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The Ridge-Runner Buck

CraigBy Dennis Craig

-- It was about 3:45 p.m. on Nov. 14, 2008, when I broke over the top of the alfalfa field to head into the woods. After a few minutes of quiet walking, I stood at my treestand debating if that would be the spot to hunt. I had recently moved my stand to a creek in the corner drop of the land. I had placed it a few yards off the creek, having seen a scrape line and jumping a few deer there earlier in the season.

In the end, I decided not to hunt there. I had shot a doe from my original stand location the week before. As I knelt over the doe to fill out my tag, I heard a huge buck snort just 10 yards behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw the tines of a massive buck. It gave a final loud snort of disapproval and bounced back into the thicket over the ridge.

I was pretty sure the buck I had seen preferred to hang out higher on the ridge, so I let my treestand where it was and set out for the crest of the hill. I found a spot at the top where a tree had fallen, creating a nice ground blind. After putting out some doe scent, though, I decided I didn’t have a good angle to the trail behind me. I gathered up my scent tags and moved to a set of downed trees that allowed me to climb up about 5 feet off the ground. With the scent tags back out, I settled quietly into the natural blind.

The wind settled down right at sunset, and I heard a few squirrel give alarm calls in various directions. Then a flick of movement caught my eye, followed by a subtle limb snap up the hill. When I turned, I saw a massive buck circling around the tops of the very trees I was in. It would soon be right in front of me.

I checked the peep alignment and raised my Mission X3. The buck got to 20 yards, nose in the air as it pulled in the doe-in-heat scent of my tags. I drew the bow and let out a mouth grunt. The buck stopped immediately, so I settled my 20-yard pin behind its shoulder and touched the release. I saw the impact ripple the deer’s fur when the arrow made contact, and it spun and bolted back up the ridge. With my heart pounding in my ears, I listened for the crash we all hope for after a shot, but my heart sank when I heard no such crash.

I waited 20 minutes before I got down and went to look for a blood trail, hoping to beat the approach of nightfall. I followed the buck’s exit path, finding a few drops of blood here and there. My heart sank as I ran out of blood. I decided to search the top ridge where it rolls over to the other side. When I made it to the top of the hill, I saw the outline of a deer on the ground behind the base of a large beach tree. I raced over, and there was that massive buck; the arrow had made a complete pass-through, taking out both lungs. It didn’t bleed much, but the buck couldn’t go without its lungs.

I had never had the opportunity to be close enough to shoot a buck this size in all my years of hunting, so I hope readers understand just how much that buck meant to me.

Dennis Craig
Johnstown, Ohio

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