, and once he got past 20 it was just too surreal! He still claims that his hearing is permanently damaged from my continuing to shout with excitement in his right ear.
Even though our hunting club had seven trail cameras throughout the large piece of property, none had captured this buck. As a matter of fact, our hunting club had no idea this buck existed with the exception of the fact that the landowners had reported that they had seen a buck with “points going everywhere” and drop tines.
Gaylord shouted to the other guys, “It’s a 25-point buck.” Brian and Pat arrived on the scene and gaped in astonishment. More high-fives and congratulations were given to me for the successful hunt. Some of the guys left to go get the rest of the hunting party, while others stayed and just stared in amazement at the trophy whitetail. Brian and I proceeded back to the cabin to get the four-wheeler.
My hunting buddy, Mark Hufhand, did not believe that I had arrowed a trophy buck. Brian and I had conspired to tell him that it was just a mediocre buck, and Mark had seen us whispering and doubted whether a trophy buck had been shot at all. The rack had 23 scorable points, a 27 1/2-inch outside spread and scored 218 4/8 (B&C).
Patience and persistence had reaped the King of the Hill!
Note: Tim King is available for hunting oriented speaking engagements and also has replicas of his rack for sale. Call (330) 327-6844.
-- Reprinted from the July 2006 issue of Buckmasters Magazine