posted on September 15, 2013 14:42
By Mike Handley
After three years of playing cat and mouse with a warhorse of a buck, 'twas Gary Hornbeck who wore the Cheshire grin in 2012.
Had it not been for an old wire fence, however, the normally surefooted whitetail might have won the day. At the very least, the deer hunter from Piqua, Ohio, would not have had a clear shot at the animal's heart.
Gary, who drives a school bus, first saw the fabulous deer in 2010 from behind the wheel. It was on his neighbor's land. His wife also saw it that year before it became entirely nocturnal.
He saw it next in 2011. While walking out to repair a pasture fence, he walked right past the buck and a doe.
"All I had was a claw hammer," Gary said. "I actually wondered if I could throw the hammer and maybe hit the deer in the head."
That was the only time he encountered the giant whitetail while the sun was up that season, though he saw it thrice in the glow of headlights while driving his bus.
Gary and his wife enjoyed watching the deer feeding in an alfalfa field many times during the late summer and early fall of 2012. He got his first real chance at it during the early hunting season.
"I was carrying my unloaded crossbow while walking across the pasture to my stand," he said. "Suddenly, the buck stood about 20 yards from me. The weeds were tall enough that all I could see were its neck and head, but those were enough to get my adrenaline flowing.
"It stared at me for close to five minutes," he said, adding that he couldn't move until the animal finally turned to leave. By that time, the only shot he had was at a 45-yard, quartering-away target, which he opted not to take.
The last time hunter met hunted, there was no time to ponder worst-case scenarios.
Again, Gary was en route to his stand. About 35 feet from where he crosses the fence, he heard a branch snap and looked over to see the familiar buck.
"When I raised my gun, it whirled toward the woods," he said. "The maneuver caused it to trip over an old woven fence, and I was able to shoot before it regained its feet."
The buck had been standing in the exact same spot where Gary contemplated throwing his hammer at it the previous year.
The Shelby County bruiser is No. 17 among similarly configured Ohio whitetails and the largest Semi-irregular felled by a slug since 2007. Its BTR composite score is 193 5/8 inches.
Ed Waite's story about this beast will appear in RACK magazine in July 2014.