Five minutes in Ohio better than 10 days in Kansas
By John Carpenter
Truth be told, I wasn't even going to hunt the evening of Nov. 5, 2008. I had just returned from a 10-day bowhunt in Kansas the previous week. I was facing a lot of work that had accumulated at both my business and home during my absence.
However, the reason I went to Kansas when I did was because I knew I'd be back home in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, in time for the rut and the days leading up to it. Experience has taught me that the week of and after Halloween are the best times to collect a trophy buck. I'd taken four of my last five whitetails on the day itself. My wife and two children know I'm probably not going to be trick-or-treating with them.
While in Kansas, I got up close and personal with a 190ish typical 12-pointer, but I couldn't get a shot through the 12-foot-tall "wild" marijuana plants that grew along the edge of the soybean field where I was hunting. They call it "ditch weed" out there.
Watching a world-class buck at less than 35 yards for 20 minutes will test anyone's patience. But I just couldn't bring myself to take the low-odds, Hail Mary shot.
Leave it to reefer to mess you up!
At least I got to see what I thought would be my "deer of a lifetime," and I had no regrets for allowing it to walk out of my life.
Back in Ohio
On this particular warm Wednesday afternoon, I'd called my hunting partner at 3:00 to tell him I wasn't going. After a very lengthy discussion, I suggested he go ahead without me. I told him that if I had a change of heart, I'd try an area where I could get in a stand quickly.
My buddy would hear none of this. He informed me that he'd pick me up at my place at 3:45. Sure enough, we left my house at 3:50, and I was climbing into my stand 20 minutes later.
Once aloft, I screwed my bow-hanger into the tree, hung my bow, secured my safety harness and started arranging my gear. Before I'd even sat down, I saw a buck with massive antlers come uphill and cross a power line right-of-way 40 to 60 yards behind my tree. I never paid attention to the rack after that first glimpse. It was as if the antlers went completely out of focus.
The buck was coming toward me. It was at 20 yards before I realized I hadn't nocked an arrow or secured my release. Talk about getting caught off guard!
I tucked my shoulders into and toward the tree so the deer wouldn't see me. Meanwhile, the buck veered left and walked past my tree, still at 20 yards.
I quickly put on my release, nocked an arrow, pivoted clockwise on my right foot and dropped my 20-yard pin at 18 inches behind the animal's left shoulder as it stood quartering away at 21 yards.
Never before had I shot my bow with my quiver still attached, but there was no time to remove it.
I saw the arrow sink up to the fletching, quartering toward the buck's right shoulder. After the thwack, the buck ran 10 yards, and then walked another 60 before dropping to the ground in full view - a whopping five minutes after I'd climbed the tree.
I stayed in the stand (with binoculars glued to the deer) for 30 minutes. I wiped "sweat" from my eyes, realizing for the first time that I had not pulled up my facemask. And then I began shaking. That deer seemed to get larger with every passing minute.
When I tracked the buck's path, I never saw a drop of blood. I'd shot it squarely through the heart.
Hunter: John Carpenter
Official Score: 170"
Composite Score: 188 2/8"
-- Reprinted from the July 2009 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.