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Too Close, But Comfortable

Photo Courtesy of Ed Kruzan

Think you have to climb a tree to stick a monster? Think again.

By Lisa L. Price
Photos Courtesy of Ed Kruzan

Of all the whitetail's keen senses, the hardest to fool is its nose. Most archers get off the ground to increase their odds of success, but not Canton, Ill., bowhunter Ed Kruzan.

"I hunted out of stands for years, but once I started hunting from the ground I got hooked on it," he said. "You have to get good at picking out an animal before it sees you, and you have to really use the wind direction in your favor."

Every year, Ed added to his still-hunting skills through trial and error. He hunted during snow and rainstorms, and just after, when the wetness of the  woods kept his movement quiet. He sought out places to hide and wait, scouting trails and picking ambush points.

He and his girlfriend, Yvonne Caudle, had planned an early October weekend fishing and camping trip. They knew they could also hunt in the area, and almost as an afterthought, both took their archery equipment and hunting clothes along.

After a pleasant Saturday morning catching crappie and white bass, the two headed to the woods early that afternoon. There were a few rubs, and both found spots on the ground suitable for whitetail ambushes.

Yvonne set up on a field, and Ed found a hiding place in some big trees along one of the deer approach trails to the field. About an hour before dark, a big doe was a sign that he'd made a good choice.

"She was probably the biggest doe I've ever seen. I'm guessing she would have field-dressed around 180 pounds ... just a huge animal," he said. "She passed me at 7 yards."

This doe and others were a preview of the coming attraction, however. Ed could see that other does had entered the field and were feeding, working their way toward Yvonne's spot. He kept an eye in that direction, hoping to see a group of deer running from the field, meaning that she had shot something.

Photo Courtesy of Ed KruzanAbout four or five minutes after he'd seen the big doe, he spotted something else coming along the trail: a buck.

"All I could see was part of a main beam and part of a huge body," he said. "I couldn't see the whole rack, just the left side of the main beam. But I knew it was a big buck."

Soon the deer was only 10 yards away.

"I was leaning against a big tree, taking care not to get silhouetted, and could still see only part of that beam," he said. "I started to draw, even though I thought it would see me."

Ed got to full draw and found himself lost in a moment that is the stuff of dreams: full draw on a massive buck, on the ground with it just 7 yards away.

"I remember I could see its eyelashes," he said. "It was slightly quartering to me, and I shot, getting a pass-through.

"When it turned and ran, that's when I could see how wide it was," he said. "I thought, 'Oh my God. It's HUGE!' I could hear it run, then slow down to a walk, and then I couldn't hear it anymore.

"I was excited, but there was so much to think about at the time: how to get away with drawing and when to draw," he added. "Buck fever didn't hit me until after the shot."

Ed waited until dark to get Yvonne. She knew he'd shot something, since the shot had startled the does from the field. She couldn't wait to hear about it, but she didn't expect what she saw and heard when Ed came to get her.

Subscribe Today!"When I got to her, I just collapsed," he recalled. "I told her, 'I just shot the biggest deer I've ever seen.'"

Ed called some friends to help find the big buck.

"That was the longest hour of my life, waiting for them to get there," he said. "I couldn't find my arrow, and the blood trail wasn't very good. At first, I didn't know what to think."

Yvonne videotaped the tracking job, although neither of them needs to watch the recording to remember the moment they found the buck.

"As we tracked it, we could see some treestands back in the woods and realized the buck had avoided them," Ed said. "And there hadn't been any sign that a big buck was in the area. I had just been keeping tabs on all the does, not expecting to see anything like that.

"Walking up on that thing, I was out of it for a little while. I was so happy," he said. "I was definitely in the right place at the right time."

Hunter: Ed Kruzan
Official Score: 172 3/8"
Composite Score: 194 4/8"
Compound Bow

-- Reprinted from the October 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.