Losing a 150-inch 5x5 almost ended this Ohio man’s love affair with hunting.
Sooner or later, anyone who hunts is going to lose an animal and, subsequently, his self-confidence. The frustration can be as crippling as an errant shot, even if the shot wasn’t.
Jon Dodridge of Minford, Ohio, knows the pain of not recovering a deer. His first instinct was to hang up his spurs. If he hadn’t returned to the woods several days later and retrieved a trail camera photograph of a giant, he might have remained off the saddle for the rest of the 2014 season.
Before his season indeed ended, he got a sour taste of déjà vu.
Last year was his first to hunt a newly acquired 40 acres in Scioto County. Three days before the opener, he set out some trail cameras and immediately began collecting photos of a trio of bucks traveling together: a spike, a 4x4 and a 150-inch 10-pointer.
From the moment Jon saw the big one, he wanted it.
“I work pretty much seven days a week, and I leave for work very early. So mornings were out,” he said. “The very first evening I was able to hunt, I was sitting in a stand overlooking the camera (that had photographed the 10-pointer). About 6:00, I saw the spike coming out of the brush line about 50 yards from me. It was soon followed by the small 4x4. I just knew the big 10 would be next in line.
“Sure enough, it came out in the same place,” Jon continued. “All three of them passed by at 20 yards.”
As soon as the arrow struck the big 5x5, Jon feared he’d hit the deer too high. He sat for between 30 and 45 minutes before getting down from his stand.
The little blood that was visible disappeared after 40 yards, which is when Jon called a couple of buddies and asked for help. The guys searched for another hour, but found no sign.
“I was very frustrated,” Jon said, “Ready to give up hunting.”
Jon didn’t return to that area until about a week later to check his camera. The number of fresh scrapes near his stand was astounding, but he was even more blown away by the images in the camera.
Two bucks had passed in front of the lens: a very nice 9-pointer and a behemoth that gave credence to rumors he’d heard about a giant with a rack whose main beams almost touched at the ends.
“The camera showed the big one had been to that spot two consecutive days, just before dark,” Jon said. “I was going to be there for evening number three.”
His wait in the stand wasn’t long.
“When I saw movement, I concentrated on that spot until I finally made out the 9-pointer coming into the opening,” Jon said. “That deer was lucky, as there was no way I would be burning my tag on it.”
The 9-pointer eventually moved out of sight just about the time another form emerged from the same place. There was no doubt which one it was. It stopped at about 25 yards and began making a scrape.
“Several times I thought it was looking straight at me, but it didn’t spook,” Jon said of the distinctive whitetail. “Finally satisfied with its handiwork, it started walking straight toward me. At the pace and direction it was moving, it would be past me in no time.
The buck gave me a 7-yard shot, but I had to grunt really loudly to stop it,” he continued.
As soon as the crossbow bolt struck the deer, it ran across the field and into the woods on the other side.
“I gave it a half-hour before I got down to look for blood,” Jon said. “I found my arrow, which didn’t have that much blood on it, and tracked for maybe 80 to 90 yards before I lost the trail. By then, I was really upset with myself. I thought I’d wounded another buck.”
Jon called his uncle, Randy Dodridge, and asked for help. An hour later, the two of them began anew at the site of the shot. While following an old logging road, they eventually came across seven or eight spots with puddles of dark red blood, which was obviously not from the animal’s lungs.
Rather than forge ahead, they decided to return to the house to wait for daylight.
“After my uncle left, I suffered depression,” Jon said. “I wound up calling my buddy Scott Sperry, who told me it was going to rain later that night. He felt we should make another effort to locate the deer.
“When he got to my house about midnight, it was already pouring rain,” Jon added. “After spending the next two hours in the downpour, we gave up.”
After Jon called in to take the day off from work the next morning, he and his cousin, Matthew Robbins, went to look for the deer. As soon as they parked, they saw several buzzards circling the field, which lifted Jon’s spirits.
“The weeds and grass were very tall,” he said. “We knew it would take some serious luck to just stumble upon it, if it was even in the field.”
The pair soon ended up at the logging road where all the blood had been before the rain obliterated it. Jon began walking about 30 or 40 yards off to the high side, while Matt kept to the road.
“Before I ever got all the way up on top, my cousin suddenly hollered at me, ‘Is this your deer?’
“I responded, ‘I don’t know. I can’t see it. Does it have at least 16 points?’”
Matt started counting aloud as Jon took off running to the fallen buck.
“I was so excited that I was screaming and hollering all the way down to where Matt stood,” Jon said.
Matt stopped counting at 21.
“I grabbed him and gave him a hug and a high-five, then got down and counted the points over and over again,” Jon said.
Jon’s arrow had cleaved the buck’s liver. The animal had traveled in a 300-plus-yard semicircle, never leaving the 40 acres.
“And the 10-pointer I hit early in the season? A few days after I took this buck, it showed up on my trail cameras once again. My wife, Natasha, is now hunting it, and I have no doubt she will succeed where I failed,” Jon added.
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