September 21, 2023
Farming and scouting from the seat of a tractor has led to the downfall of many big deer. All the field activity seems to put certain folks in the right place at the right time. In late May, John Gross spotted a huge buck while spraying a field in Tennessee. The buck’s velvet rack was shaped like one John had seen the year before.
“I was pretty sure it was the same deer,” he says. “But he was so much bigger already!”
John set up a trail camera to keep tabs on the buck and monitored him through the summer as his rack kept growing. “By the end of June, I could tell he was going to be a giant, and I knew where I needed to set up,” John recalls. “So, I put a pop-up blind in the lane between my corn and the woods.”
Deer kept the crop mowed down there. The big buck didn’t need to go anywhere else. “Deer in the area are used to people; they don’t panic when they smell them,” John explains. “But I also hung a t-shirt in the blind, so he would get used to me.”
That unusual tactic seemed to work, because whitetails continued to walk through the area right up to when the early velvet hunt began on Aug. 25. That first morning started real early!
“I was in the blind at 3:30 a.m. with the Ozonics rolling,” John laughs. “I was hoping to get this done quickly because it was crazy warm!”
At daylight a 150-class 10-point walked by, but John resisted the urge to shoot him, knowing the bigger buck was somewhere close by. He had planned to hunt all day if needed. Then the scorching heat took its toll, and he exited the blind just before prime time that evening.
“I had drunk 10 bottles of water, and I was getting really sick by then,” John says. “When I opened the blind deer ran everywhere, but I just didn’t care!”
By the next morning, he had recovered enough to give it another try, entering the blind very early again. But the big deer was still a no-show. John stayed until mid-day and took a break. The late hunt was more of the same. Time was running out, and he only had one day left to tag the giant buck.
The third morning began at 3:00 a.m. John sat until 11:30 that morning, hoping to see the giant buck.
“It was a lot cooler with a chance of rain,” John remembers. “I figured the changing weather might get him moving, but I was tired of fighting the heat!”
John was back in the blind for the evening hunt. The rain was coming, and the temperature was falling. It would either happen now or not at all.
At 6:15 p.m., John spotted antlers in the corn. It was the big 10 he had passed the first morning. However, he wasn’t alone; the giant typical was right behind him. John squeezed the trigger and let the bolt fly!
“I was pretty sure I had made a great shot,” John says. “But I eased out of the blind and went to get something to eat, just to let him have some extra time.”
When he returned with family and friends, they recovered the buck within a few minutes.
The big 13-pointer scores 172 6/8 and weighed 200 pounds. A fine way to finish out the velvet season!