Category Archives: General Tales

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


Rut Action to Peak This Week

AHT Contributor, Greg Johnston Reports From the Stand:

The calendar reads Nov. 8th, but it feels more like Oct. 8th here in Upstate NY. The mercury is forecasted to climb to near 70 degrees today and we all know that doesn’t make for great deer hunting weather.

I’m not hunting today, but I’ll be in a tree the rest of the week and the upcoming weekend. With cooler temperatures expected, activity should peak.

A group of does work past my stand on Saturday morning.

I expect rut activity to climax Nov. 10 through the 15th as bucks will be on their feet in search of that first estrus doe. In my opinion, that’ll be our best shot at getting a crack at a good buck with archery tackle in hand.

To recap my week, the closest encounter I had with a mature deer came last evening as I had a big buck run a doe to within 40 years of my stand. I’m a little fuzzy as to who this deer is, but never the less, he’s a big bodied buck and sports a good rack.

The deer had a considerable limp and appeared to be ailing from a pre-rut scuffle with another deer.
I blew my opportunity though when I hit him with a few tending grunts. I decided to grunt in an effort to bring him around a clump of brush. I needed him to clear the brush in order to get a clear shot. The wounded warrior obviously didn’t like the challenge as he turned and walked away. Lesson learned – I won’t try that again.

I have to admit that my archery tag is itching a hole right through my back pocket, but I’m doing my best to try and remain patient, but confident. It’s hard though man.

Let us know what you’re seeing by leaving a comment below.

Cat Tales:
I received some disappointing news this week when I learned that one of my Hit List bucks had been killed by a neighboring hunter. The 9-pointer had visited my trail camera last on October 24th, just a few days prior to him being harvested.

The final picture I captured of the Big 9. At just 3.5 years-old the deer was one of the better bucks I captured on camera.

That was a bummer, but I’ve still got some great deer to hunt and feel fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to do something I love so much!