by AHT Contributor Greg Johnston
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.
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.
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 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.