Jeff Becka and I have been hunting and filming for over a decade, and although Jeff has several trophies on his wall and a few kills on tape, you might say he was in a slump. Three years ago we were lucky enough to be invited to be part of the Archers Choice Posse, and since that time I have enjoyed my share of success.
It seemed that in recent years, every time we were able to take an animal on film, I was always the fortunate one in front of the camera. So after harvesting a nice buck with Eagle Lakes Outfitters in Pike County, Illinois this October, I decided to film Jeff every hunt until he was able to get a kill on tape. It was early in the season and we had done our homework. Our stands were hung and we had several nice bucks on the Stealth Cam trail cameras.
We started hunting hard and had a lot of success seeing deer, but it seemed every time we encountered a buck he was too far away, too small, or we didn’t have enough camera light to film. We tried to hunt smart, always watching the weather and using the wind to our advantage. We used everything in our bag of tricks depending upon the rut phase, but we just needed a little luck. By the time gun season rolled around, the rut was just about over. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and we spent the afternoon preparing for the next morning, which was opening day of Ohio gun season.
Our .50 cal TC Muzzleloader was sighted in and we both felt really confident with shots out to 200 yards. The next morning we got up an hour and a half before daylight and started making breakfast. Our spirits were slightly dampened by the steady rain. Our focus quickly changed when we realized that our buddy Mike, who was always a gracious host, was not feeling well. After an hour-long discussion, we finally convinced him to go to the hospital to get checked out. Mike insisted we go hunting while his wife shuttled him to the doctor.
Although we were all worried about Mike, we knew he was in good hands and decided to head out for the morning hunt. By the time we arrived in the field, the sun had already risen and the rain had subsided. The wind was perfect for our Choice Blind and we started off in that direction. We got about half way to the blind when Jeff stopped to glass the open pasture ahead. “Don’t move,” he whispered, “I can see a doe and two fawns in the field.” After checking out the lay of the land, we figured we could get into muzzleloader range by sneaking behind one of the many wind rows on the farm. Before I knew it, I was leveling the camera tripod and focusing on the mature doe 192 yards away. Our shooting stick was left in the blind from an earlier cross bow hunt, so Jeff was trying to steady his gun on a forked stick that he fashioned only a few minutes before.
“Whenever you’re ready,” I whispered, and a moment later the air was filled with smoke from the TC. When the smoke cleared, it was obvious that the shot was true and before long, we were standing over Jeff’s first deer of the season.
We were all relieved to see Mike back at the house and feeling fine as he congratulated Jeff on such a fine shot. Jeff still had one remaining deer tag so I opted to film him again that afternoon. This time we were able to reach our Choice Blind without being interrupted by deer. After about an hour, Jeff spotted a deer to our left. As he raised his binoculars, I could hear him say, “Nice doe, let’s try to take her.” I quickly found the big doe with the camera and made sure the focus was perfect. “I’m on her,” I replied, “take her.” She was only about 60 yards away but Jeff had to wait for her to get broadside. The doe was very relaxed as she casually fed, which gave Jeff plenty of time to make an ethical shot. A few minutes later the shot presented itself, and I knew what Jeff would say next.
“Here we go,” he whispered, and in my headphones I could hear a faint click as Jeff pulled back the hammer. When the gun cracked, I could see the impact of the bullet in my viewfinder, and I knew she wouldn’t go very far. I felt a real sense of relief and accomplishment as I swung the camera back to Jeff to get his reaction. Before long Jeff handed me an empty gun and said, “You’re up buddy.”
As I reloaded the TC, I was thinking how awesome it would be to harvest three does in the same day. For the next 20 minutes or so, we sat in the blind and talked about our two deer day and made plans to get them to the processor. Then the unexpected happened! Suddenly one of the nice bucks that we had on the trail camera had crested the ridge to our left. I only had a weapon in my hands for 20 minutes and there he was a shooter buck at 70 yards. I was in shock, but I instinctively raised my gun and tried to get a solid rest. I got a better look at him through the Nikon scope and said, “That’s a shooter, I’m going to take him.” “I’m on him,” Jeff replied. This buck was nervous. I know he didn’t see or smell us but he just looked as though he could bolt at any given moment.
I laid the hammer back, settled the cross hairs on his vitals and squeezed the trigger. Once again, my view was obstructed by a lot of smoke and the buck quickly disappeared behind the ridge. Jeff turned the camera back to me and I could tell by his expression he was pleased with the shot. The tracking job was easy and before long, I was admiring my mature whitetail buck. Finally our hard work had paid off. We had taken three deer in one day...and when we least expected it.