Category Archives: General Tales

Camouflage – The Hidden Meaning of Hunting

Editor’s Note: Very few things please me more than a young hunter smacking his camouflage boot to the ground and standing up for a sport that has as many critics as it does supporters. It’s not the easiest thing to do – especially when you’re young. Jake Ray, a freshman at Ashland University in Ohio, recently finished a research paper for his English class. He thought AHT readers might enjoy the read. I agree. Well done, Jake. — KC

By Jake Ray

As far back as history has been recorded, people have hunted. It was a permanent part of their way of life, and their survival depended upon the animals that could be hunted in their environment. Hunting was a skill that taught these people many life lessons, including how to make weapons, how to fend for themselves, and how to use every part of their kill as part of their survival. Hunting brought these early people together as a family, and was a tradition that was passed down from father to son, through many generations.

These early people used hunting as more than just a way to kill an animal; it was a way to maintain what God had provided for them. In today’s society, there are groups that want to take away the tradition of hunting from those who enjoy it. Though hunting is not a life-sustaining need anymore, all of the other reasons people hunted in the past can apply to why people hunt today. Many of these “anti-hunters” insist that it is unethical to kill an animal, and that taking an innocent life is morally wrong, but the facts themselves are simple: without hunting, animal populations would rise in number. Without enough food for all of them to eat, many would look elsewhere for food in places like the suburbs, and most would die from starvation. A heavy animal population is bad for the environment and would eventually destroy the ecosystem. This is why hunting is a good way to protect the environment. If people can manage the animal population properly, can teach others the correct way to hunt and harvest animals, and can realize the positive aspects of hunting, then hunting will be seen as a positive part of society today.

In his essay titled “For Environmental Balance, Pick Up a Rifle,” author Nicholas D. Kristof suggests that the only way to end all the death and destruction that deer cause is to, as the title suggests, pick up a rifle and hunt. Kristof believes that hunting will correct the “environmental imbalance caused in part by the decline of hunting” (184). Deer hold the top spot among mammals that kill the most humans each year. Kristof states that “the deer populations are exploding in a way that is profoundly unnatural and that is destroying the ecosystem in many parts of the country” (183). An overpopulation of deer presents such health problems and ticks and Lyme disease as well. Kristof believes that suggested methods of trying to control this overpopulation problem – such as deer birth control and paid contract hunts – are both expensive and a waste of time (183). Knowledge of correct hunting techniques and proper management are the best tools to correct the problem of deer overpopulation.

Many people hear stories about how an experienced hunter shoots a young deer just because it is a deer. This is the wrong reason to hunt. Hunters need to be better population managers by letting the younger deer grow bigger. People who oppose this way of hunting are hunters who believe that management is not a good way to hunt. They believe a hunter hunts for the sole purpose of a successful kill, without regard to the impact on the population. These hunters seem to forget that the management of the deer population is very important. It is in direct proportion with the environment. By managing the deer population properly, the environment will greatly benefit. When there are too many deer, there is not enough food to keep them healthy and alive. The deer will end up “eating themselves out of house and home” and that is not healthy for the environment. This is why proper management techniques are necessary.

Management is the most important factor in controlling the deer population. Focusing on deer management means that the deer population is properly maintained. When this is achieved, the environment benefits the most. An association that helps with the understanding of this concept is the Quality Deer Management Association, or the QDMA. This association focuses on explaining why the deer population should be managed, and what the correct techniques are to achieve this goal. QDMA is a non-profit organization whose goal is to preserve the deer management impact (QDMA). Their mission statement clearly states the organization’s goals and objectives. In it, they state that “QDMA promotes sustainable, high quality white-tailed deer populations, wildlife habitats, and ethical hunting experiences through education, research, and management” (QDMA). They also state that they are in favor of “[s]afe and ethical hunting, hunter involvement in education and management, and stewardship and appreciation of all wildlife” (QDMA). The mission statement of the QDMA supports the fact that there is more to hunting than what most people think. Hunting is not just killing animals. It requires scientific thinking and planning in order to achieve proper management. Kip Adams is a Certified Wildlife Biologist and Northern Director of Education and Outreach for the Quality Deer Management Association. He is also the author of an article found in Quality Whitetails, which is a magazine published by the QDMA. In his article titled “Deer Management Strategies (November 2004),” Adams talks about some ways to manage the deer population. He states that “Quality Deer Management [or QDM] is a household name to modern day deer hunters (Adams).” He summarizes that population management is something that both farmers and hunters look at very closely.

“QDM is the approach where young bucks are protected from harvest, combined with an adequate harvest of female deer to produce healthy deer herds in balance with existing habitat conditions (Adams).” Adams uses the word “harvest” instead of “kill” or “hunt” to invoke a softer, gentler view of hunting, especially for the non-hunter. This no doubt will cause the non-hunter to take a second look at what he has to say and perhaps consider his viewpoint. Adams does not support hunting simply for the kills; rather, he supports hunting as a means of proper deer management, and expertly explains that if the deer are managed well, their population will benefit and so would the environment.

Some people and groups don’t agree with what the QDMA believes. Groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, believe that any kind of animal, big or small, tamed or untamed, should not be malnourished, hurt, or killed. PETA has always been controversial, but they are always true to their mission statement, which is to stop animal abuse worldwide. Organizations such as PETA are specifically against the unethical hunting of some animals (PETA). They have some ideas that make sense, but they don’t take into consideration the other side of the issue and the positive effects that hunting can have on the environment that they live in. Groups like PETA fail to recognize that hunters share a basic, common belief with them – the safety and preservation of animals. Throughout history, our ancestors used hunting as a means of survival, and unknowingly managed the animal population in the process. PETA believes that it is “unethical” to kill animals, and will always view hunting as “killing”. Perhaps if they would examine the issues a bit more closely, they would recognize that hunters are helping instead of hurting their cause, and that hunting does have some positive benefits.

With proper rules and regulations, hunting also benefits the society and the environment as a whole. Using hunting as a way to manage the population of deer is a very important way to help the environment. One of the best ways to enforce population management is to establish definitive guidelines and rules to hunt by. In an article written by Bret Collier and David Krementz titled “White-Tailed Deer Management Practices on Private Lands in Arkansas,” the authors address the topic of proper management. They state that “[w]hite-tailed deer population management is a challenge for state wildlife agencies” (307). This is very true. These agencies can place rules about how many deer can be killed, and what type of deer can be hunted during certain times of the year, but they cannot be in every wooded area across the United States every day to be sure these rules are enforced and that people are hunting properly. Though it has its limitations due to the area in which it was conducted, this study is worth noting because of the similarities between available hunting areas in Arkansas and Ohio. Rural hunting spots are in abundance in both states, and both states run the risk of deer overpopulation without proper deer management. By having specific rules and regulations for hunting, it is easier to manage the deer population, which in turn has a positive effect on the environment.

Ohio has established its own state-specific rules for hunting. In Ohio, there are specific rules on the number of deer allowed to be killed during one hunting season. There are 3 different regions – A, B, and C. In region A (where Sandusky is located), a hunter is only allowed to shoot a total of two deer. In zone B, a hunter is allowed no more than four deer (This is where Ashland County is located). Finally, in zone C (where Carroll County is located, which is where I hunt), a hunter is allowed to harvest six deer In Ohio, a hunter is only allowed to harvest one male deer (buck), or antlered deer per year (ODNR). These rules and regulations have an important impact on our environment. They help keep Ohio’s deer population at a healthy number and allow it to be controlled in the proper way. If people do not follow the hunting regulations, Ohio’s deer population would become overcrowded, and there would be no positive impact on deer management, which hurts the deer population already in existence.

There are many organizations that promote the idea of ethical hunting by providing a positive reason for a hunter to hunt as a way to manage the deer population, even if the hunter does not want to process the deer and keep the venison for himself. There is an organization that is established in Ohio just for this purpose called the FHFH, or Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry. This state wide ministry is run by local area churches, and is dedicated to helping feed the hungry with the unwanted meat that farmers and hunters can provide (FHFH). They take unwanted deer that are killed by hunters (as a means of population management) and extra crops that are not needed by farmers and pass them on to places like homeless shelters, food banks, and churches for distribution as they see fit. Many counties have a specific butcher shop that will process the deer and donate the meat to FHFH, like Don’s Custom Meats located in Waynesburg, Ohio (FHFH). This provides meat for people who cannot afford proper meals or are staying at a homeless shelter. This organization gives hunters who like to hunt, but do not eat the venison, an opportunity to help their environment by participating in deer management and population control. Another positive aspect of this organization is that it does not cost anything to donate a deer (FHFH). This is an important factor because hunters would be more inclined to shoot a deer and just leave it lay in the woods if they did not want to pay to have the meat processed. Throughout Ohio, there are 36 FHFH locations serving all 88 counties (FHFH), so there are locations everywhere to take advantage of the opportunity to help out people while helping out the management of the deer population as well.

Some activists question the use of FHFH. They present such questions like what if a person refuses to accept the meat that is offered to them free of charge? What if the hunter leaves the deer just lying in the woods after a hunting trip and chooses not to donate the meat to a worthy cause? These are valid points, but realistically are far-fetched. A hungry person, or a person with a family to feed, is typically not going to reject free meat just because it is the meat from a deer. Likewise, any hunter that takes hunter safety courses and follows correct hunting procedures knows it is not a good choice to leave the product of their hunt in the woods. A conscious hunter knows that he will help both the environment and hungry families by donating the deer to FHFH. Families get a well cooked meal to put on the table while the environment is being managed at the same time. People need to look past the “killing” aspect of hunting and focus on the benefits that come out of it.

There are many other benefits to hunting. Teaching young children how to hunt and help the environment at the same time is a perfect way not only to help manage deer but to pass traditions down through family members. There was a study done at Auburn University in Alabama about people’s attitudes towards children learning to hunt and how it related to game management. The study was done by the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, and the group polled over 25,000 people on The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network’s (ESPN’s) Outdoors website. This was done by Shaun M. Tanger and David N. Laband, who work at Auburn University. People were asked what age children should be before they are allowed to go on their first hunt. The answer categories (in years) were 8-10, 11-13, 14-16, and never (298). Results varied between areas of the United States. While some findings indicated that there is a decrease in new younger hunters, the poll also suggests that there is an increase in “social support for hunting by children” (298). Encouraging children to learn the art of hunting will help management of the deer population. If more hunters are hunting, the potential to keep the deer population at a manageable number remains high.

“Recruiting” new hunters to hunt is another way to help with management and teaching life lessons to kids. Unfortunately, though, in today’s society there are many distractions. Technology is high on that list. Kids that are between the ages of 10-15 grew up playing video games, not playing outside. Instead of going out and sitting in the cold, waiting to see a deer, a child can sit in the warmth of their home and play a hunting game on an Xbox or PlayStation. This may be a good argument from the child’s point of view, but he is not really hunting (or never get the real idea what it is like to hunt) by sitting on the couch and looking at the TV.

Another negative influence is teaching kids at a young age that hunting is bad. This mindset deters a child from developing an interest in hunting as a child, and this may affect whether or not he decides to hunt as an adult. Recreating an interest in hunting and how it positively affects the environment can be done by enrolling children in hunter safety courses. These courses teach hunting basics, including rules and regulations and how to be a safe and smart hunter. Most hunter safety courses can be taken with a parent, which provides another way to pass on the tradition of hunting and teach kids what hunting really is. It is not about the kill; it is about a young hunter preserving the environment and learning a skill he can pass on to his family some day.

Some people think that hunters are simply animal killers. The opposition makes many wrong assumptions. In Heart of Home written by Ted Kerasote, the author talks about how “America generally dislikes hunters” (179). He says that Americans dislike hunters because they “. . . use tools of destruction . . .” and they “. . . [like] getting blood on their hands [and are] dishonest” (179). These assumptions could not be further from the truth. Hunters do not use tools of destruction. Hunter safety courses are required for those who want to secure a hunting license and learn the proper techniques that go along with the responsibility of hunting. Hunters do kill animals, but not for reasons that anti-hunters might think. Hunting is a way to feed a family or provide meat for others less fortunate, as well a way to contribute to population management and enjoy the environment. A hunter’s goal is not to get blood on his hands. Yes, there is blood involved, but that is just part of being a hunter – it is something that doctors deal with every day, and people are not against doctors. Hunters are not dishonest. There may be a few “rednecks” that hunt illegally, but these types of hunters are in the minority, and will have their hunting rights taken away if caught by an officer from the Department of Natural Resources.

These Department of Natural Resource officers also believe there is a code of ethics that each hunter needs to live by, and rules that need to be followed. In an article written by Ward M. Clark, the author states that “Hunting makes us human” (27). He also talks about how “hunting is what led humans to cooperate, to plan, to anticipate, to form society” (27). This is very true. Hunting is what made America what it is today. Without it, our ancestors would not have survived. In order to remain in a positive light, both hunting and hunters have to have good, moral ethics. The people that look at hunting as a bad thing are going to be very harsh on hunters and the values they have. These people usually base their opinion on one bad story they heard of one bad news article they read. This is unfair to do because not all hunters are unethical or “bad”. This leads people to ask why become hunters if there is a risk for hunters to seem like bad people. Hunters hunt because they “pay homage to Nature, to Life, to the Earth” (28). When done the right way, hunting is definitely an ethical activity, and hunter maintains these ethics every time he enters the woods.

Hunting and being in the woods is not just away to manage the deer population for some people. It is also their chosen profession. Professional hunter Michael Waddell was born in Booger Bottom, Georgia, a rural city that does not even have a stop light or stop sign. The name “Booger” from Waddell’s hometown comes from either the name of a mythical creature that was half panther and half dog or from the names of the feds that raided moonshine stills (Waddell 1). Most people would think this town is a typical redneck town simply from the name, but Michael Waddell is far from a redneck hunter. He and his family relied on hunting as a way of life. “Hunting has been part of my life for as long as I can recall . . . because hunting is me. It is in my blood, it is my culture, and it is in my family” (2). Though he does not need to hunt to provide for his family any more, Michael Waddell’s life shows non-hunters that hunting can be beneficial. He took his passion and turned into something positive for himself and for the environment. People who are against hunting are going to say that Michael Waddell is just like every other hunter because, regardless of the reasons, he is still killing helpless animals. However, there is way more to a person like Michael Waddell than that. For him, hunting is way more than just something to do for sport. It is a way to help the environment by managing the deer population in the correct way and for the right reasons. Waddell has chosen not only to make a profession out of something that is a part of who he is and what he loves to do, but also to make a difference in the environment and help with the management of the deer population.

The United States is a very predictable society. When someone does something that angers a certain group of people, that person and his actions are seen as bad and harmful to the environment. This is the typical view that our society has about hunters. They are thought of as people who destroy wildlife and harm the environment. People who feel this way could not be further from the truth. Michael Waddell sums it up best:

“I have said it before and I will say it again. Hunting is something that transcends success, jobs, income, fame, and status. If my run in this industry ends tomorrow, I know one thing: I will still have a bow, a quiver full of arrows, and a hunting license, and at the end of the day that’s all that matters. As long as I can climb up into an old tree stand overlooking a prime piece of Georgia river bottom with the hope that a freak nasty buck may stroll by, I will be content” (Waddell 212).

Hunting is a way for people to experience the environment and all it has to offer. Hunting and the harvest of animals has more positives than negatives. It is a way to manage the population of the group of animals that is being hunted, while still benefitting all the other animals living in that ecosystem. It is a tradition that can be passed from generation to generation. Hunting is more then what anti-hunters think it is; it is more than going to the woods and killing an animal just for fun. It is a great way to develop family traditions and, more importantly, it helps our environment.

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Whitetail ER – You Can’t Make This Up

The following is an actual release issued this week by Greece (N.Y.) Police Department

On 12-19-11 at about 2:24 a.m. Greece Police Officers responded to the area of Hincher Rd. and North Greece Rd. for the report of a motor vehicle accident in which a deer was struck.

Caswell, 29

The witness told the responding officer that the occupants were arguing on the side of the road and that they left the scene of the accident with the deer in the car. The witness also heard the driver say that he was going to take the deer to Unity hospital.

A short time later, Officer Daniel McLaughlin observed a 2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue west on Latta Rd. near Flynn Rd. that matched the description of the vehicle that left the scene. Officer McLaughlin also observed that the Oldsmobile had damage to the front end that would be consistent with striking a deer. Officer McLaughlin stopped the vehicle that was occupied by 4 people, and the asked the driver what happened. The driver, who was identified as Andrew Caswell, stated he had struck a deer and that he was going to take it to Unity hospital so that it could be saved. The driver went onto explain that he had put the deer in his trunk. Officers McLauglin and Thomas Schamerhorn then asked the driver to open trunk and they subsequently located the deceased deer.

Mr. Caswell showed signs of intoxication and was placed through several sobriety tests and was eventually arrested for D.W.I. with a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit (.16%). Caswell, 29, of Jamestown Terrace in Greece, was charged with Driving while intoxicated and Leaving the Scene of a Motor Vehicle Accident. He was released on his own recognizance and is to appear in Greece Court at a later time. While Chief Baxter sympathized with trying to save the deer during the holidays, Driving While Intoxicated will not be tolerated.


AHT Adds New Member to Pro Staff

Reid has more hair than his dad.

A Hunters Tales is pleased to announce it has signed Reid Michael Culbert, age 1 day, to a long-term agreement to join the AHT pro staff the first day he legally can hunt!

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Any further questions should be directed to big sister Sara.


‘The Shed Buck’

'The Shed Buck' & His Sheds.

by AHT Contributor Greg Johnston

It’ll go down as one of the more memorable hunts in my hunting career, and certainly one of my most coveted accomplishments. ‘The Shed Buck,’ roams no more. He now rests in peace on my wall!

This, like many other hunting stories, started with a single trail camera photo. At the end of the 2010 hunting season, I placed my cameras back out into the field to take inventory of what deer had survived the New York hunting season(s). I was pleasantly surprised when a 2.5-year-old 9-pointer made a cameo in front of my Moultrie.

I knew who this deer was and, in fact, had watched him all through the summer months in a bachelor group with several other bucks. The odd part was that I’d never encountered him through the entire 2010 season and, to be honest, had forgotten about him by season’s end. Never the less, he was alive and that was a good thing.

'The Shed Buck' appears.

I closely monitored the one camera the buck seemed to frequent most. The plan was to try and capture as many photos of the deer as possible [I captured dozens] and, if at all possible, recover both of his sheds. It worked perfectly as on Feb. 6th the deer arrived sporting only the left side of his rack. That meant the right side wouldn’t be far from the camera location. Even better, I captured another photo shortly after which showed the buck had dropped his left side, too. I was very confident I would recover both of his sheds and begin building a history with this deer.

The buck appears with his left antler only.

I made several attempts at recovering the antlers, but the deep snow made it a difficult task – especially with my then 3-year-old son firmly placed on my shoulders. My luck changed as the snow began to melt in late March. I was able to recover both sheds approximately 20-yards apart. I was thrilled.

Fast forward to the summer of 2011 as I glassed my normal honey holes in search of this one specific deer I’d dubbed, ‘The Shed Buck.’ Try as I did, though, I never located the deer through the entire summer. I began to wonder if the deer had been hit by a car or if he had just moved out of the area as many younger bucks do. On Oct. 23rd I was given a glimmer of hope when I grunted in a handsome 8-pointer to within 30 yards. The deer locked up and presented me with a bad shot angle. I elected not to take the shot, but I began to wonder if I had just laid eyes on ‘The Shed Buck?’

I had a similar experience with the deer in early November as he chased a doe in from behind me but, as I reached for my bow, he caught movement and walked off in the opposite direction. I was sick. I noticed that night, though, that the buck had a fairly significant injury to his right leg. He walked – or hobbled – very slowly.

I hung several new stands in the following days hoping to get a crack at this big 8-pointer with archery tackle. Things changed on Nov. 18th when I harvested another one of my Hit List deer. This meant I’d have to wait until shotgun season to try and kill the big 8. In New York, hunters are allotted one antlered deer for archery season and then another antlered deer for the firearms season.

The first opportunity I had to hunt the area was on the afternoon of Nov. 23rd. It was unseasonably warm and a touch windy, but I headed out to one of the new stand locations I had recently hung. I climbed the stand only to discover I had forgotten my safety strap in a tree from the previous days hunt. I made the decision to climb down and hunt from the ground. I quickly formulated a ‘Plan B’ and began to maneuver myself about 100 yards to the south where I would have a good view of a natural travel corridor. It was the best I could do, given the circumstances.

As I walked down a mowed path on my way to the travel corridor, I glanced to my right and saw my number one Hit List buck appear out of nowhere. There he stood at 100 yards looking at me through the thick goldenrod. I raised my Remington 1100 .20 ga., centered the cross hairs and let a Winchester fly. The deer whirled at the sound of the shot and began to move in a northerly direction.

I took off running hoping to get a glimpse and another shot off at the buck, but when I got to where he should have been, I couldn’t find him. I figured one of two things had happened – either I killed him and he was lying dead, or he never exited the goldenrod field because of that bum leg. I slowly climbed onto a nearby dirt mound to get a better view where I saw the buck standing a mere 20 yards from me. Another shot from the 1100 anchored the buck for good. As it turned out, I never hit the deer on the first shot. His injured leg just prevented him from running too far.

A perfect match.

Only one question remained unanswered now and that was, was this indeed ‘The Shed Buck?’ I went back home to retrieve my 4-year-old hunting buddy, the sheds and the tractor. A quick comparison of the sheds to the deer left no doubt, that I had indeed, just killed ‘The Shed Buck.’ I couldn’t believe it came together the way it did.

Looking back, I think this was just one of those hunts that was meant to be. Earlier in the day I had contemplated hunting another property, but decided against it. You take that, coupled with the fact that I forgot my safety belt, and the deer’s injured leg slowed him down enough, which allowed me to get a second shot off.

The deer has a 19" spread with 8" G2's.

There is no more gratifying feeling for a whitetail hunter than to establish a history with a particular buck and then successfully kill him. It was one heck of a week in the deer woods for me, killing two of my Hit List bucks in six days – one with a bow and one with a gun.


Roots of Hunting Passion Linked to Turkey Day

My brothers and I were among the less fortunate youth who grew up in New York State waiting until we were 16-years old to legally chase whitetails with a gun. Most states are far more accommodating to introduce youth to hunting deer at an earlier age – and I applaud New York for finally starting a youth mentoring program that gets kids hunting earlier.

Many years after those initial hunts with my dad (far right), my family still hits the field. This picture, from 2008, is only missing my oldest brother, Bud, from our core group.


In hindsight, that long wait years ago helped introduce me to archery and bowhunting as it afforded me the chance to get into the woods earlier. For that I am thankful.

But one of the things I’m most thankful for during this time of year, is that my dad let me accompany him on a special Thanksgiving Day hunt when I was just a little tyke.

Each year, dad would keep me held in suspense until after the tryptophan had nestled itself deep into our bellies before he’d invite me to join him, my two older brothers and my uncles for an afternoon hunt on Thanksgiving Day. I’m sure there was a bit of constant nagging by me leading into those moments, but being able to join made me look forward to that day more than most others during a calendar year. During those years, the season opened on Monday and the it was only four-days old each time we went afield.

It mattered none that I walked and sat next to my dad unarmed. To me, I was hunting. And you needed to look no further than the solid blaze orange hunting suit I wore to know I dressed the part!

I think I was a solid good-luck charm too. Very few trips to the woods ended with someone not finding luck on those hunts.

Something about those Thanksgiving hunts planted something in me that no amount of drugs can tame. Perhaps it was the anticipation of the hunt alongside my family. It very well could have been the opportunity to share something with my dad. Maybe it was a reclamation of my hunter roots. It might have had something to do with my birthday always falling somewhere near that day. More than likely, though, it was a combination of all of those things.

Regardless, the passion for chasing whitetails that those early hunts instilled in me runs deeper than the roots of a century-old oak. For that, to me, is something to be thankful for.

Cat Tales: With a little boy expected to join the world any day now, this marks one of only a handful of years that I’m unable to hunt with my family on our farm in NY during the opening days of gun season in New York. Obviously, it’s a lot easier to take when the reason includes such an awesome blessing as having a child enter our family. There will be many more “openers” in the future – and I look forward to sharing them with my kids. For starters, though, I can’t wait to take them on Thanksgiving! In fact, I’m likely going to take my little girl “hunting” (which will consist of a short walk in the woods) later this week here in NC. She has been asking to go all season!


Eleventh Hour Hunt Ends Quest for ‘The Ghost Buck’

by AHT Contributor Greg Johnston

One happy hunter.

It all started with a mid-June trail camera picture of two deer. Both of the bucks were big, both deer had nine score-able points and both deer would be killed in the 2011 NYS archery season. One however would fall on the final day of archery season as I’d punch my archery tag for the first time since 2007. It was an incredible day and one that marked the end of the line for ‘The Ghost Buck.’

The deer earned his name from that June picture. At first glance, I thought the photo only captured the image of one buck – and a good one at that. But as Kurt and I manipulated the image and over exposed the photo, a second brute appeared. He would adopt the name ‘The Ghost Buck’ from that point on.

The only image of 'The Ghost Buck' I ever captured.

Ironically, the name seemed to fit the deer as he vanished from the trail cameras. I never captured another image of the deer and we had no sightings of him throughout the entire archery season, until the morning of November 18, 2011.

The morning was cold and chilly, and with a fresh blanket of 3 to 4 inches of snow on the ground, I had high hopes of seeing movement. I reached my stand around 6:00 a.m. and didn’t see a deer until around 7:45 when a small buck appeared off to my southwest. As I watched the buck move through the woods, I turned my head to see something I’d waited all season for – one of my Hit List deer on the move during daylight hours.

A photo I took of the conditions moments before the encounter with 'The Ghost Buck.'

The first thing I noticed was how he walked with a considerable limp. I was unsure as to what deer this was, but I knew he was a shooter and on the final day of the season, that’s all I needed to know. The details would get worked out later.

The buck was traveling in a northerly direction moving from my right to left directly behind the stand. To complicate things some, the overnight snow was weighing down the hemlock limbs in the area – much like heavy Christmas ornaments hang from the family tree. I struggled to see the buck as he continued his hobbled walk.

I hoped he would turn and head my way, but it became very clear that wasn’t going to happen – at least without some prodding. It was at this point I decided to grunt at him. I gave him a few tending grunts and that was all it took. He stopped, flicked his tail and made a 90 degree turn towards my stand. I whirled around, grabbed my bow and attached my release. As I saw the buck moving through the trees I came to a full draw. He paused for a moment and then walked broadside at 25 yards. I blatted at him, but as he stopped he angled towards me. I had one shot and that was to try and squeeze a G5 Montec into the left side of his chest. I steadied my HHS single pin sight and sent a Beman flying.

I immediately knew I hit the buck – archers know the distinct sound a penetrating arrow makes. I made a few phone calls and assessed the situation. Upon climbing down from my stand I found good blood. I was encouraged. I gave the deer 45 minutes and began to slowly track him through the snow. I went about 60 yards and looked up. To my amazement the deer laid 15 yards in front of me. He had his head up, but his breathing was obviously labored. I knocked another arrow and came to full draw. I let a second arrow fly – this one catching the front part of his lungs. The buck jumped up and ran up a small nearby hill. I called my Dad and told him I was not sure we’d recover the deer. I walked out and met my Dad where we gave the deer another 30 minutes to expire.

We followed the blood trail another 60 yards where the buck laid dead in a ditch. To say I was juiced is an understatement. I had sealed the deal on the final day of the regular archery season. I couldn’t believe it.

The buck has an impressive 22 and 1/4" outside spread.

The 5 X 4 has a 22 and ¼ outside spread. I don’t know what he scores, nor do I really care. It’s been a long journey through these past three seasons. I’ve had some great encounters with some great deer, but for one reason or another I wasn’t able to close the deal.

I feel vindicated and relieved.

I’d like to just give a quick shout out to my wife who deals with my annual absence every fall. Hunting is a time consuming game and she picks up my slack when I’m in the woods and out of the house. I appreciate her understanding of my addiction to whitetail deer.

Until next time, safe hunting.

Greg Johnston is a contributor to AHT. He is most notably known here for his weekly report on rut activity. The WNY native balances time between the woods and home where he and his wife are busy raising their two young children.


Note to Self: Next Time Remember the Arrows

AHT Contributor, Greg Johnston Reports From the Stand:

It wasn’t one of my finer hunting moments. My father and I had made our half-hour morning commute to our hunting property in Livingston County, NY. All was well and good as I prepared myself for the morning hunt. Dad stopped the truck as the plan was for him to drop me off near my stand location – I would walk from there. I reached into the back of the truck for my hunting paraphernalia. Safety vest check, H.S. earth scent spray check, Bowtech check, Catquiver…Ah…

My Catquiver.

Yup, that’s right I had left my Catquiver at home. Without it I was dead in the water. I’d be like Dale Earnhardt Jr. showing up to the race track without a Sharpie in hand.

My backpack carries my arrows, grunt call, bleat can, gloves, knit hat and more. There was one solution to this problem and that was to drive back home and retrieve my catquiver, which I did. To complicate the problem, I arrived back home where I received a call from my Dad who said he forgot his release in the truck after I dropped him off. I eventually returned back to the woods, handed Dad his release and climbed the tree. All by 7:30 a.m.

It’s fair to say the morning didn’t go as planned, but with all of the garb we archery hunters carry now a days, I’m actually surprised it hasn’t happened before [but hopefully won’t again].

Rut Action

As I forecasted last week, rut action has really picked up. A quick search of the internet will show that hunters from the Midwest to the Northeast have been knocking down some bruisers. Unfortunately I haven’t been one of those lucky hunters. I’ve seen plenty of chasing and have passed up on plenty of smaller bucks, but I have yet to get a good look at a big boy. I aint giving up though.

Tomorrow, 11/18 marks the end of the early archery season here in N.Y. The orange pumpkins invade the woods on Saturday the 19th. I’m going to mark the end of the archery season by sitting in a tree with my bow in hand. I’m down to my final hours, but I’m going to finish strong.

Shooting a mature buck in the Northeast has proven to be a challenge. Not impossible, but a challenge. I know that. Hey, I’ve eaten my archery tag the past three years in this quest. At this point in my hunting career I’ve made the conscious decision though to shoot big deer or no deer – or at least just does.

Orange Pumpkins

As I said, Saturday marks the beginning of shotgun/rifle season here in WNY. I will reluctantly join the orange pumpkins. I enjoy gun hunting I just don’t enjoy listening to all of the weekend warriors whack every deer that runs out of the woods on the first deer drive of the season.

Opening day 2010 buck.

That’s not to say that opening day isn’t one of the best days to be in a stand though. I got lucky last year when ‘The Great Eight’ came strolling in in search of a hot doe. He seemed to have no idea it was firearm season, but then again we only allow stand hunting on all of our properties.

I hope to have some luck this week. I’ve put in my time, I just hope it pays off.

Here’s to a safe and enjoyable hunt, Greg Johnston