While driving home from work on June 28, 2010, I passed three deer far out in a soybean field. Although I couldn’t see antlers from that distance, one of the animals seemed much bigger than the others.
Curious, I turned around, stopped and peered at them through a spotting scope. The largest was a really good buck. Although it was still early in the antler-growing season, the 5x5 already sported 10-inch brow tines.
I took a couple of photographs through my spotting scope and went home to Google the property in Licking County, Ohio. The very next day, I knocked on a couple of doors and gained permission to hunt it.
I set up a camera, mineral lick and spread some corn in short order. Five days later, too eager to wait my usual week or two for a first-time setup, I retrieved more than 3,000 photographs, and 150 of them were of the buck with the long eye guards. The deer continued visiting the site two or three times a week throughout the summer, its velvet-encased rack growing with every new round of photos.
The wind was wrong for me to hunt there on opening morning, Sept. 25, but not that evening. It was disconcerting to hear the neighbors shooting targets, dogs barking and kids yelling and screaming in their back yards. I had to wonder why such a buck — any buck — would stay on that tract.
As I was leaving the next evening, I switched the camera’s cards. On the one I took home, there were pictures of me leaving the previous day, and, 41 minutes later, of the brow-tine buck, which hung around for an hour.
What a slap in the face!
That was the last time I saw the deer on my camera until 32 days later. I hunted it almost every day, mornings and evenings, when the wind was cooperative.
On Oct. 26, a major thunderstorm rolled in, and the winds were exceeding 60 mph. My brother, Steve Esker, advised me to go to my stand, but I told him he was crazy. As luck would have it, the deer showed up on the camera at last light, while I was at home, warm and dry.
About a week later, I heard that a big Typical had been hit by a car one road over from where I was hunting.
And because I hadn’t pulled any new photos of my deer in a while, I assumed the worst.
The deer, however, reappeared in November.
A week before Ohio’s gun season, I learned that a local bowhunter had stuck a big Typical and couldn’t find it. That news came when my deer had vanished again, of course.
But the buck eventually reappeared during the gun season (though I kept hunting with my bow). My friend, Marvin, missed it with his shotgun at 15 yards. The deer caught him completely off guard, and he shot just over its back. The gun jammed when he tried a followup.
Some things are just meant to be.
Throughout the firearms season, I remember cringing every time I heard a shot.
The deer, fortunately for me, survived the shotgunners. Not only was I still getting photos, but I also jumped it while walking to my stand in late December, which was the first time for me to see the deer on the hoof since June.
Before that, I almost felt like I was hunting a ghost.
December was one of the coldest on record for us. I was feeling it, and so were the deer. We had plenty of snow on the ground, and the deer were hungry, so I was pouring the corn out to keep them healthy and in the area.
It is legal to bait in Ohio, and thank goodness for that, because this and the extreme cold were the only reasons that deer didn’t move to another farm in search of a meal. It started showing up two or three times a week as January approached.
Finally, on Jan. 4, my 92 days in the field were rewarded.
I had been in the stand for about 45 minutes, waiting for daybreak. When it came, I stood to stretch and to have a look around. I was just getting ready to sit back down when I glanced to my right and saw the buck half in and half out of the tree line only 15 yards downwind of me.
It walked slowly into the field, and when it was at 24 yards, I took the quartering-away shot and watched the illuminated nock disappear into the buck. It ran for 65 yards into the field before collapsing.
Hunter: Scott Esker
BTR Official Score: 160 1/8
BTR Composite Score: 178 1/8
— Photos Courtesy of Scott Esker
This article was published in the July 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.