The opening weekend of the 2019 bow season in the Commonwealth of Virginia had Jonathan Linen and his cousin Cody Sparks up early on Sunday morning.
Their hunt the previous day proved unsuccessful, but both men knew of a big buck that was living in the area. In fact, trail camera photos showed the deer was frequenting a food plot as an early season food source regularly in the evenings.
Now, it’s important to note that Virginia had been experiencing, like many other southern states in ’19, a terrible late summer drought. Weather conditions were stacking up against all hunters who’d dedicated their time and money to planting food plots for wildlife. However, Jonathan and Cody knew how to use their resources wisely.
The hunt club where the men are members shares a property border with Cody’s tobacco farm. During the drought, Cody routinely filled up his water truck and drove from his tobacco farm to the hunt club. There he’d help Jonathan water the food plot when conditions grew exceedingly bad. In turn, the food plot remained healthy despite the drought conditions.
“On Oct. 6, Cody hunted over the food plot in a tree stand, and I took my climber and went farther down below the food plot,” says Jonathan. We were probably about 100 yards apart.”
As the sun slowly appeared that morning, Jonathan realized he set up right on top of what looked to be a heavily-traveled deer trail. The first few minutes of daylight proved active.
Jonathan notes: “Around 6:30 a.m., I had three does come by in front of me. So, I texted Cody to see what he was seeing.
“When I looked back up, there he was!” Jonathan continues. “The buck we were after was standing right there on the trail the does had just walked up. He had his head down just like he was in the rut, almost in a sneak, like he was trying to be real quiet, taking real soft steps.”
Jonathan kept quiet and let the buck continue up the trail. The hunter knew once the buck was in range he’d need to stop him to execute a clean shot.
With his crossbow cocked and ready, Jonathan hung on tightly. Eventually, the buck came within 20 yards, and the hunter mouthed a doe bleat.
“He kept right on going like he didn’t even hear it,” says Jonathan. “So, I hollered a little bit louder and then he stopped, quartering away. That’s when I shot.”
Jonathan explains: “The buck made that ‘ruff’ noise right when the arrow hit him. The arrow didn’t pass all the way through.”
Cody was not far away when Jonathan’s crossbow broke loose and sent its bolt flying. As an eye witness, Cody watched the big buck as he came crashing through the woods after being shot. About 45 minutes later, the two men met up before taking up the trail.
“I found my arrow, and it wasn’t bent or broken,” Jonathan says. “Cody and I started walking in the direction I knew the buck had gone. Moments later, we found him. That was it. We both started hollering with excitement when we saw how big he was.”
Jonathan and Cody made enough commotion you’d think every person in the Commonwealth would’ve heard about this buck — and a lot of them did! Not long after the buck had been retrieved and photographed, photos of the deer spread across social media.
Folks from all over Virginia were posting congratulatory comments on Jonathan’s field photos with the deer. Friends shared the picture and others dreamt of how ecstatic Jonathan must have been! Indeed, Jonathan’s buck sends a message that big bucks do indeed live in the Old Dominion.
Jonathan attributes much of his 2019 success to his decision to update his archery equipment prior to the season. Specifically, the bowhunter had recently added a TenPoint crossbow to his arsenal of deer hunting tools.
“I’ve been dedicated with my compound bow until the past couple of years,” says Jonathan. “But recently I’ve found myself hunting with a crossbow more and more. I told myself that I would go pick up a new one. I hadn’t had it a week when I killed this buck.”
Jonathan knew taking the right tool for the job would pay off. In thick and heavy woods, shooting a vertical bow can prove quite difficult. Add in the adrenaline that flows when a big buck steps out, and sometimes it’s wise to tote whatever hunting tool gives you the most confidence. Crossbows have become an admirable tool for downing game ethically when the moment of truth arises.
But in the long run, it was more than just a bow that helped Jonathan Linen score on this great Virginia whitetail. It was dedication to land management and smart scouting that put both Jonathan and Cody in the game on that fateful opening weekend of archery season. Congratulations to the successful hunter for punching his tag!