December 26, 2023
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Joseph Welsh is an avid bowhunter who spends his free time pursuing giant whitetails in Kentucky. Over the last several years, Joseph has located numerous giants in the Bluegrass state.
“Though I am good at finding big bucks and getting close, I am not good at sealing the deal,” Joseph claims. “I am an experienced hunter, so I know what to do when the time is right. It just always seems to go out the window.”
Having grown up hunting in Henderson County with his grandfather, Joseph knew the area and had several good spots. One of which is a large tract of private ground that the owner sells permits on to local hunters. Joseph knows this ground well and has hunted it for the past 20 years. Relying on his knowledge of how deer use this property, Joseph began hanging trail cameras in July, focusing on CRP fields. It wasn’t long before Joseph started receiving pictures of a mature buck that had an incredible rack. Getting only a picture or two every few days just before dark, Joseph decided he wanted to move the camera just a little to see if he could get into this buck’s small summer range.
Not knowing which direction to move the camera, Joseph decided to just pick a spot about 150 yards away; and that’s all it took! Joseph began getting daylight photos of the buck all day, every day.
“After moving the camera, I stayed out of there and gave the deer his space,” Joseph says. “One thing I learned when chasing a big buck in the same area the year prior, is that too much pressure will push them out.”
With an existing two-feet-wide and deep drainage ditch in the area, Joseph decided to rake out a path in the bottom of this ditch for access.
“It was perfect for access,” Joseph says. “Though it was only two feet deep, when combined with the height of the grass, it was well over my head.”
Joseph had a feeling that he was going to see the buck on the afternoon of Sept. 18. Joseph settled in for the afternoon hunt, sitting on the ground behind some camo netting he had put up a few weeks prior. Joseph had unfortunately lost his mother a few days before this hunt, and there was a calmness over him as he sat in his blind thinking of the words of wisdom she gave him.
“Mom believed in cardinals. As a kid, she would always tell me that if I’m ever hunting and I see a cardinal, that I would harvest a buck,” Joseph recalls. “Though I have seen many cardinals over the years and never harvested a buck, this time was different. As I was sitting there a calmness came over me, and just then a cardinal landed a few feet away from me on a tree limb. I knew it was her watching over me.”
Shortly after that a small buck fed into the opening Joseph was watching, and it wasn’t long before he noticed the small buck’s eyes lock onto something moving in the brush. As the small buck bounded off, the deer of Joseph’s dreams stepped out at just 18 yards. Struggling to draw his bow, Joseph pulled hard on his bowstring, pushing his arow off his rest which caused it to hit against the side of the bow and make a loud noise. With the buck on full alert, Joseph leaned forward, double checked that his arrow would clear the small opening in the net and released the shot.
“It was a now or never shot,” Joseph says. “The buck was flinching and acting like he was going to leave at any moment. So at that distance I wasn’t worried about the penetration of the arrow with a quartering-to shot.”
Joseph listened intently as the buck ran off, and he heard the deer crashing through the brush. Joseph went to where the buck had been standing when he shot, and he noticed the shaft of the arrow was laying just 15 yards beyond the point of impact with no broadhead or fletchings attached. He decided to back out and wait for help.
After about 30 minutes Joseph couldn’t wait any longer, so he worked his way back to the site of the shot. It only took Joseph a few minutes to follow the 70-yard blood trail to his trophy! Wanting to share this moment with his friends, Joseph backed out without touching the deer and waited for his friends to arrive.
“This was an experience I will never forget,” Joseph says. “Having my friends with me, and knowing my mom was looking down on me, was such a rewarding and humbling feeling.”