Rack Magazine

The Best and Worst of Times

The Best and Worst of Times

By Ed Waite

No Ohio deer hunter worth his salt stays indoors when the mercury falls in October.

Cheyenne Elliott of Frankfort, Ohio, regards Oct. 21, 2016, as possibly the worst day he’s ever set out to shoot a deer, but he has no regrets.

“I had to get out there,” he said. “The weather was changing in a major way, and I just knew the deer would be moving.”

“Out there” was 60 acres of mostly CRP ground. The switch grass was chest-high, but the landowner kept wide swaths mowed for access and to keep Mother Nature from entirely reclaiming the land. Cheyenne knew at least one really great buck was hanging out in the vicinity.

“Back in November 2014, a neighbor just over the hill got a trail camera photo of a tall-tined 10-pointer. I was tagged out already, but I was inspired by that brute,” he said.

Cheyenne immediately set out some cameras around the farm, hoping to collect his own photos. And he wasn’t disappointed.

“I was stoked. I couldn’t wait for the hunting season to end and for deer to shed their antlers,” he said. “I really wanted to find those sheds!”

The same neighbor found both sides.

“I was really bummed, but also happy to know the deer made it through Ohio’s long hunting seasons,” Cheyenne said.

“Spring and summer rolled around, and I refreshed my minerals and started putting out cameras again. Lots of deer were photographed, but not the 10-pointer.

“About three weeks before archery season came in, I was shooting in my back yard when I suddenly noticed a very large-bodied deer about 300 yards distant. I could tell it was a buck because the sun was glinting off the antlers.

“My binoculars confirmed my suspicion. It was the Big Brow 10, for sure, the first time I had ever seen him in person,” he said.

The sighting led Cheyenne to move some of his cameras.

“After several weeks, I had no photographs of the buck. But I did start getting pics of another great one I passed up the previous season,” he said. “That one became my new heart’s desire.”

On the second hunt of the 2015 season, No. 2 made an appearance at 32 yards, and Cheyenne could not resist a sure thing. It was an incredible animal with great mass and 16 points that tallied in the 170s.

“My best hope was that Big Brow 10 would manage a great game of hide-and-seek through the remainder of the season,” he said.

In February, he found the 5x5’s sheds lying side by side on a fresh blanket of snow.

The deer never appeared on Cheyenne’s trail cameras the following summer, but one August evening as he was returning from work, he saw it. The buck was still a mainframe 10-pointer, but it had added quite a few irregular points.

On Oct. 21, almost a month into bow season, a big rain-driven cold front was forecasted to blow in from the North. Cheyenne knew he had to be in the woods.

“I was a bit late getting off work that Friday afternoon. It was raining, the wind was howling, and the temperature was slowly dropping. I was pumped!

“Since I was running a bit late, I didn’t go to my normal spot,” he continued. “I elected to take the crossbow instead of the compound as I had decided I would sit on the ground.

“About 5 p.m., I went out the back, not too far from the house, and backed a few feet into the tall switchgrass. I sat on my pad.

“Somehow, I managed to stay seated there in the rain. I saw nothing until almost 7:00, when several does emerged from the tall grass far down the field. I wasn’t going to get skunked anyways,” he said.

“I kept an eye on them as they fed along the cut. They were not nervous, but kept looking down the other way from me. Lots of staring,” he continued.

“I kept looking in that direction, too, and I soon saw tall antlers coming through the switchgrass toward the cut lane. I thought Oh, man. Here comes a good one!

“As the deer came closer to the edge, I recognized the brow tines,” Cheyenne continued. “The rain literally made the antlers glow like gold. They were magnificent.”

The animal stepped into the open at 120 yards.

“I knew if I was going to have a chance to take that buck, I was going to have to move, so I grabbed my crossbow, slipped farther into the tall grass, and began to make my way toward the deer.

“I had to be very careful because the does were still between us,” he said. “Essentially, I had to slip past them, taking my time and being extra careful.”

The strong wind was in Cheyenne’s favor, blowing right in his face. But it also blew the rain into his eyes, which didn’t help.

“I think as I got to within 30 or 35 yards, I raised up to take the shot, and the buck suddenly raised its head, swung around and gazed right at me. I dropped back down instantly,” Cheyenne said. “I thought I was busted, but somehow it didn’t see me.

“At that point, I was concerned the deer would turn to the right and go back into the tall grass where I’d have no shot. If it turned left, it would step into the clear. My crossbow was already to my shoulder when the animal turned left.”

After the shot, the buck whirled and went back the way it had come.

“I heard the arrow hit,” Cheyenne said. “The buck disappeared very quickly. It was raining solid, and I knew a blood trail would not last at all.

“I didn’t want to push a wounded deer, even if darkness was quickly closing in on me,” he added. “I talked to Dad and my buddies, and they all agreed backing out was the smartest move.

“It was the longest sleepless night I have ever had,” Cheyenne said.

Several men joined him at dawn, but nobody found the arrow or any blood.

“We all then migrated to the last place I’d seen the deer and basically started a grid search. There were hundreds of acres of CRP and shoulder-tall switchgrass around us,” he said.

The men spread about 10 feet apart and started walking the field. They were at it for hours.

“My stomach was all knotted up,” Cheyenne said.

“After endless searching, my brain finally began sifting clues. I’d heard many times that wounded deer will often head for water. Well, there was a small stream at the far end of the field, so I left the group and headed that way while they continued walking the grid.

“I walked the full length of the stream without seeing anything. As I was heading back to the guys, one of them called me. He told me he had found some faint blood.

“I was probably 300, 400 or 500 yards away when he called. I was still 100 yards from them when I heard someone holler he’d found the animal.

“I ran as fast as I could to reach them.

“There was a lot of hugging and high-fiving. Surprisingly, the coyotes had not found my deer overnight. Something had chewed on the flesh around the wound, but the damage was minimal,” he said.

While field-dressing the whitetail, they found the Rage-tipped bolt lodged in the opposite shoulder. There wouldn’t have been much of a blood trail, even without the rain.

“My house was like a revolving door with all the people dropping by to take a look,” Cheyenne said. “My brother tried to convince me it was a 200-inch buck, but I didn’t believe him. I thought it might score in the high 180s or low 190s.”

He had never touched a 200-incher.

“I can’t say that anymore!” Cheyenne grinned.

Editor’s Note: Ed Waite is a master scorer and regional director for Buckmasters Whitetail Trophy Records. A longtime contributor to Rack magazine, he has also published three volumes of big deer tales, “Wallhangers” I, II and III, which are available at book stores, on Amazon and through WallhangersUSA.com.

This article was published in the Ocotober 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

Read Recent RACK Articles:

Happy Ending: The perfect salve for losing a deer is to get another, even bigger one.

Getting the Drop: Didn’t get a shot at your most-wanted whitetail this season? Wait ’til next year.

Furnace Stoked: You know it’s cold when the thought of field-dressing the first deer you see clouds all other notions.

Copyright 2024 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd