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The Horse of Muskingum County

The Horse of Muskingum County

Son recalls father's Ohio crossbow giant

By Mike Wilson (as told by Ken Hermen)

"It was getting late and Dad just plopped down on his bucket to wait."

That's the way Bob Hermen's son, Ken, began describing his father's hunt for the true monster buck that people had seen prowling a little corner of Ohio for at least three deer seasons.

Whitetail hunters in Muskingum County take their pursuit seriously. The deer there grow as fat as cattle by grazing on corn and soybeans, and thriving in nearly impassable areas. It's simply a dynamite region.

Some of those bucks are the sort that every hunter at the check station stops to peek at. Bob Hermen always hoped to put a tag on one of those before his hunting days became history.

Bob was typical of a many older hunters. He started hunting in his native Pennsylvania during the early fifties with a .30-30 Model 94 Winchester. He kept at it when he moved to Ohio in 1960.

"Dad started us off young with hunting and fishing. We followed him like a shadow when he went deer hunting," his son, Ken, explained. "He took care of our family, working in the oil fields and driving a truck for 25 years before retiring in 1993.

"Retirement gave Dad more time to hunt and fish, but the year before the big buck, I think he was getting tired.

"I remember him limping some after deer drives. He said he didn't know how many more seasons he could keep up, but he wasn't quitting.

"That year, folks had been seeing a huge buck traveling back and forth between a block of woods and some brushy fields near home, but no hunters saw it during the rest the season. There was some talk that a poacher might have shot it. 

"All that next summer, hunters and non-hunters alike were talking about the big buck. Now and then, people would catch a glimpse of a huge buck loafing around the fields in the late summer shade, and one hunter even got it on video. It was the horse of the county.

"There was one particular place Dad liked to hunt not far from the house. It was by an oil tank near a clearing separating a briar patch and a block of woods.

"He'd set up a stand near the edge of the field, but was sometimes too tired to climb the stand. Dad set a five-gallon bucket next to the oil tank, figuring it the next best spot.

"The boys and I kidded him about sitting on that bucket, but looking back now, it wasn't such a bad idea!

"With his back against the tank, Dad was mostly hidden from any deer wanting to cross the patch. The brush was so thick that it would have to step out into the open before it could see anything.

"The evening of Nov. 8, 2003, Dad was too tired to climb into the treestand, so he decided to sit on the old bucket with his crossbow and wait for dark. The rut was starting to kick in, and you just never know.

Hunting Stories Wanted!"Squatted on that plastic bucket, with the daylight just about gone, Dad spotted a set of horns coming through the briars - a big, BIG set of horns.

"He brought the crossbow up just as the buck took a step to cross the path. The shot was a little long for him, about 35 yards, but the big whitetail stopped just for a second, which was long enough.

"When Dad squeezed the trigger the buck whirled and the bolt hit it quartering away.

"Dad didn't go look for the buck, since it was getting dark. He returned home to wait for morning so I could help him search in the thick briars.

"My father must have gotten up before dawn, because by the time I arrived at the oil patch, Dad and his friend Bob Eveland had already found the buck. By all accounts, it was the one everyone had been seeing for three seasons!

"I could see the crossbow bolt had done its job, hitting just in front of the flank and coming to rest against the opposite front shoulder.

"Bob Eveland said when they found it, he and my dad just stood there staring for a few minutes.

"He'd asked Dad if he realized he'd gotten the buck everyone had been trying so hard to get.

"We always kidded Dad about never letting many bucks walk by, and we asked if he'd have shot a six-pointer if it had come out first. Dad said he would, but he was sure glad it was this one.

"News travels fast in Muskingum County, and there were already two dozen people waiting for us at the check station when we showed up with the 21-pointer. It only had two teeth left in its head, so it had to be an old buck.

"Had he been sitting in the treestand, he probably wouldn't have been able to get a shot off in the thick stuff.

"That old bucket really paid off for Dad!"

Author's Note: Sadly, Bob Hermen passed away the following February before receiving two official plaques from the Buckeye Big Buck Club. They are displayed in his old hunting room next to the mount of the buck he'd hunted 60 years to bring home.

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