Rack Magazine

How’s This for a First?

How’s This for a First?

By Ed Waite

After taking a nearly 20-year hiatus from hunting, this Ohio man returns to the woods and brings home more than sausage.

For some reason he can no longer remember, Gary Douglas quit hunting in 1997. Before that, he enjoyed accompanying family members in West Virginia.

“We had a two-story cabin built with hewn logs. It was always filled with family, friends and lots of great stories,” he said.

Gary wound up in western Ohio, where he married in 2005 and began a family. When a friend gave him some venison sausage, the family raved about it to the point the kids encouraged him to get some more.

Gary’s life changed drastically after a work-related accident left him unable to do his job. Thanks to worker’s compensation insurance, he sat around for several months between surgeries.

That’s when his kids began urging him to resume hunting, and their pleas for more sausage struck a chord.

“I had plenty of clothing and other stuff related to hunting, but I did not have any archery equipment to speak of,” Gary said. “My wife works for a company that sells hunting clothing and such, and she often buys gear when it’s on sale. Because of her employee discount, my hunting closet is filling.”

On a whim, Gary bought a second-hand bow from a local pawn shop. He also picked up a dozen cheap arrows at another store.

“I didn’t want to go in debt for gear I might not be able to use,” he said.

Newly outfitted, Gary began practicing in the back yard until he felt capable of consistently grouping arrows in a target.

“I have a neighbor who has a good sized farm. They go to Canada every year to fish for walleyes, and my wife and I take care of their lawn and animals while they are gone. When they learned I was trying to get back into hunting, they gave me permission to hunt their farm.

“I got my license and went out to look around the place. I found a spot near a gully that looked real promising, so I set up a ground blind. The wife would be working and the kids would be in school the next day.

“All was a go until I realized I had only field points on my arrows,” he continued.

"The wife had a crossbow lying around, however, so I borrowed a couple of the broadheads and put them on my arrows. I was set!

“I was hunting for meat, and the landowner had told me of several does that came out to drink at the nearby pond,” he said.

“I was situated in the blind by 6:00 the next morning, ready for whatever,” Gary said. “Then, just as the neighbor had said, two does came out of the tree line about 200 yards distant and started walking toward the pond. There was a light fog hanging low to the ground, and it was a beautiful sight.”

The does made their way toward Gary slowly, stopping frequently to nibble and survey their surroundings. When they were about 50 yards away, a big buck stepped out of the small woodlot, nose down, following their trail.

“At first, I thought it was a big 10-pointer. I wasn’t sure. I knew one of the does was in estrus. It was Nov. 5 after all,” he said.

At that point, Gary thought he might actually have a chance to shoot the buck, so he started getting nervous. Because he was unable to close his left eye completely, a friend had suggested he wear a patch while hunting. His daughter had made him one out of some camo material.

He donned the patch.

When the deer was at 40 yards, Gary attempted to hook his release to the loop. But with one eye covered, his perception was altered. He missed and hooked the string. It took him several precious seconds to undo and re-attach the release. By then, the buck had closed to 30 yards.

“When I finally came to full draw, the buck was at a bad angle, quartering toward me and standing still. I continued to hold until it finally took one small step and revealed its side.

“I heard the smack, but I didn’t see where the arrow actually struck the buck. I just remember aiming for the opposite shoulder, hoping for a heart-lung shot.

“The deer took off running. It didn’t kick; just hunkered down and ran out into the field about 50 yards and stopped. At that point, it started pinwheeling, stood up on its hind legs, and then crashed to the ground on its back. I got my first really good look at the rack while the animal was rearing,” he said.

After the buck fell, it spent a few seconds looking around before jumping up and tearing off into the woods at the far side of the field.

“I panicked when the deer entered the woods at full speed. There was a major roadway on the other side of the narrow woods, and I expected to hear a semi’s horn blast just before the collision.

“But I never heard it,” he added.

The way the deer ran off caused Gary to second-guess his shot, so instead of taking up the track, he walked over to look for the arrow and found it about 10 yards past where the buck had stood. It was covered with blood.

When Gary went home, nobody was there. He sat down to calm his nerves while giving the buck time to expire. Later that afternoon, he set out alone to trail the animal.

He had left the arrow stuck in the ground where the deer had been standing. After several minutes, he found some blood and began tracking.

Gary eventually came upon a place where the buck had bedded down inside the tree line. A fair amount of blood was in the depression.

“My daughter called just then, and I told her I had shot a really nice 10-pointer and was searching for it. Then the phone went dead,” Gary said. “I kept going until I found the buck about 5 yards inside the darkening woods.

“I was squatting down next to the buck and had just started counting points when my daughter called back. She asked, ‘Dad, are you alright?’ I told her it wasn’t a 10-pointer; it was an 18-pointer. Then the darn phone went dead again mid-sentence,” he continued.

The buck had fallen between two trees. It was so big that Gary couldn’t pull it forward or backward. The trees were so close together, they were holding the antlers.

“I finally had to turn the deer over on its back before I could pull it free of the trees,” Gary explained.

“Fortunately, it wasn’t very far to the field’s edge. But I still had a half-mile drag.

“I was just getting set for the task when I saw a vehicle coming up to the edge of the field. I had no idea who it was.

“It turned out to be my daughter,” he said.

The two of them dragged the buck to the car, but they were unable to hoist it into the back. Gary pulled some nylon baling twine out of his pack and wrapped it around the base of the antlers. From there, they simply dragged the deer back to the house.

Afterward, there was no hair on the side that was riding the ground.

Although that day was Gary’s 10th wedding anniversary, he and his wife did not go out for dinner to celebrate.

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

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