Jason McClintic's 240-inch Ohio non-typical -- and the journey that led to it -- offers a lesson in persistence, patience and making it count when the moment of truth arrives.
Jason McClintic admires his monster Ross County non-typical, which scored 240 0/8 inches as a non-typical and ranks among the Buckeye State's top bowkills.
Jason McClintic thought his luck had run out on a buck he had hunted for nearly two years. Then a big non-typical followed a doe down an old tractor trail and changed everything.
Ten years ago McClintic bought a small farm in Ross County, Ohio, for deer hunting and to be closer to his job in Chillicothe.
"I liked the lay of the land and thought, 'Wow this is a perfect setup for deer hunting,'" McClintic said, "and I liked the old farm house too."
It's typical southern Ohio deer country, with rolling croplands of corn and beans surrounded by hillsides of maple, pin oak, chestnut oak and thick second-growth timber.
McClintic has taken his share of nice bucks over the years and attributes a lot of his success to the heavy bedding areas around his farm that he calls sanctuaries.
"If there is one reason as to why we have the deer numbers and quality of deer, it's because we have these sanctuaries," McClintic points out. "There's 50 acres (that) the neighbor behind me owns that he limits hunting on," McClintic said. "On the corner is 210 acres of pine that's nearly impassable, plus there's some ground on the ridge top that has been select cut recently. I try to leave those sanctuaries alone as much as possible."
To find those bragging-size bucks, McClintic sets out trail cameras usually in late summer between the sanctuary bedding areas and the crop fields.
"Once I set out trail cameras, I place a pile of corn nearby to bait them in and try to get their picture," said McClintic. "I also watch bean fields in September, but my trail cameras tell me what bucks are out there. They tell me what time the bucks are there and what direction they've come from or are going to. I usually set out two to five cameras. Trail cameras are probably the biggest tool I use."
It was those trail cameras that first revealed a young sticker-point non-typical plying the woodlands near McClintic's farm.
"There were no rumors or sightings of that deer I was aware of," said McClintic. "I wasn't even aware of it until I had pictures of it in early January."
By the time bow season was underway McClintic's trail camera had photographed three other good bucks.
"A couple of them were 140-class 8-pointers; the other was a 170-class main frame 10-pointer with triple brow points I had been hunting and missed the year before," said McClintic. "Due to the trail cameras, I knew what time of year I'd expect to see those bucks, and I knew when they'd be gone too."
Jason McClintic's Ross County giant carried main beams of 26 7/8 and 25 1/8 inches, respectively, plus 58 5/8 inches of abnormal growth.
McClintic split his bowhunting between two spots, one of which was a new location. "It was land that hadn't been farmed in 20 years, as it was always in CRP, but this year it was planted in corn," said McClintic. "But a pack of dogs moved in and started running deer and that affected the hunting."
It was during mid-October when one of McClintic's trail cameras revealed the big 10-pointer was back in the neighborhood hanging around some bean fields a mile away.
"After I started getting photos of the 10-pointer I was definitely targeting that deer," said McClintic. "I have a history with that deer. It was in October of 2008 when he walked into a bean field one evening following a doe. I shot, but I couldn't find my arrow, I couldn't find him, I couldn't find anything. Three weeks later I started getting trail camera photos of him again so I knew I had missed. Then I started getting photos of him again this past October (2009) and I thought, 'Wow he's still around,' so I was ready to go back after him."
The photos revealed a red fox and in the next series of pictures was the 10-pointer. "He appeared to be running with a fox, because 10 minutes after the fox was photographed the buck was photographed," said McClintic.
The fox and the big 10-pointer were caught on the trail camera crossing into the bean field two evenings in a row just before dark. The third evening McClintic was back there waiting.
"Right before dark I saw the fox," said McClintic. "Sure enough here came the 10 pointer. He walked down the hill, stopped to rake his antlers on a tree near my stand and then walked over to the corn pile I had set out for the trail camera. That's when I drew and released. The buck ran behind me and stopped and I knew I had missed. I was pretty bummed."
McClintic was frustrated after two years in a row of getting a shot at the big 10 and missing. "I told a friend, 'He's yours because I can't kill him; it just ain't meant to be.'"
After that miss, McClintic couldn't regain his momentum."Nothing was working," said McClintic. "I wasn't seeing anything. I was getting frustrated and started jumping from stand to stand. Another thing happened too -- they picked the beans and the deer left."
McClintic moved from the bean fields and began hunting the CRP property again but without any luck. Leaving the bean fields for a few weeks was an unknowingly smart move on McClintic's part. The undisturbed deer started to regroup in the area and McClintic started noticing a few does in the picked fields in the evenings on his way
home from work.
A few days later, McClintic received a text from a neighbor reading, "Spotted a few does out in the field."
"I started thinking the does have moved back in, so maybe I need to move back in and see what happens," said McClintic.
It took Jason only a few minutes of sitting in his tree stand to shoot the bowhunting trophy of many lifetimes. This is just one of a number of huge non-typicals recorded in southern Ohio over the years.
Years ago McClintic built a stand in a tall slender locust tree he calls Ol' Faithful. The stand is located on a fence row along the bean field edge. "It's a good textbook place to have one, so I just built one there," he said.
McClintic describes the area as a little finger ridge off a 50-acre sanctuary bedding area that tapers down into an old pasture field with crabapple trees and weedy ditches abutting a couple of 30-acre bean fields. A true bottleneck, McClintic says.
Looking back, McClintic realizes that staying out of the area was probably the smartest hunting he did all season.
"I hadn't been checking trail cameras I hadn't been putting out corn," said McClintic. "If I had been back there hauling corn or checking trail cameras, I might have moved him out. Not only that, if I'd gotten a picture of the big non-typical I would have hunted the place to death and probably messed it up. In a way, it was a blessing I wasn't back there, but it wasn't planned."
"One evening I got home from work late, grabbed my hunting clothes and thought to myself, "I don't have much time, I'm going to the bean field to see what happens,'" said McClintic.
The bowhunter quickly hiked back to Ol' Faithful, arriving at the stand a little after 4 p.m.
"I didn't have a lot of confidence, as I was just putting in my time, but that's how you do it." said McClintic.
McClintic hadn't been in the stand 10 minutes when behind him something caught his eye and he turned to see a doe standing 25 yards away in an old tractor trail. The doe looked nervous and suddenly took off trotting up the hillside. About that same instant McClintic spotted antlers and immediately knew it was a shooter.
"He was coming along the edge of the woods doing a stiff-legged trot with his head straight out. Then he picked up his head and trotted over to where the doe was standing and I drew my bow," McClintic said. "I remember he put his head down and turned, that's when I saw a lot of points. I was trying not to look at his rack," said McClintic. "When he turned, I almost released but waited as it seemed he was trying to find the doe. Then he backtracked, trying to pick up her scent. When he turned again and was headed toward the doe, he gave me a broadside shot at 25 yards and I released."
McClintic shoots a Bass Pro/Red Head, Kronik compound with Gold Tip carbon arrows tipped with Wasp Jackhammer SST three-blade expandable broadheads.
At the shot, the big non-typical bolted into the brushy hillside, paralleling an old tractor trail that McClintic had walked in on and evaporated.
"It happened so fast, I don't know what happened," said McClintic. "I was thinking, "Did I hit or did I miss," and I wanted to find my arrow."
Five minutes of tension proved to be too much for McClintic, and he climbed down and quietly walked over to where the giant whitetail stood, looking for his arrow.
"I spotted my arrow and it was blood soaked," said McClintic. "Then I took a closer look and saw some hair."
After a few minutes, McClintic gathered his composure and started quietly walking in the direction of the deer.
"I was slipping along the old tractor road watching for any sign of deer," said McClintic. "All the while, I was asking myself, "Should I cut into the woods and try to find the blood trail?'"
After 75 yards, McClintic thought he heard deer and moved a few feet off the path to try to get a look. "I was trying figure out if it was him, some does or a different deer," said McClintic. "Satisfied it wasn't anything, I turned back and as I started to walk I glanced down the hill and in a patch of tall grass I spotted a white belly."
According to McClintic the buck hadn't traveled 150 yards."When I picked his head up, I thought 'Oh my gosh,'" said McClintic, who had to sit down to come to grips with the tremendous buck he had just bagged. "That feeling was a feeling I've never had before. It was unbelievable. I broke into a sweat and then chills and started asking myself, 'Where did this thing come from?' Then it hit me, I know what deer that is, that's the 'Pop Can Buck.'"
McClintic recalled a trail camera photo taken last January over a corn pile.
When McClintic checked his trail camera the year before, the younger non-typical was the first photo taken by the camera.
"I started going through the pictures real fast and he was the very first picture from the night before but he really didn't catch my eye," said McClintic. "The next day, when I pulled it up the computer screen I could see those sticker points and I thought that's a good deer. Later I called a friend and told him I've got a photo of a young buck with a lot of points and huge bases. That's how he got the name 'Pop Can,' because that's how I described how big his antler bases were. So I saved his picture under the file name Pop Can."
McClintic didn't get any more trail camera photos of 'Pop Can" that year and never laid eyes on the massive buck until that November evening after a late day at work and 10 minutes in Ol' Faithful.
Official Boone & Crockett scorer David Haynes, from Ross County, who scored the McClintic buck, said it will likely rank among the top 15 deer taken in Ohio and will stand as the biggest bowkill for the Buckeye State in 2009.
After the 60-day drying period, McClintic's buck was officially scored, grossing 250 5/8. After 10 5/8 inches of deductions, the Pop Can Buck's non-typical final score came to 240 0/8 B&C points.