The story is told each and every year about how a hunter spies a monster buck on his game camera and then goes to great lengths to try and harvest that antlered giant.
While most sacrifice time, money, and more than a little sweat equity, rarely is there much in the way of genuine physical pain that stands between a hunter and the whitetail of his dreams.
Don’t tell that to Ethan Featheroff, however, a 28-year-old Ohio bowhunter whose path to Midwestern big buck riches involved plenty of pain. By the time Featheroff harvested a huge non-typical buck on Sept. 29, 2018, he admits that he – or more precisely his shoulder – had been through the proverbial wringer.
“I’m a construction worker and I do a lot of heavy lifting,” said Featheroff. “At some point this summer, my AC joint was separated, my bicep was torn in half, and I developed a bone spur.”
For most, that’s enough to cause a visit to the doctor’s office. But for a died-in-the-wool dedicated bowhunter like Featheroff – one with a giant whitetail showing up on his game camera, no less – it’s also enough motivation to reach for the bottle of Tylenol and head out into the backyard for another 3-D target practice session.
“I was determined to try and put it off so that I could have a chance at harvesting this deer,” said Featheroff. “I don’t think my wife was too happy with me.”
But bowhunting is in the Ohio hunter’s blood, something that was settled earlier in his life as he embarked on the path towards deer hunting that his father, Don, had started him and his siblings on. Already having downed a buck as a developing deer hunter, it was a gift from his late grandfather, Mike, that helped to finally seal his bowhunting fate, so to speak.
“My grandpa had a heart attack when I was a boy,” said Featheroff. “But before he passed away, he gave me his bow. It was left-handed, and I guess I was the only one who could shoot left-handed.”
On his very first bowhunt with that treasured bow, it was as if Featheroff’s grandfather was smiling down from heaven, orchestrating the events of that hunt.
“While I was out there, a big 12-pointer came in,” said Featheroff. “I shot it while I was on the ground, using my grandpa’s bow, continuing something that he started. I had shot a good buck the year before, but that was my first bowkill and it was the first time I had even taken the bow out. It was the best experience.”
Which might help explain Featheroff’s determination to press on with his hunting plans this fall, even if it was uncomfortable to draw his regular bow back.
“I’ll admit I was thinking about do I need to even take the chance of using my compound or do I use a crossbow,” said Featheroff, co-owner of Feathernett Outdoors. “But I don’t even own a crossbow and I don’t practice with it, so my thought was to keep shooting with my compound bow, see how the arm feels, and go from there.”
After keeping his summer practice sessions up to help the arm stay loose and his shooting form sharp and intact, Featheroff began to try and figure out where to put his stands in order to get a crack at a non-typical buck that he began getting photos of this summer.
While the full details of his hunt are being saved for a future story in North American Whitetail magazine, suffice it to say that as the 2018 season approached, the buck’s core range began to shrink and Featheroff made his first move on the woodsy big buck chess board.
On Saturday, Sept. 29, that move went from an opening gambit to final checkmate in a matter of moments as he looked up and saw big whitetail antlers bobbing in his direction.
“He came in with a 160-inch 8-pointer that he’d been hanging around with all summer long,” said Featheroff. “It all went down pretty quick.”
With adrenaline surging – and serving as some great pain medication, by the way – Featheroff pulled his Bear Arena bow back to full draw, centering his sight pin on the buck’s boiler room as he prepared to send the Beman carbon arrow and Rage Trypan broadhead downrange.
“When I let the shot go, it was one of the best shots I’ve ever made,” grinned the archer.
A short while later, as he slowly approached the multi-tined non-typical buck of his dreams, the emotion started to well up as Featheroff thought of his dad, his siblings, his late grandfather, and his wife and two children.
“It was an emotional moment and I’ll admit that I teared up when it all came together,” he said. “I’ve had the chance to live a bowhunter’s dream now. As far as I’m concerned, I never want to leave Ohio because we have the best deer hunting in the world.”
It is hard to argue with that sentiment when one takes a closer look at Featheroff’s buck, which apparently has at least 18-points, a green gross score of 220 3/8 inches, and a green net score of more than 198 inches.
While those Boone and Crockett-caliber numbers won’t be official until the rack has dried for the official 60-day period that the B&C Club requires, the massive rack is a thing of beauty, one that has caused quite the stir on social media accounts.
“Oh, my goodness, that’s been unbelievable,” said Featheroff. “My Facebook page went from nothing to something like 234,000 views almost overnight as people were sharing it all over the place.”
What does the Ohio bowhunter do now, especially since he’s already had the post-hunt surgery necessary to fix his ailing shoulder?
Simple – keep pursuing the goals that his company promotes, things like God, family, friends, and deer hunting in the Midwestern big buck paradise of Ohio. In fact, now that his shoulder is on the mend and he’s got some extra time on his hands, Featheroff says that he hopes to get his wife and others out into the deer woods this fall.
“I guess we’re all excited about that big buck, but it’s really not about that,” he said. “It’s about going out, sharing these moments together in the woods. I’m glad I got a crack at that 220-inch deer, but that’s not what I want to be all about, far from it.”