By Darin Fager
-- About a month before I found myself with a free afternoon to bowhunt, I spotted a massive 8-pointer while driving past my father’s ground on the way to pick up some flu medicine for my 3-year-old. The buck was about 150 yards off the road.
I pulled over to get a better look at it through my binoculars, but it was too dark to actually count points. Even so, I saw enough to know he was worth hunting.
The big whitetail was in an area that would be almost impossible to hunt with a prevailing west wind. The only way around it might be to erect a ground blind, which normally isn’t my cup of tea.
I didn’t quite know what to do, and I was chasing other deer. So I really didn’t do anything at all.
About a week later, my friend Praveen saw the buck at dusk in another area. The news was encouraging, but I still wasn’t sure where he would be each night.
Another week later, my friend Matt saw him again in the same spot. And it was seen there twice more on Oct. 5 and 6.
On the night of Oct. 6, we went out to dinner and started plotting. The next day, a Saturday, I met Matt at the field and we went to where he and Praveen had been seeing the deer. We found half a dozen scrapes within 80 yards that were at least 36 inches in diameter.
The smell of buck urine was unmistakable.
To add to my excitement, the wind that day was perfect for hunting there. As Matt and I were leaving, I started thinking about how nice it would be to find a babysitter and go hunting that evening. I had never had a buck patterned like that, with so much fresh sign and a perfect wind.
Well, everything fell into place. In no time at all, I was taking my scent-free shower and rushing out the door. After I got all the way to the hunting property and got all my gear out, I realized I didn’t have my arrows. I was making pretty good time to that point, but I lost precious minutes when I had to go back for them.
While on my way home, I thought to myself that this might be a good omen because things like this have happened to me before … Just when I think everything is starting off completely wrong, good things happen.
After about 30 minutes, I was back at the field and walking to the tree I had picked for my climber. It was about 70 degrees, and I had some trimming to do.
As I got situated, I realized that the wind had picked up, though it was blowing steadily from the same direction. At 4:43 p.m., half an hour before legal shooting time would expire, I got a text from Matt, asking how things were going.
At that very minute, I looked down the tree line and saw this buck walking straight toward me at 40 yards. He was in the woods instead of the bean field, probably because it was so breezy. He walked to within 30 yards and stopped.
He stood there for about two minutes, looking my way, and then he bedded down. I immediately got a lump in my throat. This was definitely not a good thing: bedded down, facing me, 25 more minutes to shoot, and windy. I sat ready to draw for about 10 minutes, wondering what was going to happen.
I finally decided to draw slowly, and then grunt as softly as possible, hoping he would stand up and present a better shot. I also was concerned about possibly spooking him. Only 30 yards separated us!
Before I could execute my plan, the buck heard a noise or something behind him and looked away from me. That was my chance to draw and shoot. Even though he was bedded down, I believed I could make the shot and sent the arrow flying.
I thought it hit its mark, but I was not sure. (I actually hit about 6 inches higher than where I was aiming). He immediately jumped up and ran downhill toward me about 15 yards, broadside. He looked like he had just had the sense knocked out of him.
He stood with his legs spread apart, looking dumbfounded. I nocked another arrow and put it through both lungs.
He took two more steps behind a bush, and I nocked again and sent yet a third broadhead in his direction.
He expired about 16 yards below me.
I was terribly excited and couldn’t wait to get down and see him up close. He was a symmetrical 4x4 with a split brow that scored approximately 140 inches by Buckmasters and 149 4/8 inches Pope and Young. I was on cloud nine!
This is the first time a hunt like this came together for me on the first try. But, in hindsight, there were many things that fell into place that seem very clear now.
The key factors were locating a mature buck, patterning him, finding fresh scrapes, timing (two weeks before the rut), a helpful wind and one mighty dose of luck.