Local legend’s demise sends ripples from Ohio to Maine.
Rumors of a gargantuan buck roaming public land began circulating in Ross County, Ohio, in 2013. Next came trail camera photographs of the deer that earned half a dozen nicknames.
Marcus Peecher of Frankfort was among many bowhunters who dreamed of arrowing the deer, but he was less optimistic than most.
“In 2014, I learned the Big Guy summered on private land about 3 miles from my family’s farm,” he said. “There were two other properties between ours and the state land. I never really expected to see the deer this far removed.”
To further dim Marcus’ hope of seeing the local legend, the two parcels separating his farm from the state-owned acreage were heavily hunted.
“Between the buck’s summer bedding area and my farm was a thicket of about 100 acres, and three consummate bowhunters, all known to consistently harvest big mature bucks, had permission to hunt it,” he said.
All total, at least nine people were hunting the buck, including another neighbor with 35 years of bowhunting experience and numerous trophy whitetails under his belt.
The farm Marcus was hunting was established in 1776 and has been in his family since 1937.
“It was after the 2014 rut when the light came on and I realized this buck was really something special,” he said. “After the season ended, I never heard of any close encounters between man and beast.”
The buck summered in the same area, 31/2 miles away, in 2015. That fall, the traffic along the state lands’ back road was unbelievable.
Marcus grew anxious, too.
“I’d never owned a trail camera, but curiosity got the better of me,” he said. “I wanted to know if the buck ever ventured into my back yard because we were seeing huge tracks. Was it the big one or some other deer?
“By December’s gun season, we had a couple of trail cameras in place,” he continued. “It took about a month of checking the SD cards every five days before we hit the jackpot. On Dec. 31, the deer passed a camera at 2 a.m.”
That one photo bewitched Marcus. He became obsessed with the animal, though he never saw it.
He got another trail cam photo of the deer in late January, after it had shed its magnificent antlers.
“On a pleasant day in February, I was shed hunting the state land and also my land. On my way out, I noticed a large group of buzzards about 60 yards away in a wheat field, so I went to investigate,” Marcus said.
“The birds had been feasting on the carcass of a very large deer. When I got close, I noticed large round circles on its head where it had shed its antlers. I used my cell phone to take several pictures that I later compared to my trail cam photos.
“I was sure it was the giant because of a notch in one ear,” he said.
In August, however, rumors of new sightings began circulating.
“Once I heard the buck was alive, I renewed my efforts to pinpoint where it might hide on my farm. Over time, I determined it and others were using an area I called On Top, so I moved one of my stands closer to that special place. I set up a camera about 25 yards from my setup.
“Right away, I started getting pics of several nice bucks, but not the big one. Then I heard it had left its summer digs and hadn’t been seen in more than two weeks.
“That was my cue,” Marcus continued.
Marcus first visited the stand during the week of Oct. 24. He hunted only evenings because of his work schedule.
“On Nov. 1, it was hot, like in the 70s, with 10- to 15-mph winds in my favor. My mind started drifting toward the treestand On Top, and I left work early,” he said.
“I keep Dead Down Wind field wipes in my truck, so I took off my shirt and hat and quickly took a military bath during the 20-minute drive to the farm. I keep all my gear in the barn.
“As soon as I arrived, I stripped down the rest of the way and sprayed myself with scent eliminator. I pulled on pants and boots, threw everything in the side-by-side and headed for the base of the hill.
“I arrived at the stand at 5:40, sweating badly. The hot wind was pounding my face. I was getting texts from friends asking if I was hunting. Well ... Yes!” he said.
Settled in for the evening, Marcus enjoyed the view from his stand, but it didn’t include any deer until about 6:15. That’s when he heard something stirring behind him and to his left. When he glanced over his shoulder, he saw what appeared to be a young buck in some honeysuckle.
When he lifted his binoculars to get a better look, he was shocked.
“What I’d thought were the antlers of a young buck turned out to be only the last points and tips of main beams. My knees almost buckled while I reached frantically for my bow.
“The buck had not taken the path I’d created. Instead, it looked like it was going to cross directly behind me,” Marcus said.
The deer raised its head, grunted twice, and then began trotting.
“Though my bow felt like 100 pounds, I managed to draw as the deer was approaching the only spot where I might get a chance, a low spot in the brush I had previously ranged at 17 yards. All I had to do was stop it for a few seconds.
“I have never drawn on such a buck, and I was trying to decide if it was at 20 or 30 yards. My bow was moving slightly up and down, probably 10 times in three seconds. Finally, I just split the pins and released.
“Afterward, the buck hunkered down a little and bolted into the thicket from which it had emerged.
“Although I was sure my Rage broadhead had done its job, I knew I needed to give the deer time. I decided to stay in the tree until dark, even if I needed light to find blood.
“I managed to stay aloft for less than 20 minutes,” he added.
Marcus went directly to the spot and found blood. Five yards beyond the point of impact, the trail became even more obvious. His buck was lying 30 yards farther.
“I hit my knees then and there and started calling friends,” he said.
“Since then, I have had calls from people all across the country who claimed to have been hunting the same buck,” he added. “One guy from Maine even called! Who knew?”
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 October 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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