Ronnie Stevens exchanged the memory card in his trail camera, turned the power back on and latched the door closed. Slipping the spent card into his pocket, he climbed into his treestand and towed up his bow.
It was 4 p.m. on October 18, just a few short hours from prime time, and Stevens was in place overlooking an overgrown 8-acre CRP field adjacent to a hardwood lot. As he settled into the zone, Stevens couldn’t help but wonder what had been recorded on the memory card in his pocket.
Fishing a camera from his pack, Stevens inserted the card and began cycling through the photos that had been recorded over the last 24 hours. There he was! A giant 10-point typical with some serious G2s and wide, sturdy mainbeams was posing for the camera.
Stevens soaked in the contents of the photo, but it was the time stamp that held the most meaning — 7:30 a.m., October 18. Based on everything Stevens had learned about this bruiser’s habits over the last few weeks, he had a sneaking suspicion that the buck was using the head-high CRP grass as bedding cover during the day. Stevens stashed his camera back in the pack and looked out over the field and into the adjacent woodlot. Somewhere, out in front of him, was the buck of a lifetime.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
It was September 24, Opening Day of Ohio’s 2011 archery season for whitetails, and Ronnie Stevens wasn’t hunting.
Instead, he was behind the wheel, driving home from his daughter’s volleyball game in Sugar Grove, southeast of Columbus.
But when Stevens wasn’t actually bowhunting whitetails, he was at least thinking about them. Those thoughts prompted Stevens to take the southerly route to his home in Columbus, passing through the village of Obetz, just below the southern city limits of Columbus.
The route afforded Stevens the opportunity to scope out the bean fields in the area as the sun slipped towards the horizon, the perfect time and place to catch a glimpse of any deer that might be moving into the fields for supper.
“As my wife can attest, while I’m driving, I’m looking in bean fields and cornfields,” Stevens explains. “She always worries about me wrecking. I came home the back way through south Columbus, checking bean fields because it’s that time in September when bucks are together in bachelor groups.”
Stevens was passing one such field when he noticed a handful of bucks standing in the beans. He instinctively slowed his vehicle to get a better look and as the field was just passing out of view, he caught a glimpse of a solid 180-class buck moving toward the tree line.
“I did a U-turn and came back,” Stevens said. “The bachelor group was still there, but he was gone.”
As fleeting as Stevens’ encounter with the big-framed buck was, it lit a fire under the avid bowhunter and set in motion weeks of meticulous planning. He was determined to explore every avenue he had for hunting the spectacular buck.
“I started looking at aerial photos, trying to figure out woodlots and properties,” Stevens recalled. “From the county auditor’s Web site, I identified the owner of the 5-acre woodlot I saw the buck duck into.”
For better or worse, the 5-acre property was located inside Obetz town limits, which meant it was subject to a village-wide “no projectile” law. But as is often the case in towns around Columbus, hunters can occasionally gain permission to bowhunt despite no projectile statutes if they can secure permission from the landowner and the town authorities. Stevens now knew where to find the massive 10-pointer, but a number of hurdles stood in his way.