Just about every big buck story has at least a little element of luck involved.
It wasn’t all dumb luck as some of my buddies have teased, but I guess I had at least a little bit of luck that November evening in Indiana.
I’ve been hunting whitetails and other big game for 25 years and was making homemade treestands and dragging deer out of the woods long before technology and the equipment bonanza arrived on the scene.
I was big into bass fishing in the late ’70s, but when my good friend Joe introduced me to whitetail hunting, my fishing poles took a back seat. I sold my boat and began to hunt with a passion. I got my son Travis involved when he turned 8; he took my knowledge and built upon it. He harvested his first whitetail with a bow when he was just 12 years old. He, too, was hooked. Joe had taught me about scrapes, rubs and patterning deer. I shared this knowledge with my son, and he shared it with his friends —not a bad legacy.
In the summer of 2006, we acquired a lease on some prime whitetail habitat in western Indiana. After some scouting, I recognized it had good potential. The property is mainly crop fields, but it has wide fingers of woods separating the fields. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where to put my climber when I found six trees rubbed raw in a 50-yard row. These trees were 12 to 14 inches in diameter, and I have always been told, “Big trees, big bucks.” I put my stand in the middle of this rub line two weeks before the bow season opener. My son set his stand within 150 yards.
Bow season arrived, but I was obligated for a mule deer hunt in Wyoming for two weeks. Travis and his buddies hunted the farm and saw quite a few deer, including some decent bucks. Neither Travis nor his friends were able to get off a shot. I finally made it to the woods on a beautiful Friday afternoon on Nov. 3, 2006. The weather was mild, and the rut was in full swing. The crops were harvested, providing a good view into the fields. That and a heavy leaf drop afforded good vision in all directions.
The action started at 4:45 p.m. Directly across the field in a different finger of woods, it sounded like World War III had started. The loud clacks of clashing antlers and cracks of breaking saplings rang out for more than 20 minutes. I’ve heard light antler “tickling” before and I’ve even heard a little bit of fighting, but nothing like this. It sounded like a four-wheeler was running over every sapling and all the brush in a 50-yard area. Then I noticed a very large buck right on the trail of a doe, trotting about 70 yards from right to left away from me across the field. Seventy yards behind them was another buck.
Ten minutes later, a huge 11-pointer started right for me from across the field. I began to shake but quickly got control of my nerves and nocked an arrow. The buck came to me from left to right, walking and stopping. He went behind a tree at 10 yards, and that’s when I drew back. My shot was a little bit forward but pierced both lungs. I got to see the buck fall just 70 yards from the point of impact. It was all over, except for the heavy breathing and shaking that lasted another 5 minutes.
I normally wait 30 minutes or so, but since I could see it was down and not moving, I had to get a look at the buck before daylight was gone. Once I got up to it, I was elated beyond words. Upon closer inspection, I noticed it had a torn ear and three holes in its neck where you could stick your small finger right through the flesh. My buck had been the loser of the fight I heard earlier.
Travis soon joined me, and after a few handshakes and back-slapping, he hesitated and said, “You lucky guy! My buddies and I have been hunting this area for four weeks, and you come out here on your first hunt of the year and take a deer like that!” Of course I had to brag a little about my skill and hunting prowess, but in the end I had to admit I was lucky to be there at the right time.
“You know, Travis, I think I’d rather be lucky than good if it turns out like this,” I said.
Alan Baxter of Bloomington, Ind., scored the buck at 164 inches before deductions. It then netted a score of 157 6/8, according to Pope & Young requirements. Alan told us it should register in the top 20 deer in Putnam County and among the top 50 ever taken with a bow in Indiana.
Next year, my goal is to find the bruiser that won the fight with my buck! Read Recent Articles:
• Anatomy of a Scrape: A bare patch of ground can be a valuable piece of deer hunting real estate.
• Needle in a Haystack: Sometimes finding a wounded buck can seem almost impossible.
• Destined To Be a Legend: If Ben Knisley had a doe tag, this story might never have happened.
This article was published in the September 2008 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.