Buckmasters Magazine

The Bonus Point Buck

The Bonus Point Buck

By Eric Sponable

Indiana bowhunter has the cure for this 8-pointer’s headache.

I decided to take vacation for the last week of Indiana’s regular archery season. I had other obligations, including the care of my 6-month-old son Drake, but I was dreaming of five quality days in the woods Nov. 7 through 11.

I started by hunting a piece of public land I had never before tried. The Tri-County Recreation Area in Kosciusko County is a very large tract in northern Indiana. I had checked Google Earth and picked a spot that look like a natural funnel.

I hunted Tuesday morning with no luck. I hadn’t seen a deer by 1:30, so I figured it was time to get down and head home.

When I checked out, I noticed on the log book that eight small game hunters had been in the area the previous day. I decided the area was worth another try in the future. It just looked too good to ignore. A week is a short time, however, and I didn’t want to risk another unproductive day, so I decided to find greener pastures.

I was able to get back in a stand on Wednesday and saw only a few does. I was on private land, but there was a lot of activity by other hunters who also had permission to hunt the property.

I don’t know what they hoped to accomplish, but stomping in 20 minutes after first light can’t be the best way to bag a whitetail.

I was unable to hunt on Thursday, which meant I had just one more day to take a buck with a bow before the gun season opened on Saturday.

I didn’t want to risk going back to either Tri-County or the private land, so I decided to mix things up and try an area off the Rousch Reservoir in Huntington County.

I got out early and remember thinking 11/11/11 had to be a lucky day. The first part of my trek was easy, as I simply had to walk along the edges of small corn plots and open meadows. As I entered the woods, it became much more difficult. Floods had changed the area since I’d hunted there a few years earlier.

I planned to take my climber about 30 yards into the treeline off the edge of a large meadow. The meadow lay to the east. To the north and west were small ravines that ran down to the edge of the water. The flooding had taken everything from small branches to large logs and deposited them in the ravines like a giant tossing pick-up sticks. There were areas of dense underbrush combined with game trails that worked in, around, under and over the crazy, log-jammed driftwood. It looked like a perfect place to bag a big buck.

After dropping one of the main pins to the climbing stand and fumbling for it in the dark, I was finally able to climb my chosen tree and get situated. It was a clear day, with temperatures in the 30s and very little wind.

As the sun came up, I made a short series of grunt calls, followed 5 minutes later by a single doe-in-heat bleat.

Not long afterward, I was looking toward the lake and slowly scanning back up the ravines when I caught movement out of the corner of my right eye. A shooter buck was walking along the meadow’s edge. I slowly stood and began to contemplate my best options for taking a shot.

The buck was chest deep in the meadow grass, exposing only his top half. I had him ranged at 42 yards when he dropped his head and began to feed. I practice at 60 yards, so I was confident in the shot.

After I hit my release, I watched the arrow fly perfectly toward the buck and disappear just below the top of the grass at the target.

I heard a loud smack as the arrow hit, and the buck kicked before bolting around my stand and back toward the lake. An hour later, after a short tracking job, I found my prize near the lake shore.

The Bonus Point BuckAfter field-dressing the buck, I called some friends to help me haul him out of the woods. One of them noticed an area below the buck’s right eye where it looked like a bone might have been broken some time in the past. We speculated it might have occurred during a fight with another buck.

I had already decided to do a skull mount, so I was curious to see what kind of damage lay below the skin. The fur looked fine, but the bump clearly indicated something had happened in the past.

After skinning out the head a couple of weeks later, I was surprised to find the small bump was actually a broadhead protruding from the inside of the skull.

The animal had been shot at least a year previously, and there was an expandable broadhead lodged firmly in the buck’s sinus cavity. The tip of the head exited just below the deer’s right eye socket, and the carbon shaft was sheared off just outside the left nasal cavity.

How this deer survived the injury and continued to thrive is beyond me, but I now have a great trophy and an interesting story to tell.

There is no way to determine if the lodged broadhead was the result of a shot gone bad or if the shooter thought he could make a killing hit by aiming for the head.

The whole experience emphasizes every hunter’s obligation to take shots within our abilities. We also need to know where — and where not — to aim with each weapon we take afield.

White-tailed deer are incredibly tough and can survive grievous wounds, but that doesn’t mean we should take questionable shots. To have an animal walking around suffering from this type of wound is unacceptable.

I’m glad I was able to make an ethical shot on this animal and that he is now part of my hunting history.

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This article was published in the August 2012 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

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