By Paul Daman
-- It was a cold, crisp November morning in Aberdeen, Ohio, the peak of the rut during the archery season. I had been on the stand for what seemed like all day, but it was only 10:30a.m. A cold front had moved out heavy rain the night before, and if the clouds opened up again, there would be snow.
I was in a stand 20 feet up a tree watching a heavily traveled trail just 12 yards from me. Across my lap was a Horton Legend SL crossbow.
I’d already passed on two 110- to 120-class bucks that had been following closely behind does. Normally, I would have taken one of them and been happy. But this was the first morning’s hunt on a property I was hunting by invitation. A friend told me a 200-plus-class buck had been taken in these woods, and he’d seen huge deer there the previous season. So the only shots I was taking was with my digital camera.
I still had the camera in hand when I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. A coyote on a dead run burst into view, chasing a doe. The whole hillside came alive as whitetails I hadn’t seen began running to elude the coyote. It was one of the funniest things I’d seen happen in the woods, but bittersweet because the coyote had run off all of my deer.
As I sat back to reflect on what had just happened, a chill ran up my spine, reminding me how cold it was. Everyone else was probably back at camp getting warm and eating breakfast.
Suddenly, I saw movement again, this time at the top of the hill I was facing. It was a majestic whitetail with his neck bulging and a white crown of bone. It was the largest buck I had ever seen. I thought I would fall out of my tree with my heart pounding out of my chest!
Problem was, he was at least 100 yards out of range with me holding a crossbow. I eased my right hand into my jacket pocket and pulled out my Primos Lil Can grunt call. I flipped it in rapid succession four or five times. The buck lowered his head in my general direction and tore off down the hillside.
The incline was so slick from the rain the night before, the buck began to slide uncontrollably, stiffening his front legs and squatting on his rear to slow himself down. When he finally came to a stop, he took a few steps and began rubbing a bush in front of him.
Within seconds, he was on the move again, but this time heading in the wrong direction, away from the trail I was overlooking. My heart sank as I thought to myself, it’s over. It’s all over. The biggest buck I’ve ever seen walked within 50 yards of me and I’ll never see him again.
Then I remembered the can! I pulled it out of my jacket again and turned it over two or three times. This time, the huge buck didn’t slow down or come to a stop to look in my direction; he just made an immediate U-turn and came back towards me.
My heart raced uncontrollably as the buck closed the gap, his nose to the ground scenting the does that had been there just minutes earlier. I positioned my crossbow into the natural shooting lane, and pushed the safety off. But I hadn’t planned on having to shoot a deer that was nearly running.
I would have to stop him, and stop him quickly to keep him in my narrow lane.
I made a loud bleat with my mouth. Suddenly he stopped and looked directly at me. At 12 yards, the buck’s body covered every inch of the scope. I squeezed the trigger. With a thud, my arrow was gone!
But the buck just stood there, motionless.
My mind was racing. Did I miss? Then I saw a small stream of blood coming from behind the shoulder. The buck lay down about 35 yards from me.
Two smaller bucks came past my stand and joined the large buck in what seemed like a conversation. The smaller bucks then walked off as if to say, "See ya later."
Then the unthinkable happened: The buck of my dreams got up to join his buddies. I loaded another bolt, held the crosshairs on his left shoulder and squeezed. The buck took two steps and fell.
The whitetail of a lifetime -- my buck of a lifetime -- field-dressed 210 pounds. He gross-scored 166 2/8 inches after drying time, and 160 1/8 inches net. He was 6 ½ years old.