Tag Archives: Archery Hunting

How a :60 Sec Hunt Etched a Life Long Memory


The Author and his prized ‘Bully 5.’

The actual hunt for this buck lasted all of: 60 seconds, but the memories made will last a lifetime. The morning of October 25, 2016 started as mine usually do – getting my kids out of the house and off to school. Except this morning, I didn’t have to continue on to work. Instead, I had taken the day off and had to head to one of my two hunting properties to retrieve a doe my son and I and hit the night before.

For this, I asked my Dad to tag along for some help and hunting companionship. Days like these are rare. Dad and I don’t have time to spend alone hunting like we did back in the glory days of my upbringing. Now it’s me and my wife who are raising children and teaching them the art of hunting and the respect for the great outdoors.

Once scooping Dad and hitting the road for school drop-off, I noticed an SUV pulled to the side of the road adjacent to our home property. I rolled down the window and could see the damage to the vehicle. The driver soon confirmed that he’d hit a deer, but wasn’t sure what it was or if the animal was fatally wounded. We exchanged pleasantries and continued on our way.

After dropping my son at school, Dad and I soon arrived at our property in Livingston County where I had shot the doe the night before. It took us approximately :30 minutes to locate the downed whitetail. However, upon walking up to the doe, I soon realized we weren’t the only ones who had discovered the kill. Coyotes had beaten us to the scene and had devoured the venison I was so looking forward to depositing into my freezer. Gosh, I dislike coyotes.

With a disappointing ending, Dad and I hopped back in the truck to return home. On our ride back I suggested to Dad that we do the ethical thing and check the area where the gentleman had struck the deer hours before to ensure the animal wasn’t laying in the brush suffering.  Dad agreed and we formulated our plan. Upon arriving back to our Ontario County property, I grabbed my bow and gear. Dad and I made the short walk through our property to the neighbor’s lawn where the man had told us the deer was seen flopping around after he’d struck it. We began searching the edge of the road and the perimeter of the lawn for any sign of the wounded deer. We didn’t see any evidence. No blood, hair or any other sign of a wounded animal.

Not sure what to do next, Dad suggested I grab my bow and stand at the end of a section of brush while he entered to continue the search. Our idea was; that if the wounded animal was to get up and try and escape the brush-lot I would at least see it or maybe even get a shot at the wounded animal. I agreed and headed over. I knocked an arrow and waited.


The ‘Music Camp.’ The remnants of the old bandstand can be seen in this satellite image.

It’s important to note that this section of brush we call the ‘Music Camp’ is very familiar to Dad and me. We’ve hunted it our entire lives. The 4 acre swath got its name from the 1960’s when in its glory days the property’s former owner literally ran a music camp there. Kids would come from all over New York and points beyond to attend the camp. As of a few years ago, the old bandstand – including chairs and music stands still stood as they were left by the children decades ago. The camp is long gone and in fact resembles more of a jungle now as the brush is well above my head. The deer love it though and we love it, too because it acts as a deer sanctuary and allows them to escape the area’s heavy hunting pressure.

As I stood at the end of the brush lot and watched, I was reminded of some of the previous hunts Dad and I have shared in years prior. There was that big 8-pointer I had tagged with my muzzleloader back in the early 2000’s and the time I saw one of the biggest bucks of my youth, but choked when I shot a dogwood (tree) and not the deer.

And then it happened. I had glanced up to the north and I could see a large-bodied buck moving through the brush and headed to a clearing. Could the ‘Music Camp’ produce yet another magical memory? I was around 80 yards from the buck and needed to close the distance – and fast. I tucked my bow and arrow under my arm and began to run. As I edged closer and closer to the clearing, I glanced up to ensure the buck was still on his way. He was. I closed another 20 to 30 yards and waited. I could see the buck walking slowly through the brush – he was nearing the clearing and I knew the encounter was going to happen. I drew my Bowtech 101st Airborne and waited. At 22 yards, the buck stepped out of the brush. It was the moment of truth and in the game of hunting I was in the driver’s seat because the buck hadn’t detected my presence, but I had his.

I waited, aimed and let the Easton arrow fly. It was a true and perfect shot as I’d hit the buck right in the boiler. He spun and ran right back into the ‘Music Camp.’ I dropped to my knees and laughed. What the heck had just happened? Unreal!

I could hear Dad in the brush and he was making his way. He had no idea that I had shot or had even seen a deer. I grabbed my phone, clicked it on video and hit record:


‘Bully 5’ (foreground) makes an appearance just hours prior to his face-to-face meeting with the author. Date and time clearly wrong in photo.

“I’m pulling out my phone to record this because no one in the world will believe what just happened,” I said. “What,” Dad said it a surprised look on his face. “A monster just walked out of the ‘Music Camp’ and I shot him at like 20-yards,” I relied. “You’re kidding me!” “Nope!” Dad and I started hugging and acting like all hunters do when we achieve success. Dad said to me he was just thinking that every few years he and I do something so stupid and end up shooting a nice buck. He was right and we had.

We decided to give the deer some time to expire and headed back to the house for a coffee and to reminisce on the morning’s events. On the way back to the house I decided to pop a card on a camera I have located not too far from the ‘Music Camp.’ I replaced the card and headed to the house. I popped the card in the computer and, as fate would have it, on this memory-filled Monday, there was he was. The buck I had just arrowed posed for that camera just hours prior. This was certainly cool and added to the hunt. He was a deer we had limited history with, but one I’d coined as the ‘Bully 5.’ This buck was a tank with a set of wacky antlers that only sported 5 points.


Where the Bully landed.

Dad and I returned to the site of the shot and took up the blood trail. Some 80 yards later, we walked up on ‘Bully 5.’ He was down.

He was exactly what I thought he was – a fully mature Western New York bruiser of a buck. I was thrilled with him. After tagging ‘Bully 5,’ Dad snapped a few pictures to document the day. They turned out great, but the memories made will remain as vivid in my mind as the images captured.

As it turns out, we never did find any sign of that wounded deer – and ‘Bully 5’ didn’t have any injuries to him. So that mystery remains unsolved. I do owe that motorist a ‘thank you’ though. Had he not struck that deer with his car, Dad and I would have never done what we did.


The Bully & The Bolt. The buck’s 170 lbs. field dressed weight proved to be too much for the author’s hanging system. #busted

‘Bully 5’ tipped the scale at 170 lbs. The big boy proved to be too much for one of my eye bolts as it snapped in half when I was hoisting him up.

What a blessed day in the deer woods of WNY.

NC Record Buck Killed: Davis Buck of Davidson County

Steven Davis killed one of those bucks that drive hunters across the country to settle into deer stands in the Midwest. For there is where so many whitetail monarchs roam the woods and plains.

Except instead of taking the deer in one of the heartland states of Iowa, Kansas or Illinois, Davis shot the nearly 190″ buck on his family land in Davidson County, NC. That’s not a typo!

Steven Davis with his Davidson County, NC, buck - one that will likely be the new No. 1 with archery in the state. (Photo borrowed from northcarolinasportsman.com)

Steven Davis with his Davidson County, NC, buck – one that will likely be the new No. 1 with archery in the state. (Photo borrowed from northcarolinasportsman.com)

According to an article on North Carolina Sportsman Davis had trail cam pictures of the giant and watched him on the hoof for four days before getting a crossbow bolt into him on Sept. 18.

The buck is likely headed to the top of the list of bucks killed with archery gear in North Carolina. He is a remarkable animal regardless of the state.

In addition to seeing the deer, he even had the opportunity to watch the buck shed his velvet.

What strikes me about this amazing opportunity for Davis is not only that he was able to shoot the deer, but how he enjoyed the excitement that came with actually pursuing him over several days. I’m not sure I would have been able to sleep during that time!

Also interesting is that several neighbors had photos of this buck dating back several years and as far away as five miles from where Davis shot the buck! What a great legend of a deer.

Congrats to Davis, who is a full-time firefighter for the city of Winston-Salem.

Back in the saddle

Fear and the observation that my nimbleness has lost some of its vigor in recent years led me to drop a little extra change before this hunting season started. And unlike that slumped over walk of shame you sometimes present around your wife after a hunting purchase, this one came with nothing but support.

HSS Lifeline

After doing research, I purchased the multi-pack of Hunter Safety System Lifeline in order to maximize my safety over the duration of my ascension into a treestand, and the subsequent climb down following. I’ve always worn a safety harness of some kind the last 20 years, but have zero reason why I haven’t completed my safety repertoire by having a climbing system in place.

Why now? Well it started with an innocent fall out of the back of my truck a couple weeks ago after my foot got hung up between the wheel well and 4-wheeler. A few days later, I slipped while adding corn to a feeder that led to a ‘(bleep) over tea kettle’ moment that knocked the wind out me. Simply put, I’m just not as nimble as I used to be. Call it age, lack of concentration or added weight to new places on my body (I don’t quite weigh the 150 lbs. I did as a young hunter), it’s just different.

I purchased the HSS Lifeline instead of opting to make my own for a couple reasons – none more significant than the fact that the cost was not significantly higher to purchase the sets already made.

I was able to put the Lifeline to the test already this season. The NC opener was Sept. 8 and my hunting buddy Jason and I were able to hit the woods for a few hours.

Jason Shell and me during a beautiful NC morning hunt. No shots fired.

Our hunting team is planning to do a lot more videoing this year after Jason’s resilience led to the purchase of a full set of HD equipment (all the top stuff). I’m looking forward to being part of both the hunting and videoing of several hunts throughout the season.

Where did all the posts go? Posts have been a little bit ‘off the radar’ for much of the year. Good news – the hunting season is upon us and I have a sleeve full of ideas to write about. The frequency of posts is likely to start climbing soon. There are a few AHT8 posts coming up too (8 questions from people you’ve heard of in the outdoors).

We’ll also be hearing more from our AHT Northern Field Editor Greg Johnston over the next several months. Please keep checking back for that.

Whether your season has started or not, here’s hoping the 2012-2013 season is the one where your outdoor dreams come true.

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.

AHT 8 Questions: Matt Arey

Matt Arey has been flipping and pitching lures on the waters of North Carolina for over two decades. He started doing it professionally around the country nine years ago.

Arey at an FLW Major Tour weigh-in

Arey, 30, is a professional on the FLW Majors Tour where he’s averaged nearly $35,000 in sanctioned earnings each year since 2006. AHuntersTales connected with the Shelby, N.C., native recently to chat about the outdoors as part of an AHT 8. For him, that’s more than just fishing. Like a lot of professional anglers we talk with, hunting is as much of a passion for Arey as fishing. When he’s not fishing, he co-owns a guide service called Rack and Reel Outfitters.

1) Ok, truth be told … do you like fishing or hunting better? Why?
My favorite would have to be hunting, hands down. First of all, fishing has been my full time job during the past five years; hunting is a way for me to relax and enjoy God’s creation, while also giving me a break from life on the road. I bow hunt almost exclusively now and enjoy seeing wildlife up close and personal in their natural state. I am amazed at the sights and sounds that a person can witness from a deer stand or duck blind. If I could figure out a way to make a living hunting, I would be happy to make that transition.

2) What gets you excited about the future of the outdoors?
Hunting and fishing conservation improvements over the last few years with extremely active groups definitely excite me. For example, groups such as Ducks Unlimited and FishAmerica Foundation are always working hard to enhance duck and fish populations while restoring habitat and improving water quality.

Arey with a Kentucky bruiser

Something else that excites me, especially on the fishing side of things, are the new tackle, electronic, and equipment innovations over the last few years. Innovative products such as the Evinrude E-TEC outboard and StructureScan have taken bass fishing to a whole new level. One of the main reasons I run the Evinrude E-TEC is because of its low emissions. I am eager I to see what other amazing products these companies have in store for consumers.

3) What’s your fishing “must have”? How about when you’re hunting?
The two things I must have when I am on the water are my Evinrude E-TEC and my Costa Del Mar sunglasses. The success of my career is largely dependent on the reliability of my equipment, and I surround myself with the best products available.

Since I love to bow hunt, the number one piece of equipment for me in the woods is my range finder.

4) What is your first memory in the outdoors?
One of my very first memories in the outdoors is going on my first deer hunting trip down in Council, N.C. with my dad at the age of 9. We were deer hunting with dogs, and there was a small doe that was chased out of the brush toward our location. I shot twice with my youth 20 gauge pump that dad had given to me right before the hunt and missed. The club we were hunting with would hold a “trial” for those hunters who were rumored to have missed a deer during the hunt that day.

If you were indeed “found guilty” of missing a deer, they would punish you by cutting off a piece of your shirttail and then hanging it on a line that was full of shirttails from over the years (as a joke of course). Well, long story short, part of my shirt became a victim and joined the rest of the bad shots that hung on the line, and as far as I know, it is still hanging there to this day.

5) You guide fishing and hunting too, right? What’s your favorite memory that includes someone else in the lead role with you guiding?
This probably involves a young boy and his father on a trip I took to Lake Wylie (near Charlotte) one day. Neither one of them had ever caught a bass over 3 lbs. The very first thing that morning they had doubles on, and both fish ended up surpassing (in weight) their personal records. I have taken quite a few trips with father-son duos and I have never seen as big a grin as the ones that came across their faces when both of those fish came into the boat that day.

6) We hear from people all the time that want to “make a living” in the outdoors. What is your advice to them?
My advice would be to take it slow and keep an open mind. If your goal is competitive fishing, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start out fishing local events to gain experience and see how you stack up and go from there. Whether I am guiding or fishing a Tour event, there is always room to learn more. Always remember that every day in the woods or on the water is a learning experience no matter how knowledgeable you think you are.

7) Every pro angler has a morning launch story that involves getting to a spot they wanted. Tell us your favorite!
At the FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake, my wife surprised me for my 30th birthday, by flying to Arkansas and showing up to weigh-in. To top off the surprise, I was fortunate to have a good two days of fishing and make the top 20 cut. After day 3, I was sitting in third place and eager to start the final day of fishing.

I arrived to my first spot, went to get a couple of jerk bait rods out of my rod box and panic immediately set in. It was locked! I keep my truck and compartment keys on the same key ring, so normally my truck keys are always in the boat. My wife helped me launch the boat that morning and took my truck with her so she would not be without a vehicle at the tournament. She was headed to Rogers for the day and I knew I could not call her.

I debated on what to do and was hesitant to pry open the box, for fear of damaging my boat. After weighing my options and thinking about the opportunity to win $125,000, my mind was made up. Using a flat-head screwdriver and a lot of elbow grease, I was able to break the box open, while ripping through the gel coat and throwing fiberglass everywhere. It was instant relief to finally pull a rod out, but I was angry at myself for such a bone head move on such an important day.

8) Do you need an AHT deal for your boat? How about your truck?
As most pro anglers would tell you, sponsorship opportunities are few and far between, and my ears are always open. This doesn’t mean I have to put a picture of Kurt’s Tail on my truck or boat does it? … Oh wait, this is T-a-l-e-s, not Tails!

It was great to talk to you Kurt, Happy Hunting! Now it is off to Kentucky for me to chase some Christian County whitetails.

Thanks for the time, Matt. We look forward to seeing how you’re doing on the FLW Tour for many years to come. And keep us posted on your success in the woods. You’re welcome to share stories for the AHT readers anytime!

Reliving the moments all over again

There’s something amazing about really good taxidermy. I’ll bet that’s something you don’t hear everyday!

But something magical happens for me each time I sit in my man cave and let my mind wander back to the hunts of yesterday, reliving each moment of many specific hunts and then piecing them all together to reflect on the success that came out of those days.

Kurt's 2010 Illinois buck mount

This week I was able to pick up both of my 2010 whitetails from my big game taxidermist, Eric Gardner. He did a fantastic job. My Illinois deer couldn’t look better and I’m pleased I decided to go with a wall pedestal for the mount. The second I saw the deer on Eric’s wall ready for pick up, I couldn’t help but be taken back to the moments before the shot.

The thrill of seeing the deer movement out of the corner of my eye … deciding to capture him on video … praying he would give me a quality shot … watching him for what seemed like hours rub on small saplings … and the climactic moment of the shot … all the way to the recovery and the great times in camp with great friends.

It’s crazy to me how all those memories can light up a soul in less time than it takes to write them for this blog.

Another view of the buck

I’m off today to showcase the Illinois deer on behalf of Riverview Outfitters at the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh, N.C. I’m looking forward to it primarily for the opportunity to catch up with both Tyler and Josh. With very little voice after a bout with a cold this week, I’m expecting to go hoarse reliving many of the moments of the hunt this weekend with fellow outdoorsmen.

Stop by if you’re headed that way. We’ll be at 1-K06. I’ll probably be smiling next to the big guy pictured in this post!

Deer fail to heed memo about rut beginning …

Memories can’t be mounted, but they sure can be trophies. Thank goodness this year!

The archery season will conclude without the harvest of a whitetail for this happy hunting blogger. Despite several months of planning, earmarking and guesstimating, it appears our annual trip North was a few days early.

Bush Hog

Our horse for the week

Even though reports of sizeable activity among bucks chasing does in areas only a chip shot from our Allegany County properties, the deer woods didn’t seem to explode until this morning. The last two hours on stand this morning saw several deer make their way through the woods, none fitting the parameters I set for bow hunting this year. However, each made for quality video projects with the new Kodak Zi8 (I’ll be sure to get some of the videos on here soon enough).

My father also reported seeing several bucks on hoof this morning, which leads me to think we were a few days early from having our seemingly-normal successful trip. What was different this trip? For starters, the full moon turned into a buzz kill. Without question, the deer were feeding and moving throughout the well-lit night. The moon’s gaze made it possible to travel before daybreak without the use of a flashlight – that’s how bright it was.

While no arrow was flung, the six days in New York did create several lasting memories. Those came in addition to the hours of mental decompressing from 17 feet above the ground.

Nov. 4, 2009 will go down in the annals of history as the day the first-ever bobcat was spotted on our farm. Although I’ve encountered several of the pesky furbearers on trips to the Midwest, it came as quite the shock to see this cat in our woods. Upon investigating further, there have been a handful of sightings in Western New York the last year. Clearly, they’re on the way to the area, likely in droves.

This was the fourth season in a row that a coyote or two has graced us with his presence. Three years ago, a couple coyotes were taken off the tax roll. I wish all of them were removed from our ecosystem.

These sightings became noteworthy when realizing that half of the does that showed up this year did not have fawns with them. I have never taken notes to that sort of thing, but anecdotally speaking that was a first. That makes me think the fawn mortality in our area is at a high.

The Yankees returned to greatness during this trip, something I hope can only be forgotten if they win the next 20-straight pennants.

Never short of comic relief to add value to our trip, this year’s belly buster came when Kenny fell down the stairs of camp while trying to use the bathroom at 3 a.m. The incident was only mildly funny until he confirmed he was OK. At that point, it became hilarious!

Daydreaming for next year’s bowhunting trip to NY begins tomorrow.