I had actually seen this buck, which I named Breath Taker, last year once while driving to work.
He was in the high 150s last year, and I had heard of a couple of other people who had seen him and were even trying to hunt him. I knew I had to locate a nice buck to go after this year, seeing as the only other buck I had ever shot at with a bow was a 140-class buck that I wounded and got away.
Even though I drew my first black bear tag this year, all I wanted to do was hunt that buck from the moment I saw him this summer.
In late July I got permission to hunt a small parcel next to where I had been seeing him feeding each night. The thing is, there's public land nearby, so I knew other people had seen him and they were going to be hunting him too (he wasn't shy about showing himself this summer).
Another side note is that this is the first time I've ever asked anyone personally to hunt on his or her property. I was pretty nervous when I asked the older gentleman that didn't live in the area, but it was obvious he was the type of guy who understands hunters.
Once I got permission, a buddy of mine and myself hung a stand. We didn't really scout much or penetrate the property very far after seeing beds quite close to where we had entered from the road. I figured I had seen him enough with my own two eyes, so I really didn't need any trail cameras in there — that would've just tempted me to check them and add more scent near his core area.
I snuck into the stand opening night (Saturday, Sept. 12) and had probably my best night ever in a stand. I didn't even have my bow pulled up to my stand and two bucks were instantly out in the open and began sparring. As they filtered toward me, more and more deer kept funneling out. I had roughly 25 deer, and 6 were bucks by 7 p.m.
The bucks must have just shed velvet in the days leading up to the opener because all of them were testing out their headgear, sparring with one another.
With about 45 min of light left, I heard some tines tinkling behind me. I turned and there was Breath Taker€¦ sparring with a tiny fork buck! He was just bullying him around and eventually ran him off. However, in the next 45 minutes, the wise old buck never presented a shot closer than 60 yards and all I could do was marvel at him.
I eventually ran out of light and was kicking myself badly for not flinging a prayer out at him.
I ended up having to sit in my stand until 9 p.m. because there were so many deer around me, and I couldn't risk getting busted and revealing my stand location. My phone died while waiting in the stand, I didn't have a flashlight and decided to leave my bow in the stand since I couldn't see my rope to lower it down. I finally busted through some briers and raspberry bushes and got out unnoticed.
After a sleepless night, I woke up the next morning with just a strange feeling like something was about to happen. I really can't describe what I was feeling because it's not something I ordinarily feel. I kind of shrugged it off because I didn't feel like there was anything happening that day all that special.
That night, I had the a super slow night in the stand compared to the day before. Only one small fork buck showed early and things looked relatively bleak. An ambulance even drove by with it's sirens on around 6:45 and a coyote started howling back to the ambulance and was about 30 yards from me.
I instantly assumed this was why I hadn't been seeing anything. I still hadn't seen anything besides a small fork until I text a buddy and said I was getting down from the stand in 5-10 minutes since I figured the deer must have heard me getting down the night before and it was a bust that night. Plus, I didn't want to get stuck in the tree again in the dark.
I then turned around to the exact same spot Breath Taker appeared the night before and there he was, thrashing a some overgrown grass with his tall-tined antlers. I drew back and put my 40 yard pin a little high, estimating he was at 45 yards.
I watched my arrow sail right over his back and my heart dropped. He didn't spook much, but I think he assumed that something was behind him.
He then moved closer and circled me slightly as I knocked another arrow. My second shot was at 20 yards and I made it count.
He went about 40 yards, and I was just speechless. I was shaking like a leaf in the stand — so bad I couldn't even use my phone — and couldn't believe what had just happened€¦ it almost felt like I was in a dream it was so surreal.
After I shot him, he mule-kicked and went crashing into a large tree nearby. I heard branches and sticks snapping all over, but was still wondering things like — did I hit him good?
Did I even hit him?
Was that even Breath Taker?
Did all of this happen to me today?
I instantly texted my buddies and told them I shot the big buck. Of course, they didn't believe me! Once we all finally saw him on the ground a few hours later, it was just the most special moment I've ever been a part of. Everyone was giving out high fives, chest bumps and some man hugs.
I'm so lucky and fortunate that I got a second shot, and I truly believe my uncle who passed away last year was with me on that one. It was the best day I've ever had besides marrying my wife. I was so thankful how everything fell into place and all of my best friends were around to help me find him.
He ended up green scoring at 180 inches. What a buck to spoil me for the rest of my hunting career!