A Working Man's Buck

A Working Man's Buck

Like a lot of avid bowhunters, Ohio's Don Wilson has to work for a living and seldom has time to hunt. Last year, when he did find time to hunt with a friend in early November, he picked the perfect day!

Last season Don Wilson of Wilmington, Ohio, bagged a "working man's buck." And oh, what a buck it was!

Don Wilson's 14-point Ohio "Hawg" was officially scored by Ron Perrine of the Buckeye Big Buck Club. The massive rack grossed 195 3/8 inches. After deductions, it netted 181 4/8 and is believed to be Ohio's largest bow buck of the 2007 season. Not bad for a working man's buck!

"When I worked at GM, I worked second shift and didn't have to be there until 5:30 in the evening," Don explained. "But I took the buyout and started my own concrete business, and now I don't have time to hunt."

That story resonates with many bowhunters who struggle to balance work, family and hunting.

"I used to shoot 3-D every Wednesday morning at Green County Fish & Game," Don said. "Now I just don't have time since I started this business."

Like many bowhunters, Don primarily hunts public lands, but he also hunts private property whenever the opportunity arises.

"When I first met my wife, her family owned 100 acres in Vinton County, Ohio," Don continued. "And that's where I tagged my first deer. It was a doe that came around the hillside on opening day of gun season."

Since then, Don has taken a number of smaller bucks while hunting on public property. He started bowhunting in 1996, and he now prefers hunting with a bow instead of a firearm. These days Don frequently hunts with his dad.

"On my first bowhunt, I hiked into Wayne National Forest in Athens County at a spot I picked off the topo map and found a place I wanted to hunt," Don said. "That morning I saw a small 8-point buck. I grunted, but he didn't pay any attention to me. So I used a rattle bag, and he turned around and ran toward me. He stopped 30 yards away and I made a good shot. That was my first bow buck.

"Over the years, I've hunted either state land or the Vinton County property," Don noted. "I just didn't have anywhere else to hunt. I enjoyed the hunting whether I took anything or not. I never did any good on big deer. I just don't have the patience to pass on a buck. If he was a 100-incher, that was a shooter to me. It wasn't about getting the big one. Of course, I always wanted a big one, but I wouldn't pass on the smaller ones."

Don's luck was about to change forever when he met Chris Snyder, a bowhunting friend who also worked at GM.

"Chris and I hooked up and started hunting together," Don said. "We became good hunting buddies. We both ended up leaving GM, but we stayed in touch. Last season, he called me and asked me to hunt with him in Brown County near Mt. Orab. I told him I'd come down and hunt but that I'd only be able to hunt the rut because of work."

Chris phoned Don again in early November and said, "The bucks are moving -- you need to come down now. I'll put you in a tree stand and you'll get a big one for sure." "As I was talking to Chris on the phone, I looked over at my business partner and asked him how he'd like to have the next day off (Friday)," Don said. "He said, 'Whatever you want to do.' I said, 'Then take tomorrow off because I'm going hunting!' So I had Friday, Saturday and Sunday to hunt."

Don had tagged a doe early in the 2007 season while hunting public land at Spring Valley Wildlife Area, but he hadn't had a bow in his hands since.

"I left home around noon Thursday and got down to Brown County just after 1 p.m.," Don said. "Chris took me out to a ladder stand that he had set up. I hunted that evening and saw two does. Then I went back to Chris' place, and his mom had fixed a place for me to stay that night. The next morning we both got up around 5 a.m. and I went back to the same stand."

The date was Nov. 2, 2007. Don's ladder stand was located on the side in a large wooded draw surrounded by cut cornfields. Don said the stand was easy to find in the dark, and he made a short 10-minute hike through a creek bottom to get to it.

"That morning it was probably about 25 to 30 degrees with bluebird skies and a light breeze blowing right toward me," Don said. "By 8:45, I hadn't seen a thing. Then I heard something to my left. I spotted a doe about 60 yards across the creek, and I immediately noticed a buck behind her. The first thing I saw was the right side of his rack with a kicker point on it. He was a massive buck. The moment I saw him I knew he was a shooter."

The buck was about 10 yards behind the slow-moving doe. Whenever the doe paused, the buck stopped as well.

"He never got real close to her," Don said. "I grunted a few times, but he didn't pay any attention to my calling. Together they walked out of sight into some thick and overgrown brush."

That's it, Don thought. I probably won't be seeing them again.

Nonetheless, Don pulled out his Bleat-in-Heat can call and used it a few times. Don didn't have a rattle bag with him or he would have tried that as well.

"At that point, I would have tried anything," he said.

Moments later Don spotted the doe about 80 yards away on the opposite side of the draw.

"She started coming toward me and then I saw the buck step out," Don stated. "I don't know if she was attracted to my calling or if she just decided to come my way. The buck was still paying close attention to her, although he continued to stay back about 10 yards behind her."

Don saw a clearing ahead that he figured the deer would be passing through. He quickly checked the distance with his rangefinder and got a 45-yard reading. The doe walked through the clearing and continued on. Then the giant buck stepped into the opening.

"When the buck walked into the shooting lane, I drew back and put my pin on him, but I kept watching the doe," Don said. "I could have taken the shot, but I knew it was extremely long. Earlier that morning, I had checked the range on another opening that was only 34 yards away. Now it looked as though the doe was headed to that spot." Still at full draw, Don knew the buck would likely follow the doe into the 34-yard opening, so he held his string. Sure enough,

the buck slowly followed the doe into the clearing and stopped. He was standing slightly quartering away.

"Not a twig stood between us," Don said. "When I released my arrow, it buried to the fletching behind his shoulder, but it looked low. He jumped and ran about 50 yards. Then he stopped for a long time and looked back in my direction."

Eventually the buck walked slowly away along the side of the ravine and out of sight. Don listened intently for any hint of a sound that might signal the big deer had gone down.

"I looked at my watch and it was 9 a.m. I was starting to have second thoughts about my shot, so I decided to stay put until 10:30. At 10:30 sharp, I got down and walked over to where he had been standing. I immediately found a good blood trail. I tracked the blood over to where he'd stood for so long, and just beyond that I found a spot where he had laid down. But then the blood trail started to get very sparse. Since the buck was headed in the direction that I had to go anyway to leave the woods, I continued to follow it. I found only three or four more drops of blood."

With no blood and no deer, Don walked back to Chris' place and informed him that he had arrowed a nice buck. Chris asked him if it was a big one. Don answered, "He's every bit a 140-class buck!"

The two hunters agreed that it would probably be better to wait several hours before going out to look for Don's deer.

"We went back out around 5 p.m. and started looking again, but we only found a few of more drops of blood," Don said. "We looked until dark and didn't find him." The two hunters resumed the search early the next morning. Although Don continued to have his doubts, Chris tried to keep his spirits up by remaining positive and insisting that they would soon recover the buck.

"We must have looked for a good 1 1/2 hours," Don said. At one point Chris was searching in another hollow across the big cornfield when he shouted, "Don, I found something!"

Don made his way over toward Chris' direction and met his friend halfway across the cornfield.

Lifting his hand, Chris held up the broken end of the arrow with the fletching and said, "Donny, you shot a 200-inch deer! He's lying right over there."

"You're kidding," Don said.

But Chris wasn't kidding.

"Once we reached his side, Chris picked up his head, and I just couldn't believe how big he was. After searching for him for a total of five or six hours over two days, the emotion of finding that deer was overwhelming. I'd never shot at or seen a buck as big as that before!"

In conclusion, Don said, "I hunt with my dad most of the time, and we've always been ethical hunters. We're all about doing it legally, and I'm proud that we've always done everything by the book. So it's pretty neat that I finally got one doing to the right way, especially with my good friend Chris!"

Scorable Points:14 (7R, 7L)TOTAL LENGTH OF ABNORMAL POINTS: 9 3/8
Tip-To-Tip Spread:5 4/8
Greatest Spread:23 4/8
Inside Spread:17 1/8
Main Beam26 0/827 0/81 0/8
1st Point (G-1)8 2/88 2/8--
2nd Point (G-2)12 7/812 3/84/8
3rd Point (G-3)11 5/812 0/83/8
4th Point (G-4)8 6/88 2/84/8
5th Point (G-5)--1 7/81 7/8
1st circ. (H-1)5 0/85 0/8--
2nd circ. (H-2)4 7/84 7/8--
3rd circ. (H-3)4 7/84 7/8--
4th circ. (H-4)4 5/84 7/82/8
TOTALS:88 7/889 3/84 4/8
Gross Typical Score:195 3/8
Subtract side-to-side differences:-4 4/8
Add abnormal points-9 3/8
TAKEN BY: Don Wilson, DATE: November 2, 2007, LOCATION: Brown County, Ohio

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