Guest Post Contribution by Lee Phillips
A good friend of mine, Blake Copley, offered me the opportunity to hunt on their land during the upcoming Ohio deer season. This sounded great as I knew the area had produced several really nice bucks over the years. We began discussing things and made plans to go over the property so I could see the layout.
The property looked great. It featured a couple of hilly areas, and a couple of really long fields. With the fields being in the middle of the property, I was thinking that this would a natural grazing spot for the deer. We talked some more and decided that we would give it a go this coming fall. It was now June, and we starting doing some preparations immediately. Blake’s family was well-versed with farming equipment. We mowed down the high grass in the field and put in a food plot. Neither of us had planted a plot before, so we figured we would give it a try. We ordered the seed, and sprinkled it all over the freshly plowed dirt, and hoped for the best.
With that done, we looked at some places that would work well with a blind as I’ve been using a blind for over 10 years. Now that I was getting up in age a bit, I figured that my tree sitting time should probably come to an end. We were starting to feel pretty good – we had the food plot in and three trail cameras up, so now it was time to start reviewing the trail camera photos.
We were getting several deer on the camera, mostly does and a few small bucks. Then we decided to dump and couple buckets of Lucky Buck minerals, and that is when things really took off. The new addition made things really pick up and we were now getting enough pictures to make things interesting as more and more deer began to show up. Many more bucks began coming to spot, with mostly young ones but the were also a couple of really nice ones.
Blake and I studied ever set of trail cam pics very diligently. One of the bucks caught my eye as he had a very wide spread to his antlers. The months began to pass and the deer were now in hard horn. We were regularly getting pics of the wide buck, and my excitement was starting to build a bit. The wide buck had antlers that went out well past his ears and three prominent points on his right antler. I told Blake that he was going to be my target buck. Blake said he wanted me to hunt first when the season opened. I felt his enthusiasm and he wanted me to get the deer.
We put the blind up and concealed it amongst the high brush that bordered one of the long fields. My plan was fairly simple. I would arrive at the blind in early afternoon and set tight hoping some deer would enter the field to graze. If things worked out as planned, I might just end up with a nice buck grazing in front of my blind.
The first three days of the hunt had been eventful. Every evening I had seen some deer including several smaller bucks. Unfortunately, the one deer that I wanted had not been seen. I settled into the blind hoping that things might be different this evening, and the big boy would show himself.
As low light began to drift in for late evening, a small 4 point buck grazed in front of my blind at 20 yards away. I was watching in the ready position when a much bigger buck walked right up to him and put his head down to graze. My head was spinning because it was the buck I wanted. I put the scope on his antlers and confirmed that he had the 3 prominent points on his right antler. I centered the crosshairs of my scope on his ribcage just behind his front leg, got a firm grip on my crossbow, and squeezed the trigger. The big deer jumped up a bit and both bucks ran across the field as hard as they could go. Both deer exited the field on the far side and ran up the adjoining hillside.
I set there for 15 minutes thinking about the shot, and the deer running off at full speed. It was 75 yards across the flat field, and neither deer paused like they had been hit. I was also confident in my shot, so the sign that we could find would provide the answers. I called Blake and the phone and excitedly said…”I shot him” and asked him to come on down.
Blake arrived on the Gator in a few minutes. I was standing where I had found some hair and a few drops of blood. Blake produced a very bright lantern, and we began walking in the direction that the deer ran. We walked back and forth and Blake discovered more blood and we began following the blood trail across the field. We had very heavy blood when we reached the spot where the deer ran up the hill. We stopped to catch our breath and then up the hill we went. Following the blood was easy, but I was surprised the deer had traveled this far. This hill was steep, but the blood trail continued. We kept going and after about another 50 yards Blake said…” there he is”.
I walked up to the deer, and I was thrilled to have recovered him. I was studying the antlers, and I was sure I had gotten the buck that I wanted. We pulled the big deer downhill and it was hard to drag him. We reached the bottom and got him loaded on the Gator after a couple of attempts.
When we got back to Blake’s house, we looked at the buck’s antlers. They sure looked like the buck I was after, but the spread of the antlers was smaller. We continued to discuss the deer, and made plans to take him directly to my meat processor.
Blake and I both looked over our trail camera photos the next and determined that the deer I harvested was not my target buck! My buck had exactly the same antler configuration but was just a little smaller. We later determined that there was yet another buck with the same antler configuration, so at one time there were three bucks that looked just alike!
Even though I didn’t harvest the deer I intended to, I was still very pleased. We estimated my deer to weigh 220 pounds on the hoof, so I was able to harvest a mature buck which is one of my yearly goals.
You can rest assured that we have been studying bunches of trail cam pictures. At the time of this writing my original target buck is still alive – so see you next year!!!