Heading into Ohio’s 2009-2010 bow season, my two main hunting/filming partners (my wife Danielle and good friend James “Jimmy” Fouts) and I had high expectations. The previous fall, October 30, 2009 to be exact, Danielle and I were blessed with a beautiful baby girl, Aleah Nicole. While I wouldn’t change a thing about that whole experience, the timing obviously affected the amount of time we spent in the woods last year, particularly the last week of October and much of November; prime time in the Midwest!
We had a great start to the season. Jimmy took a doe on opening morning of bow season with his Hoyt AlphaMax, his first deer with a compound bow. The next evening, Danielle had an encounter with a beautiful Pope and Young 9-point.
Skip ahead to November 18, 2009. We had some encounters with a few decent bucks and were getting a few daytime pics, but overall, the action had been disappointingly slow, especially for the rut. Easterly winds for 10 straight days as a result of Hurricane Ida hadn’t helped matters. It was now the last hour of the last day of my 2-½ week vacation. I was the hunter and Jimmy was behind the camera. As I sat there I contemplated how our season had gone so far. I glanced up just as a heavy-beamed 140 class 8-point sauntered into the plot. As if on a string, he marched right over to us and began feeding, BROADSIDE, at 35 yards. I wrestled with the decision to shoot him and ultimately decided to pass.
As we reviewed the footage later that night, I realized I had underestimated his age, and while not necessarily a high-scoring buck, he was mature for our area at 4-½ years old. I felt horrible; Jimmy and I had spent countless hours in the stand together and with my vacation done and the rut all but over, I knew I may have just blown our last chance. I felt as though I had not only let Jimmy and Danielle down, but Archer’s Choice as well. I realize there is so much more to all of this than killing a good buck on film, but we really wanted to contribute to the overall goals of the Archer’s Choice team. And while I cringe at the term “good video buck”, believing it shows disrespect for these great animals we hunt, this was a great buck that met our management criteria as well.
For the next few weeks, aside from Danielle having close calls with a couple different bucks, things were pretty slow. But on December 28, we received 5” of snow. Over the next couple weeks, the temps stayed COLD and the snow piled up. With what few food sources were left now under more than a foot of snow, the deer were piling into two secluded Hunter’s Specialties Vita Rack food plots we had placed near heavy cover. Back in August, with a “contingency” plan geared for the late season, we had planted additional turnip seed and used extra fertilizer within bow range of a tree stand set in one plot and a ground blind set in the other plot. With high winds, heavy snow, and the temps some days in early January in the teens for highs, our Ameristep Dominator ground blind was the only thing that made the hunting bearable. We were seeing two decent 8-points almost every time we were out, plus getting pics of a decent 10-point I guessed would score around 135”. In the back of my mind, I had hopes the heavy-beamed 8-point I had passed back in November would show.
January 11 was the 3rd day of muzzleloader season. It was another cold day, but I decided to sneak out for a quick hunt after work and headed for the blind. Immediately upon settling in, a few fawns and the 2 familiar 8-points walked into the plot and began to feed on the pieces of turnips scattered everywhere. I sat there thinking to myself how amazing it was that with all the different deer now concentrating on this food source, there were still no big bucks around. And then, as if on cue, he appeared. At first glance I thought it was the 135” 10-point we had pics of, but I quickly realized this was a much bigger deer.
He walked right into the middle of the deer that were already feeding and stopped at what I guessed to be about 25-yards. We had placed sticks to mark various yardages in the plot but apparently deer had knocked them over. Ultimately, he presented a perfect quartering away shot. Just as I was settling my pin on his vitals, a button buck that had been slightly spooked by one of the 8-points cut right in front of the big buck. I literally was beginning to pull through the trigger on the release. I re-anchored, settled the pin again, and took the shot. As soon as he was hit, he leapt forward 2 bounds and the blind walls blocked the camera’s view of him. I thought the hit was a little far back so I decided to play it safe and back out. Back at home, we reviewed the footage a number of times and decided to go back and look for him in the morning. It was a sleepless night, to say the least.
The next morning, with butterflies in my stomach, we took up the trail. Fortunately, the shot had been better than I thought and he hadn’t gone far at all. He was a beautiful, mature 11-point we had seen and filmed over a year earlier during November in a nearby field. As I sat there admiring him with mixed emotions, I had only two regrets; that Danielle hadn’t been behind the Hoyt instead of me that night, and Jimmy hadn’t been there to share it with me.
I would like to thank Ralph and Vicki and Archer’s Choice Media for letting me share this story with you and Danielle and Jimmy for helping make this a very rewarding season—can’t wait ‘til next year guys!!! Remember, keep your eye on the prize and always shoot straight from the heart.