Early last October, following an uneventful bowhunt in our new hunting spot in southeastern Indiana, my sons Brad and Brandon and I gathered the SD cards from our trail cameras and headed home. We hadn’t seen a big buck show up since we’d leased the promising property from Base Camp Leasing during the summer.
As Brandon drove, Brad checked the cards on his laptop. Suddenly he shouted, “Oh, my God!”
Brandon leaned over to check out what all the excitement was about. From the back I yelled, “Watch the road!” even as I was looking over Brad’s shoulder at the computer screen myself.
On it was a photo of a monster buck, a deer we’d come to call “Mega Tine.” The image was of him walking broadside in front of the camera, and it was clear he was a super trophy.
After the next two hunts we again pulled the cards. There were zero pictures of Mega Tine. Finally, photos from Oct. 22 confirmed what we’d hoped for. He wasn’t just passing through — this was his home territory. There were pictures on multiple cameras: 25 images in all.
The buck was showing his dominance, making twigs out of overhead branches seven feet off the ground in front of a scrape. Three nice bucks visited the scrape afterwards, sniffed the damage and moved on. The monster was No. 1 on our hit list, and we dreamed of the day we could text close friends with the news, ”MTD” (“Mega Tine Down”).
To this point, we’d hunted the property only three times. Even so, we decided to stay away until November. Our thought was simple: If the buck didn’t feel hunting pressure from us, he’d be more likely to stick around until the breeding urge lowered his guard to our advantage.
I hunted my stand only once in October, having spent the other two trips running the video camera for my sons. My setup faced west toward a horseshoe bend in the creek, making a natural pinch point. The creek bottom was flat for 30 yards before ascending to a thick bedding area. To the north and west were corn and soybean fields. My stand placement for a morning hunt should be good, whether the prevailing wind was blowing or there were thermals without a breeze. I’d be facing the creek, and deer between me and the creek looking in my direction on a clear morning would be staring into the sun. To top it off, I had a fairly quiet approach, using an old ATV path for most of my walk there.
On the night of Nov. 6, the three of us shared a room at the local Holiday Inn. I’d taken off work that entire week and had spent the past several days bowhunting an Ohio property I’m very familiar with. But the Nov. 7 hunt in Indiana was the one I was excited about.
I arrived in town about 4:30 p.m., and it was pouring rain. Under such conditions, I felt I could safely visit my stand and do some trimming of existing shooting lanes, as well as clear one desperately needed to my right. I believed that’s where I was most likely to see Mega Tine if we got the northwesterly wind predicted for the next morning.
The heavy rain would cover the noise I made and quickly wash away any human scent left behind. So I went up the tree, did my trimming and left the camera mount and bow hanger in place for the morning. Quick in, quick out.
Many things run through my mind the night before a hunt I’ve been looking forward to. Same for my sons. They’d put in a full day’s work before arriving at the hotel. Brandon was adamant in his belief that one of us would score the next day.
Waking two minutes before the alarm, I grabbed the unscented soap and shampoo and jumped into the shower. At 5:20 I told the boys I was going downstairs to see if breakfast was out and advised them to quit arguing over which of them was getting into the shower next. Before long we were on our way to the woods, hoping Brandon’s premonition about our success was on target.
The high temperature for the day was supposed to be in the 40s, making it the coldest day of the season to that point. As we put on our Scent-Lok clothing at the parking spot, there already were signs of the approaching sunrise.
I had the shortest walk, Brad the longest. He’d claimed bragging rights with the biggest bucks the two previous years, and I’m sure he thought he’d be the one to text, “MTD.”
The first deer movement I saw was around 8 a.m., when an 8-pointer with good mass passed me at a steady walk, moving right to left along the creek. The rut was starting.
At around 8:45 a doe ran through the creek in front of me, her tail held straight up, and worked her way around to my right. She ended up bedding about 30 yards out, over my right shoulder. I adjusted the camera to her location, though it was so thick I couldn’t see her in her bed.
I’d already ranged my single shooting lane on that side and knew I could shoot up to 43 yards. Thinking a buck had to follow her eventually, I remained on the alert.
At 9:05, a single coyote went into the creek at the point the doe had crossed, but it backed out and went to my left, down the creek. I was disappointed that it wasn’t a buck chasing the doe but instead a coyote. I texted the boys, saying it still was nice to have a doe bedded near me: better than any decoy.
Brandon texted back, “Don’t screw up.” Oh, ye of little faith.
About 9:30, I saw five coyotes across the creek. They were chasing each other, playing and making all kinds of noise. This went on for a while. Are they ever going to leave? I asked myself. No deer is going to come close while this is going on.
That’s when I heard a noise to my right. The doe had hopped up and was trotting away from me. But she wasn’t getting away from the coyotes.
Something else had bumped her.
Through the brush, I saw the head of a big buck low to the ground, smelling the doe’s bed. I turned the camera on and hit “record.” The buck paused, then started walking toward my shooting lane. I pointed the camera at it and hoped the wide-angle view would catch the action. As I drew, he paused for about five seconds. When he started walking again, I picked my 40-yard pin . . . and as his shoulder passed it, I let the arrow go.
At the sound of the release, the buck crouched to wheel and run. But the arrow still caught him, hitting the spine. He dropped to the ground.
While this was going on, the video camera sounded a tone, and a message appeared on the screen: “DISC FULL…RECORDING ENDED.”
As the buck lay on the ground in my shooting lane, I could see it was Mega Tine. I sent one text, “Hey, Brandon: I didn’t screw up.” But then, as I got ready to text Brad, my phone battery died.
I tagged the huge 11-pointer, gathered my stuff and headed to the truck, where I put my phone on the charger. I then went back to the buck and started dragging. I pulled him only 30 yards or so before realizing I couldn’t get him out of the woods.
When I went back to the truck and pulled my phone off the charger, it had several messages from my sons. But instead of texting back at that point, I returned to the buck and snapped a photo of the deer. Then I sent it to each of them with a text: I think I have it on video, too.
Brandon was the first to arrive at the truck, smiling as he came into view. We met with high fives and fist bumps. He shed his camo and gear and we went to see the buck. Brandon was speechless for a bit and then simply said, “That’s a giant.”
We dragged Mega Tine up the path to a stand hung by our friend Joe, the fourth member on the lease. We left the buck there and went to the truck for reinforcements. As we did, Brad approached and gave me a bear hug. “That’s MT!” he shouted.
In town, our first stop wasn’t at the check station, but at the Dollar General, so we could get a tape measure. As Brad was measuring and reading out the numbers in the parking lot, people drove in just to check it out.
When Brad had finished the last measurement, we hopped into the truck and headed for the check station. My sons weren’t exactly patient as I added the numbers. Brad didn’t believe the total I came up with, so he added the numbers himself — then double-checked and even triple-checked them. But the gross total always came out the same: 198 1/8!
Hearing that, we began screaming in the truck while going down the road. Then it dawned on me that we hadn’t even checked the video.
“Well, check the camera,” Brad said. “Never mind, give it to me.”
As Brandon began telling me I didn’t realize what I’d done in taking this deer, Brad started screaming. “He’s got it! He’s got it! It’s perfect! All in frame!”
We all screamed in unison. “I can’t believe it,” Brad shouted. “Look! Look!” We all screamed again, and there were more fist bumps.
Brandon said, “You’re the luckiest . . .”
At that moment, a thought hit me: In search of extra luck that morning, I’d put on my late dad’s RedHead t-shirt with whitetail artwork on it. I lifted my outer shirt to show the boys I had it on. Dad had been instrumental in getting my sons hooked on hunting at an early age, just as he had me. A picture of him, Brandon and Brad came to my mind, all of them in camo, the boys toting guns as long as they were, Dad smiling ear to ear. He had to be smiling at us now, carrying on the way we were. Thanks, Dad, for teaching us all to hunt.
After the 60-day drying period, Mega Tine netted 183 1/8 typical for Pope & Young, making him the biggest ever killed with a bow in Jennings County. He’s also No. 3 for the state among archery typicals.
I don’t think you take bucks like this with luck alone. Learn from your mistakes, make the required effort, hunt where big ones live and be ready for a short window of opportunity. It might well be all you get.