The hunting season started a few days early for me in 2009, thanks to my 9-year old son, Matthew. I accompanied him on a youth hunt on September 27, and he shot his first deer. My son’s friend, Jacob, heard the news and expressed an interest in hunting to his dad, Jim, whom I have worked with for 10 years on the railroad. Jim had prime hunting property in Indiana, and I offered to build a blind and teach his son to hunt. In exchange, I was given personal access to the land, which had only been hunted a handful of times in the last 20 years.
The following weekend, my son and I met Jim and Jacob to scout the property. We needed to find the best location for a ground blind. It didn’t take long for me to realize that a huge buck lived in the area. Deer tracks were all over the far corner of the land. Among all these tracks, there was a set of prints twice as big as any of the others. Not to mention, the buck scat I kept encountering was the biggest I had ever seen in my 10 years of hunting!
We quickly found a couple of downed trees in a perfect spot for the blind, with a bean field ahead and woods behind. The main travel corridor was 15 yards to the front of the blind. We were excited about the spot we found and made a nice blind out of the downed trees and camouflage burlap.
There are only a few things I ever take with me into the woods. The most important thing, I believe, is a really fast bow, because I never cut shooting lanes or hunt the same spot more than twice. A fast bow is critical for making tight shots through thick woods. I also use a good climbing stand with the open front. I like the API Outdoors Alumi-Tech Magnum Bowhunter climber because it’s small and sturdy, even when supporting my 250-pound frame. I also carry a Nikon range finder, which I use to mark a few points of reference at first light or as soon as I get into the tree. I use these reference points to gauge the distance of incoming deer so that I can minimize my movement.
I use mechanical broadheads for the same reason as the fast bow. They come in handy when threading the needle. Trophy Ridge Meat Seekers are my favorite. I always dress head to toe in warm-weather Scent-Lok under my True Timber Camo, and I never leave home without a big bottle of Tink’s 69, not only for attracting deer but to throw the deer off my scent as well. On the day of my big kill, the wind was blowing directly into the bedding area. With my Scent-Lok and an entire bottle of Tinks 69, I was able to trick the monster buck.
Indiana’s firearms season did not open until Nov. 14, 2009, which gave me six weeks of archery season to hunt the new land on my own. Having a pretty good idea of what was going on, I left the land alone until my first hunting opportunity on October 10. As I drove to the property, I pictured the woods and decided on a hunting setup. I arrived around 1 p.m., found my tree and climbed to about 25 feet. At that height, I could keep my eyes on more of the property. I was 150 yards from a neighboring subdivision. Activity was minimal until about 20 minutes before dark, when a 4-point buck came out of the woods. After watching him for a while, I spotted four big does about 250 yards behind me. They went right past the blind we built for the kids and headed in the other direction. The next few times I hunted the property, I went from corner to corner, climbing as high as possible to get an even better idea of how the deer were moving on the property. I saw a nice 9-pointer once, but I never saw the big buck that I knew was out there. I guessed he had to be at least 14 or 16 points.
I took vacation the week of November 9 to hunt. On the morning of Sunday, November 8, Matthew and I met Jim and Jacob to sight in our shotguns for opening day. By the time we returned home, it was 2 p.m. I turned on the TV and my wife asked why I wasn’t heading out for the afternoon hunt. I felt like it was too late to head out, and besides, I had the whole week ahead to hunt anyway.
If it hadn’t been for her prompting me, I wouldn’t have left the couch. After agreeing with her and having no time to waste, I jumped up and headed out in a hurry since I was getting a late start. On the way to the field, I mapped out in my head exactly where I wanted to set up.
As soon as my boots hit the ground, I realized the wind was blowing hard in the wrong direction. I decided to hunt the spot anyway. I dressed in my Scent-Lok and hosed down in Wildlife Research Center’s Scent Killer to double my scent protection. I set up a decoy in the woods, which I had never done before. My decoy was a River Bottom Buck 3D with probably 1,000 arrow holes in it that stays out in the yard year-round for target practice. With the wind blowing in the wrong direction, I dumped an entire bottle of Tink’s 69 on my decoy and on the stump between me and the deer. Having never set foot in this part of the woods before, it took a minute to find a good climbing tree. I found the perfect tree and climbed to 25 feet.
I was in the corner of the woods with the bean field 35 yards ahead and to the left. I settled in and ranged a few stumps and trees to get my bearings. It w as 4 p.m. and would be getting dark at 5:45 p.m. I always wear a hip sack because it makes a perfect bow holder since I never sit in the tree stand. Several years earlier, I was busted by a huge 10-pointer when I attempted to stand up. Needless to say, I don’t sit anymore.
About 20 minutes into the hunt, I looked over my left shoulder and spotted a button buck behind me in the bean field. Every 10 minutes or so I would look back. He was coming my way. It was about 5 p.m. when three big does came out into the bean field to the right and started heading my way. Having the rest of the week to hunt, I planned on taking one of the big does.
They made it about halfway to my stand, stopped and looked behind them.
I figured a buck was on the way, and sure enough, a good-size 9-pointer hopped out of the woods and started following the does, which were walking right past me. Eating beans and following the does, the 9-pointer walked within shooting range. Meanwhile, the button buck had made his way to the decoy 20 yards into the woods. I drew my bow on the 9-pointer. After studying the buck, I decided to let it walk and let the pressure off my bow. The little button buck spotted me at that point. He walked right to the base of my tree and looked up at me.
For 10 minutes, all he would do was look at me and then look back at the decoy. I was busy watching this little buck and wishing he would leave. Finally I looked up and following that same path the does and the 9-pointer had taken was a true Indiana monster.
The left side of the rack had 13 points along with a 12-inch drop tine. Disregarding the little buck, I drew my bow, sending him running for cover. The big buck stopped and watched him run. He took a few more steps, and I stopped him with a mouth grunt. The grunt stopped him too soon, not giving me a clean shot. I waited until he started moving again. I mouth grunted at him again. He stopped.
I aimed at a small opening in the brush and let the arrow fly. I watched the deer jump, buck and take off for the woods. I knew I hit him hard. He ran about 150 yards across the field and into the woods on the other side. By the time I got down it was getting dark. I wasn’t finding any blood, but I was sure I had put a good hit on him. I went to where I had last seen him and walked back and forth a few times trying to find exactly where he had entered the woods. By now it was dark, and I had no blood trail to follow. I decided to leave and come back in the morning.
I called Jim to tell him about the massive buck, and he offered to come out the next morning before work to help me search. We met up in the field at 6:30 a.m. After determining the deer had crossed onto the neighbor’s property, we got permission to search their land. We entered the woods in the general area of his last sighting. After a short search we found him about 25 yards into the neighbor’s property. Seeing that I had double lunged him a little high, he bled internally, leaving me no blood trail to follow.
After the mandatory 60-day drying period, I had my 22-point trophy scored by Pope & Young officials. The final P&Y score reached 242 5/8 gross, with a net non-typical score of 234 5/8 — enough to earn the new state record for an Indiana bow-killed non-typical. My trophy topped the previous P&Y state record bowkill of 221 inches by more than 13 inches!