Category Archives: 2010

Shed Hunt Nets Bone, Memories

By Greg Johnston
AHT Guest Writer

I started the spring shed-hunting season hoping to find one set of sheds in particular – and no they weren’t from a 165” giant we’d been passing all year hoping he’d crack the Boone and Crocket barrier next season. This aint Iowa, and my name isn’t Lakosky.

The deer whose antlers I coveted was a 2.5-year old 9-pointer, who frequented my Moultrie all winter long.

The 9-point buck Johnston awaited to drop sheds.

I religiously checked my camera waiting for this particular buck to show up missing antlers. In early February I got the photo I’d been waiting for. The buck I’d dubbed ‘Survivor’ showed up with his right side missing and a few hours later returned with no antlers at all.

In late February I set out hoping to stumble upon these two antlers.

It didn’t happen.

I made three different trips to the woods in February, but had no luck locating Survivor’s sheds in the thick white snow. My luck changed in March, though, when the snow pack melted and I was able to locate both sides of Survivor. The antlers lay approximately 25-feet apart in a travel corridor.

The author with his 3-year old son, Blake

This was a major accomplishment for me as this was the first match set of antlers I’d ever been able to recover.

Feeling more confident in my shed hunting ability, I took my 3-year old son a few weeks later to another family property. With Blake in the backpack, and my wife and daughter at the mall, we set off in hunt of more bone. For anyone with young children, this is a great way to get them involved in the great outdoors – and another opportunity to get you to the woods.

Sheds on the ground!


Blake seemed to really enjoy the day and even claimed he saw a zebra at one point. Not sure on that one.

We were about a half an hour into our quest when I spotted antlers through the woods. I pointed them out to Blake who replied, “They’re from a white buck Dad.” He could obviously see the white of the antlers through the trees. As it turned out there were two antlers and they too were a match set of sheds.

Blake looking tired after a day in the woods!


With two antlers in hand, Blake and I continued our walk where we found four more antlers. Nothing huge, but still satisfying – especially sharing it with my little guy who with any luck will roam those woods for years to come.

The walk back to the truck nearly broke my back, as the 35-pound kiddo was getting heavy after our long journey. He posed for some pictures, but fatigue had apparently caught up him too!

The shed season turned out to be an entire success. I substantially added to my shed collection and, more importantly, made some quality memories with my favorite little guy – memories that even a 165” deer can’t compare to.

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Last-Minute Gift Ideas For Your Hunter!

Christmas shopping can be a little bit like deer hunting. You can spend weeks afield without finding the right deer, much like you can waste several hours in stores seeking the right gifts. As my 2010 hunting season can atest – sometimes it only takes a few hours to get the job done.

With that, I suppose it’s time to start thinking about Christmas gifts! I mean, there are still two solid afternoons to buy gifts. For those of you looking for ideas on the go, here are a few that can help make the hunter in your life very happy this year.

Socks … and I mean really good socks
Very few items you take hunting with you can be more important than a quality, warm pair of hunting socks. They’re easy to purchase, but here’s one where you can get what you pay for.

Warm socks are vital to a happy day afield in those cold November and December days

I hunt mostly with a wool/cotton combination and wear only one pair (no matter the temperature).

A quality sock will keep your feet warm (when coupled with the appropriate boot) at all conditions. Most quality socks run anywhere from $12-$16 per pair. And you can find them at any sporting goods store.

Boots … And I mean good boots
I purchased a pair of Irish Setter RutMaster boots with the ExoFlex system after doing a lot of shopping (trying on) earlier this fall. They’ve been a comfortable, warm boot for some of the cold conditions I’ve hunted.

Irish Setter RutMaster boots

There are other quality boots out there. I also have a couple pair of Muck boots that I like wearing. If your hunter is worried about scent control, be sure to focus your attention on rubber boots. Prices vary by level of Thinsulate insulation and manufacturer. A good 800 gr boot will run a shade more than $100 in most cases. The particular boot I referenced is usually $139. It’s expensive, but a hunter’s wheels are the root to having a positive hunt.

A handheld video camera to document all the partying at camp … I mean, all the hunting afield
I’ve talked in the past about how much I enjoy my Kodak Zi8 when I’m hunting. It’s a great little camera that captures HD quality video and takes pretty good photos to boot.

The Zi8

There are several manufacturers who make similar cameras (Flip being the most popular), but it is worth noting that Kodak is the only manufacturer I’m aware of that actively markets to outdoorsmen.

The Rochester, N.Y., company has a couple models that are designed for sportsmen. They look a lot like the Zi8 I purchased before they started doing that and I’m not sure I’d trade my camera for another now that I have gotten used to it. It fits on my hip in a case and has been a blast the last two hunting seasons. The price on these also varies, but be prepared to spend $150-$200.

A knife sharperner
This is another quality gift that is worth mentioning as a possibility each year. These range in quality, functionality and price. Chef’s Choice makes a wide array of sharpeners.

A popular Chef's Choice model

There are several out there, including a Cabela’s licensed brand that is very similar to the Chef’s Choice.

If you spend a little more than bottom dollar, you can get one that sharpens both straight edge and surrated. This makes a great sharpener for those kitchen knives too. The biggest difference is the number of stages the sharpener will run a knife through. Most are 2-4 stages. The price range of sharpeners is between $35 and $200. A good one can be purchased for $50.

The ‘uh oh, I forgot to shop and need the greatest gift to give’ idea
If you’re in the mood to wow your hunter and looking to find an awesome gift OR you have a future hunter that you’d like to provide a legacy for, giving a lifetime license could be the perfect gift.

Most states now sell Lifetime Licenses for residents and they can be pricey (most lifetime hunting licenses are $500 for adults), but pay huge dividends for a lifelong hunter. It’s a purchase I made years ago and have since made for my daughter. Many states offer a very attractive price to buy for young kids (sometimes infants under 1 year old).

Check with your local state department of natural resources or game commission for more information. All I’ve ever checked into could be purchased online.

Have a great holiday!
Kurt


Brock’s First Buck is a Bruiser!

Persistence can be a hunter’s best friend. It’s something that I often remind myself when my outdoor adventures don’t seem to be panning out quite as planned. After more than two decades of hunting whitetails, I’m also well aware that the closest cousin to persistence is frustration.

Brock holds his first buck, an Ohio giant!


My 13-year old nephew, Brock Albaugh, epitomized persistence this fall, parlaying many hunts and a few close calls into his first buck this morning. And a dandy it is, sporting 10 points and enough headgear to make topping it quite a challenge for the rest of his hunting career.

Brock earlier had been hunting another Ohio giant that he and his dad (my brother-in-law Jeff) had been seeing on a regular basis. After seeing the deer on several sits with his bow, Brock was nearly devastated to find out another hunter was able to take that buck a few weeks ago. Instead of getting frustrated, he decided to keep hunting. And instead of shooting a young buck that would make many a hunter proud, Brock stayed hell-bent on waiting for the right mature whitetail to make his way by him.

Brock, 13, passed several marginal deer awaiting his chance at a mature buck


Can you imagine? I’m not aware of too many young hunters that could pass several bucks that would be fine “first deer” in lieu of just the right buck! I’m proud of him for being able to do that even though I’d have been proud with whatever buck he was able to take.

His hunting schedule did get a little cramped when basketball season started a couple weeks ago. Archery season turned into the general firearms season. And this morning proved to be the magical day for Brock as he and his dad entered the woods, joined by Brock’s uncle Bart. Amidst a cold, snow-blanketed morning Brock was able to line his sight on this deer not once, but twice before taking him down with a well-placed shot from his dad’s Remington muzzleloader.

Another picture of the happy hunter!


As Brock tells the story, he watched the deer come out into the field he was hunting near. With his dad watching nearby, Brock was able to get one shot off at the deer before he reentered the woods. A reload and a relocation later, Jeff and Bart were able to drive the deer out of a hardwoods and right in Brock’s direction again. He provided a great shot for him and Brock made it count.

We have a standing agreement to text each other with any “good news” from the deer woods, so you can imagine my elation when the text came in under the heading “shot just a couple minutes ago.” That’s also when I realized that texting is great, but I couldn’t wait to hear Brock tell (and hopefully relive) the story of how it all went down. He did a fine job of doing that as well.

Congratulations, Brock!


The Triple-Locked Bucks in Ohio

Nature sure has its way of doing some remarkable things. Sometimes they’re nothing more than amazing reminders that nature is powerful and cruel.

Photos borrowed from Google Images

As was the case last month when someone near Athens, Ohio (Meigs County) stumbled upon three bucks locked together in a water-filled creek. There are a handful of locked-buck cases that make their rounds on the Internet each year, however this was my first time ever hearing of three.

A quick search on the ol’ world wide web shows that it has happened in the past (one other example was cited in Texas). However, you can go to bed tonight feeling plenty good that your chances of hitting all six numbers on your lucky lotto ticket tomorrow are far greater than finding three mature whitetail bucks with antlers locked together.

There isn’t a whole lot of information out there about how these were actually found, but I can’t imagine what the apparent fella that found them must have thought when he first saw them.

There are unconfirmed, albeit published, reports out there that the bucks are somewhere in the 130, 140 and 170, respectively. That’s a lot of antler to get caught up.

Not sure if you’re like me, but I wonder which was the third buck that “engaged” in this battle and if the first two were already locked beforehand, or his tragic mistake led to the ill-fate of the others.

Amazing. Cruel. Sad.


The Ultimate Hunt

By Kenny Roberts
Guest Contributor

Have you ever considered what your ultimate hunt would be? I think each of us who are true hunters has spent many hours daydreaming about such a hunt, whatever it might be. Would your ultimate hunt be a whitetail hunt in Saskatchewan waiting for one of those Canadian bruiser bucks to appear? Or would it be in Iowa, Illinois or Kansas?

Pop's Model 94 Winchester, purchased in 1950, and the hat he was wearing when he passed away 10 years ago.

How about a flooded timber hunt around Stuttgart, Arkansas, for Mallards and other species of ducks? Maybe you have dreamed of hunting elk in New Mexico, big horn sheep in Montana, or possibly a grizzly bear hunt in Alaska?

It took me nearly 40 years to figure out what my ultimate hunt would be, and the surprising revelation is that I have already been on that hunt! Although I still dream of the chance to go on new and exciting hunts for a variety of animal species and waterfowl, none of these hunts will compare to my ultimate hunt.

My ultimate hunt started about 4 a.m. in the fall of 1971 when my dad (we called him Pop) said, “Get up boy, it’s time to go” as he shook me awake. Since I was the runt of his three “boys” I am certain that he started with me and worked his way up by age to my oldest brother. I slowly arose from my warm bed and began putting on every stitch of clothing I could find, including several layers of athletic socks and the same brogan-style shoes that I wore to school everyday.

Pop's 1970-71 Hunting and Big Game Licenses

I didn’t own any camouflage clothing or hunting boots, so it was whatever was available (and hopefully warm) that could be worn in layers. My two brothers and I piled into Pop’s 1966 Chevy Impala and we headed east towards Uwharrie National Forest. Somewhere between Charlotte and Albemarle, Pop found an AM radio station that was playing a Jerry Clower comedy skit. For those of you not familiar with, or have never heard of Yazoo City, Miss.’s, most famous resident; you’ve missed out on some good ole’ southern culture. After a few Jerry Clower stories about one of the Ledbetter brothers and somewhere between Albemarle and Troy, NC, we stop at a restaurant for breakfast. No socialite would be caught near this choke-and-puke establishment, but it’s the perfect place to fill your belly before a day in the woods. Everyone excluding the waitress, the cook and of course me; are wearing camouflage and the place was packed with other hunters. Years later I thought about this scene, and I could only imagine how proud Pop must have been to walk into this restaurant with his three boys trailing behind him.

Although the years to come would prove more stressful for him and our mother, one thing is for sure: At least they knew where their boys would be every Saturday during the fall!

After a quick breakfast of grits, eggs, sausage and toast, we are back in the Impala for the final leg of the trip. We finally arrive at our hunting destination and immediately begin preparing for the hunt. Pop leads us into the woods a couple hundred yards or so and instructs me and my brother Ronny (two years my senior) to sit at the base of a tree till he and our brother Wendell (four years older than me) return. Ronny and I will hold down the centerline of this deer assault, while Pop and Wendell take the left and right flanks.

Pop in the United States Marine Corp Reserves (circa 1953/1954)


Of course Ronny and my chance at successfully harvesting a buck are greatly reduced due to the fact that we do not have a gun! It is a minor detail – at least we are hunting.

We were left in charge of the most important element of the hunt: The survival food, which consisted of candy bars, crackers and apples. Unfortunately for the other members of our hunting party, we completely decimated every morsel by 10 a.m.

Ronny and I sat at the base of this tree in the dark for several hours; actually it is probably only 10-15 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. We are a little scared and a lot cold! About mid-morning Pop and Wendell return with no buck to show for their efforts. Is it any wonder with Ronny and I ripping open candy bar wrappers; crunching on crackers and all the other noise we surely created? At that age I had only assumed that they must have walked 5 or 6 miles away, but I know now that Pop was certainly in eyesight of us. If you think our chance at success was greatly reduced by not having a gun, what about his? An 8 and 10-year old sitting in the woods with a gunny sack full of goodies.

In those days there were not nearly as many deer as there are today in the Piedmont of NC and those that might have been in our vicinity that morning were now three counties away.

Pop had always been an avid deer hunter and he continued hunting till his death in November of 2000. One thing for sure about Pop, when he hunted, he liked to walk around and explore the woods. The mid-morning till noon hunt consisted of walking over each hill or mountain we encountered to “see what was on the other side.” This was one of the most enjoyable parts of the ultimate hunt; we got to stretch our legs and the walking warmed our chilled bones. More importantly to an 8-year-old; I was walking in a wilderness and over each hill I expected to see a Grizzly bear, a mountain lion or just maybe, a whitetail deer! I can still vividly smell the damp fall leaves lying on the ground, feel the warmth of the sun as it peeked over the mountain to our east and see the beautiful trees and rock outcroppings that we passed. It was an amazing place for an 8-year-old to spend a Saturday during the fall of 1971.

After a couple of hours of wandering around and examining every holler and hill, we made our way back to the car. Since all of the food was gone, we would find our way to a little general store and resupply the gunny sack.

The early afternoon was spent lounging around in the warm sun, drinking a Pepsi Cola and eating a moon-pie and dreaming about the buck that we would see later that afternoon. The afternoon hunt was so much more comfortable; it was warmer and us unarmed hunters could see everything around us, which allowed for more concentration on spotting a deer as opposed to worrying about who or what was going to come out from the shadows to get us. As the afternoon light faded behind the mountains, Pop and Wendell returned to the base camp and reported no sightings of deer in the area. Oh well, we’ll get one next time!

Our hunting machine (the Impala) is brought to life and it is time for the journey home. After waking up at 4 a.m. and an all-day hunt and walk in the woods, coupled with the heat that finally filters into the back seat of the car where I sit; I quickly fall asleep and begin dreaming about the next hunt. In today’s society they recommend that if you take a child hunting or fishing, you need to keep it exciting and hopefully successful, so that the child does not become bored or discouraged. We continued to take these hunting trips in the years to come and rarely if ever did we see a deer, much less harvest one. It was several years later when my oldest brother harvested his first deer and 10 years later before Ronny took his first. Once again, being the runt of the boys, it was only fitting that I was the last to take a deer – a mere 18 years later in 1989.

Although these early hunting trips did not result in any deer being harvested, they were the most exciting and enjoyable times in my youth. Successful? Oh yeah, they were successful in only the ways a true hunter can understand. They taught us patience, perseverance, how to enjoy the simple things such as a sunrise, the view from a mountain top and the pure enjoyment of an outdoor lifestyle. We were not discouraged or disappointed that we did not harvest a deer. It simply fueled our passion for hunting that much stronger. We learned to appreciate and enjoy the sport of hunting, before we learned how to hunt and before we started harvesting any deer.

Although I have never hunted in any exotic locations or in any of the “prime” locations for any species, I have harvested numerous deer, including several with my trusty PSE bow. I’ve killed my share of squirrels, quail, doves, ducks and several wild hogs. And so many of those trips have resulted in lifelong memories and friendships. However, if the stars were aligned just perfectly and God would grant me the ultimate hunt tomorrow, I know exactly where I would go and who I would go with. The hunt would start with, “Get up boy, it’s time to go.”

*****************

Ted S. “Pop” Roberts passed away 10 years ago today, Nov. 28, 2000. I would like to dedicate my simple words of reflection to his memory and to all the fathers, mothers, uncles and family friends who dedicate the time and effort to take their children or other children hunting or fishing.

Thanks Pop! I hope you and Fred Bear are enjoying the “big hunt.”


The Hit-List Buck Falls

By Greg Johnston
AHT Guest Contributor

Grandpa always said he’d rather be lucky than good, but on opening day of the New York firearms deer season, I was a little of both.

Rewind one week to Nov. 13 when my hunting pal, John Koska, and I were hunting my family’s property in Livingston County.

The author with his Great 8 2010 NY buck


It wasn’t long into the hunt and I felt the vibration from my phone in my safety vest. The message was clear and to the point: “Shooter chasing a doe.”

After a short while John gave me a call and said he watched the buck breed the hot doe and then work past the treestand with the doe at about 25 yards. John said the doe trotted through the shooting lane and that the buck had followed. Not feeling comfortable trying to squeeze a Carbon Express arrow through the young saplings, he elected to pass the questionable shot. You have to respect that.

My question to him was “where did the buck go?” He answered “west,” and that gave me an idea. I had a treestand at the bottom of the hill where the buck seemed to be working towards and with the doe in heat I was confident he wouldn’t go far.

It took multiple encounters for this mature buck to fall

So, I packed my gear, climbed down from my stand and hiked to the truck. From there I drove around the block where I planned on entering the same block of timber, but from the west side. It’s probably about 9:30 a.m. or so at this point.

I eased up the hill and reached the stand. Once settled, I could see a flurry of activity up the hill and it wasn’t long before several does worked by. I then caught a flash of something running and knew that mature buck was exactly where I anticipated he’d be. This meant two things: First, I’d positioned myself so the shooter was now in between John and me; and Second, I was now in a position to try and kill him.

With the help of my 10x42s I could see the brute laying into a tree about 90 yards away. I watched for a few minutes and examined him. “Man, he’s got cool-looking bladed main beams,” I thought.

What now?

I decided to grunt – all while watching him through my binos. He didn’t react, so I became more aggressive with a snort wheeze. At this point I realized it wasn’t meant to be. There is no replacement for love and this bad boy was in it.

At 12:30 p.m. I called it quits, as my son’s birthday party was the next day and I had to tend to some household chores.

With that, I hung up the Bowtech for another year and headed to work for the week, waiting for the following Saturday – the opening of firearms season – to roll around.

John and I talked and decided that the “Great 8” had leapfrogged his way to the top of the hit list.

On opening morning, I was carrying my Remington 1100 Special 20 gauge and entered the woods just hoping that I’d have a chance at the buck – or at least a mature buck. The morning hours came and went with many shots fired, but none from inside the perimeters of our property.

I backed out for lunch and John, my Dad and I discussed the afternoon hunt. After a sandwich, we were back at it. I reached the stand around 2 p.m. and settled in. Shortly after, a doe and yearling worked by. From there it gets a little blurry, because I dozed off in the stand. What? You’ve never done that? Whatever…!

Okay, after my cat nap I awoke to a much calmer woods. The wind, which had been stiff out of the west, had faded and the conditions had improved.

I sat and texted back and forth with John as he was hunting a stand in the middle of our property. It wasn’t long after that I caught movement to my right. Guess who? At 85 yards I struggled to find a clear lane to squeeze a Berennke through. That is until he stopped to work a scrape. I steadied my recticle on him and fired.

Bang.

The deer whirled, ran 10 feet and stopped. Bang. I fired again. This time, he went on a dead run through the woods, but angling towards me and closing the distance. I knew the second shot had hit him, but I wasn’t sure where.

I begged him to stop. And at 60 yards my recent string of bad luck ended as he applied the brakes. Bang. I shot a third time and with that he disappeared over the nearby gully.

So, you’d rather be lucky than good? Grandpa was right! Me too. That third shot had found its mark and entered his front shoulder.

I waited awhile and eased my way along the edge of the gully. What I saw at the bottom of the gully was the end of a lengthy, season-long quest. The “Great 8” was down! I stood at the top of the bank for 10 minutes or so collecting my thoughts before descending down to put my hands on him.

I couldn’t believe it had happened. I called John and told him the news. He was pumped and made his way over for the celebration.

Now my problem was talking my wife into another taxidermy bill. It’s like Dierks Bentley sings: Man what was I thinking?


Picture-Perfect Dream Buck

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, we were looking at two pictures. The 2,000-word part was easy. My struggle came with figuring out how many inches were in the photos.

Tyler Sellens had just returned Friday from checking his trail cams. And he wanted to know what I thought this one particular buck would score.

I looked quickly – too quickly – and threw a number out that Tyler and my hunting buddy, The Biscuit, clearly weren’t impressed with. The odd looks told me I’d have no problem proving I was running on two hours sleep the last two days.

At closer glance, my high 140s mark had absolutely no merit. This stud had huge main beams, he had long tines and his mass was of the deer that hunters dream about. I quickly retracted.

Tyler, who along with Josh Turner makes up Riverview Outfitters in Hancock County, Ill., had two pictures of this buck. The first picture was Thursday morning, the second from Friday morning – but both during daylight. But he also had a challenge.

Tyler explained that he and Josh had only one tree to hang a stand in this spot, and his gut told him this deer was working a high trail during his daily ritual of checking for does. If that remained true, he knew the shot on this deer might be a long one with archery equipment.

The Biscuit, and I were only an hour removed from target shooting our bows, doing so at nearly every yardage marker possible – including 50 yards. We both shot well and that had our confidence levels soaring. We both implied that we might be up for the challenge.

The stand that they put in this area was, unfortunately for the Biscuit, locked onto a small hickory tree. The Biscuit isn’t … well … small. I am.

With the wind correct, I was able to navigate to and climb that stand our first morning of hunting Illinois. I saw and videoed four small bucks over the first couple hours out of that tree. And as the winds were gusting at speeds well into the 40s, I figured the big bucks were probably off their feet and staying as much out of the wind as possible. I had just talked myself into not expecting much movement until the magical time before sunset. The wind remained favorable for this stand, blowing out of the southwest.

And that’s when it happened. Nine hours after I arrived at my stand, the biggest deer I’ve ever seen on hoof came walking out of a brushy pile of woods and started on a walk in my direction. As Tyler had predicted, he was on the high trail. I knew right away that everything would have to go perfect in order to get a chance at this deer. I remained very calm – and looking back I’m not sure how.

As every hunter who has a large whitetail walking his direction would do, I grabbed my video camera! I’m not sure why that came first, but thankfully I also grabbed my bow and fumbled both in my hands as I sized the situation.

The buck walked through a little depression and stopped behind a series of saplings at 60 yards. He started rubbing his antlers on a small tree. I kept the video rolling and somehow managed to reach for my range finder. I’d already ranged this area several times in the morning but decided confirming the distance right now would be best. If he came out of those trees and remained broadside, he would be at 50 yards. If he came down the hill just a little bit, he would be in an opening at 44 yards. I dialed my sight to 45 yards and waited.

Somewhere in there I remember making up my mind that I was only going to shoot if everything went perfectly. I recall distinctly thinking that I was going to make this particular deer my week’s mission if the shot didn’t present itself. This was the first day of the hunt and I would have several days to play chess with him.

After a couple minutes of rubbing, the deer started moving again. That’s when I threw the video camera into my backpack. For some reason, I never even bothered to turn the record button off. Thus, the remaining pieces of the hunt were played out via sound on my video camera.

The buck broke out of the saplings and was walking slow. He walked a couple yards and turned toward my stand a bit. He was going to be on the 44-yard side of the opening.

I drew. At full draw I remember thinking that I would only take this shot if everything were still perfect.

I grunted. He stopped.

He was broadside at 44 yards. My HHA dial sight was dialed appropriately. I was looking through my peep sight and everything was perfectly aligned with his vitals. I squeezed the release and remained focused intently on where I wanted the arrow to hit. I did not see my arrow in flight, but saw and heard it hit the buck right where I was looking.

The buck turned up the hill and I could see the lion’s share of my arrow (all but the fletchings) sticking out of the opposite side of the deer … right where it would indicate a lung shot. I also saw blood – a lot of it – coming out of his side.

I was confident in the shot (as was later displayed when I replayed the video sound). I watched the buck run up the hill and out of sight. The shaking started.

I grabbed my video camera and realized that it was still on record. After taking a few moments to record my thoughts, which were all rooted in the sheer enjoyment of just shooting the biggest deer of my life, I called Tyler.

I climbed out of my stand and went to another hill and waited nearly two full hours for Tyler to meet me to begin tracking. As anyone who has ever shot a whitetail with a bow can attest, those hours are some of the most gut wrenching you can experience. You go through everything in your mind 1,000 times and try to recall any clues that will help in the recovery.

I started to question what I had seen. Was I sure the shot was where I thought? Was that blood I saw? Was he even as big as I think he was? Was it the same deer in the trail cam?

For the first time since the shot, I replayed the video. I listened to my entire first reaction and realized that there was no way I was seeing things. Replaying the real-time reaction helped build my confidence back up.

Tyler arrived and I played the video sound for him too. We started back into the woods to track.

We found blood early. The trail was easy to follow. After 70 or so yards, my arrow laid in his tracks. It was covered in blood. As often happens, the trail got wider with blood after that. We walked only another 15 yards and Tyler turned around smiling.

I’ve experienced ground shrinkage in the past. This is my first ground growage! He had points coming out of his main beams, his tines were longer than I remembered and he carried the widest rack I’d ever shot. He was truly a remarkable deer.

Tyler and Josh both were as excited as I was to have the bruiser on the ground. They’ve worked their tails off for several months to provide a hunter with an opportunity like this. And it so happened that in this case, I was the hunter. For that, I’m extremely grateful.

The buck ended up with 15 scoreable points – all intact.
And that picture ended up being worth a lot of inches – 185 4/8” in fact!

Cat Tales: I’m truly blessed. I’ve been able to shoot several nice bucks in my hunting career. Yet, I recognize that this deer is a “once-in-a-lifetime” kind of deer. And for that, I need to thank a few people for helping me fulfill a life dream. Thank you to Nick Pinizzotto, my fellow outdoor blogging friend who had never met me yet thought enough to ask me almost a year ago to join him in Illinois for a hunt with Riverview Outfitters.

I also need to thank “my girls.” My wife has dealt with my hunting obsession for over a decade and has been nothing but supportive – even though it often means a couple weeks of running our house solo each fall. My daughter Sara is living her third hunting season and gets almost as excited about deer as I do. And she is the best arrow holder this side of the Mississippi!

Finally, thank you dad for introducing me to hunting. I’m as passionate about this sport today as I was as a teenager running around our woods in Western New York. I wish a lot more kids around this world could see what I’ve been fortunate to see.


Learn more about Riverview Outfitters at www.RiverviewOutfitters.com