Tag Archives: Greg Johnston

‘The Show’ Stopper

The Show Hero Pic

Shooting mature deer in New York State isn’t the easiest task to accomplish. Heck, let’s face it – shooting mature deer in Iowa or Illinois isn’t easy either, but you get my drift.

That’s why I take great pride in saying that between my Dad and me, we’ve killed at least one mature buck the past five seasons.

Putting on a show.

Putting on a show.

Heading into this archery season, Dad and I had a handful of target deer, but there was one buck in particular we were hoping to get a crack at. I had nicknamed the deer ‘The Show’ after a particular series of trailcam photos captured him standing on his hind legs while working a licking branch.

Fast forward to September of this year when I pulled one of my cards only to find this same buck make reappearance. I was ecstatic.

Sept. 15, 2013

Sept. 15, 2013

He was now mature and sported a handsome Pope and Young 8-point rack. I relied heavily on my trailcams throughout October, monitoring the buck’s daylight activity.

On October 22 I got my first daylight pic of him. It was time to move in. Dad and I hunted this deer’s core area hard for the next week or so, without any success.

On the afternoon of October 30, Dad texted me around 3 p.m. to say he hadn’t seen a single deer all afternoon. Things soon changed. About a half-hour later I got a call from him saying that he’d just shot ‘The Show.’ We were pumped. Dad marked the blood and returned home where he waited for me to return from work.

'The Show' bedded with a hot doe less than 24 hrs. before Dad's encounter with him.

‘The Show’ bedded with a hot doe less than 24 hrs. before Dad’s encounter with him.

We gave the deer roughly three hours as Dad was concerned the shot may have been a touch back. When we initially took up the trail, I was astonished at the amount of blood. It was as if someone had walked through the woods dumping red Kool-Aid from a gallon jug. But just as the trail began, it ended.

The blood trail.

The blood trail.

I was confident the deer was liver hit and in fear of us bumping him, we backed out. I had to work the next morning and get my kids to school, so Dad took up the search by himself. It wasn’t long before my phone vibrated. It was Dad. He had located the buck, but the deer wasn’t yet expired.

Dad knocked an arrow and moved in for a final shot. We had done it – Dad had done it. Our number one hit list buck was down. I wanted to jump through my skin with excitement.

A mature NYS buck.

A mature NYS buck.

I returned home that night just in time to snap a few nice photos of Dad and his trophy.

My Dad is 66-years-old and has overcome more than most. He suffered a severe back injury in 1995 and has fought through numerous other ailments including broken bones and most recently a detached retina in his right eye.

To say that I’m proud of him would be an understatement. Having him shoot our number one hit list buck gives me more pleasure than I ever would have if I had tagged the buck myself.

Next week on AHT read how my slow season picked up in a matter of 16 hours.

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Never How You Want to Find Them

As I found him.

Where I found him

My fears had come true. It was May 11, 2013 and I was out chasing spring gobblers in Upstate New York when I stumbled upon him. It was the end of the mystery – I now knew what had happened to this buck 8 months prior.

It’s something we as hunters never want discover, but unfortunately we do from time to time. Finding a dead rotten buck is never a pleasant sight, especially when it’s a deer you recognize. It’s a theme that many deer hunters experience, we focus in on a particular buck only to have the animal disappear for one reason or another. Such was the case here.

I had captured several trailcamera photos of this buck back in mid-September. They weren’t the best quality images, but I saw enough of the deer’s antlers to interest me. I knew the buck was a definite up-and-comer and I looked forward to monitoring his progress and finding him back the following season.

Trailcam image from Sept. 2012.

Trailcam image from Sept. 2012.

The 2012 hunting season came and ended without a single sighting of this buck.

The next time I would lay yes on him would be that warm May morning. The buck lay dead nearly a mile from where my Bushnell Trophy Cam had captured those images of him back in September.

It’s always a bitter-sweet moment when you discover an animal like this. On one hand you’re relieved that you know what happened to him and on the other; you’re disappointed and saddened that he’s gone and won’t be around for the upcoming season. And then there’s always the question of how the animal died.

G5 T3 - Illegal in NYS.

G5 T3 – Pokes out from bone.

I began inspecting the 8-pointer for clues as to what may have lead to his death, and there in pain sight was the answer. A G5 T3 Broadhead was wedged in to the buck’s right shoulder blade. The finding left little doubt that the deer had been shot by a fellow archer and never recovered – most likely because the arrow never penetrated the deer’s vitals.

This story would end here if I lived in Texas or Illinois, but I don’t. I reside and hunt in New York State. I tell you that to tell you this: G5’s T3 Broadheads are illegal for hunting purposes in NYS.

A quick check of the NYS Department of Conservation’s website will tell you that ANY barbed broadhead is illegal. Period.
broadhd

Image if T3 - illegal in NYS.

Image of G5 T3 – illegal in NYS.

Here’s how the DEC defines a barbed broadhead: “A barbed Broadhead is one in which the angle formed between the trailing or rear edge of any blade and the shaft is less than 90 degrees.”

Clearly the T3 fits this description.

I’m unsure of who shot the buck – and to be honest, I don’t really care, but may I suggest that he or she pay a visit to http://www.dec.ny.gov prior to heading out to the local pro shop to stock up on next season’s broadheads.

As for the buck, I salvaged his head and plan to do a european mount on him.

It’s a shame really, but at least I now have answers to my questions.

Mystery solved.


New Yorkers Stripped of Rights, Freedom

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

It wasn’t about guns, it was about freedom and New York State residents awoke Tuesday morning stripped of it.

The free people of New York are disarmed.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Sate Senate orchestrated a closed-door deal, ramming secret legislation through under the dark of night. The result: an over-reaching bill that strips New Yorkers of their Second Amendment rights.

The right of the people to keep and bear arms is no longer the law of the land. New York has been infringed upon – thanks to a dictator named Cuomo and a class of clowns knows as the State Senate.

All rumored to be burried in this bill…

The number one selling rifle in America is now illegal in New York State. Thousands are manufactured in New York’s Herkimer County, but its people are now not free enough to own one.

Having a magazine with a capacity of eight rounds or more is now illegal in New York. The max is a seven round clip. Yeah, the Ruger 10/22 you bought to take your son or daughter squirrel hunting is now useless without its 10-round clip.

Oh, and if you need to purchase bullets for that .22, good luck.

10 Round Clip

10 Round Clip

All law-abiding citizens are now subject to a background check when purchasing any type of ammunition – and there are limits on the quantity you can purchase. Good luck getting through the line at Bass Pro or Wal-Mart the day before deer season.

Those who possess a hand gun permit will now be forced to be recertified every five years. Can you say money grab?

The so called ‘mentally ill’ will now be stripped of their guns. That next knock at your fron door could very well be the State Police demanding your weapons.

The question that begs to be asked is what exactly defines mentally ill? Is Johnny Joe considered mentally ill because he was prescribed an anti-depressant following the death of his 6-year-old son?

All of this legislation comes from the same man who decriminalized the use of marijuana while criminalizing gun owners – In the same speech!

Is this America or Neo-Nazi Germany? The last time I check this was The Land of The Free and The Home of The Brave. At least half of that statement remains true.

Let’s face it though, this wasn’t about guns, it’s about freedom – or the removal of it. And let’s not forget Mr. Cuomo’s 2016 ambitions. Coincidence? I say not.

New York State ratified the Constitution in the year 1788. It died on January 14th 2013.


My Formula For Not Keeping Score

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The question is better than the answer I told him. My friend had stopped over to the house to take a look at the buck I had harvested earlier that day. That’s a nice buck Greg, he said. What does he score? I haven’t put a tape to him I said, and I’m not sure I ever will.

The buck, a big 9-pointer with a small G5 on his left side that could possible make him a ten, was one of the heaviest racked New York State bucks I had ever killed in my 20-year plus whitetail hunting career.

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I had anchored the buck on the afternoon of Nov. 19 with a Winchester slug fired from my Remington 1100 Special. The encounter happened by chance, as I ascended to my stand for the afternoon hunt and spotted the buck standing in a nearby CRP field. A few shots from the stand and a finishing shot from the ground, and the buck was mine for good.

After admiring my kill, my buddy’s question really got me thinking. How do we as hunters really value our trophies? Is score the end-all, be-all in the whitetail woods? Gosh, I hope not. I’ve never been big on score; in fact I’ve never had any of my deer officially scored. That’s just not me. I hunt mature deer, period.

Why, you ask? My answer is pretty simple really, I feel putting a label/score on a deer diminishes the hunt I had for him. Personally, I like to let the memory of the hunt marinate in my thoughts a while. It’s kind of like placing a back-strap in a bag of spiedie sauce for the weekend. Follow me? You have to let it sink in. To me, slapping a number on a trophy buck too quickly devalues the animal.

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Now having said that, I recognize the fact that The Pope and Young Club and the Boone and Crockett Club set whitetail records based on the score of a buck’s antlers size. My fear however is that in the new-aged world of whitetail hunting with so much emphasis being placed on harvesting trophy deer, the sport of hunting is getting lost in the mix. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with and practice Quality Deer Management. I enjoy hunting big bucks and like killing them even more, but does the score of a deer inflate or lessen the worth of the animal or hunter? I say no.

I embrace and cherish the sport of whitetail hunting. I live and breathe whitetails. Anyone who doubts this fact can ask my beautiful wife or taxidermist. I just don’t feel we as hunters should base a trophy on a series of numbers.

What say you?

Cat Tales:

I’d like to give a shout out to my Dad who spent the majority of these past summer months conducting a Timber Stand Improvement Project on our property. Dad and I are committed to growing big deer, but with two young children and a full-time job, much of the grunt work gets left to him. He rarely disappoints. Thanks Dad!

I’d also would like to publicly congratulate my friend and good hunting buddy, John Koska who put the hammer down on this mature 8-pointer while hunting my property December 1st.

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I cannot tell you how many bucks John has passed over the years on our farm looking for the right deer to take. This guy seemed like a fine candidate. Way to go John!


Season Recap – Antler Discovery

Four antlers, two deer and one lucky hunter. That pretty much sums up my 2011 hunting season. As documented here on AHT I killed a deer dubbed ‘The Ghost Buck’ on Nov. 19 with archery tackle in hand.

'The Ghost Buck' Mount

The only history I had with the deer was a single trail camera photo – or so I thought.

On Nov. 23 I tagged another hit list deer I had dubbed ‘The Shed Buck.’ I had both sets of sheds from the deer from the previous year. I was thrilled with the outcome of my season – one that I deem my best in my nearly quarter century hunting career.

'The Shed Buck' - And The Sheds


The story however got even better in early April when I picked up ‘The Ghost Buck’ from my taxidermist. After securing the buck in the trophy room and admiring him I recalled a set of sheds my then 3-year-old son and I had retrieved the previous year. We had found the sheds just a stone throw away where I arrowed the buck.

The Sheds

I dug through the shed pile and located the antlers in question. I held them up to the mounted animal and was amazed to see that they were a near perfect match. The deer had grown significantly, but carried the same characteristic – sweeping beams with small times, and more of them on his left side. There’s no doubt in my mind that indeed the antlers I found in 2010 are a match set to ‘The Ghost Buck.’ This discovery means I have matching sheds to both bucks I killed in 2011. You can’t ask for a more satisfying feeling in the deer hunting woods.

Proof that passing young deer grows bigger deer.

To say I’m tickled would be an understatement. We’ve put a lot of effort, time and money into growing deer on our properties.

My accomplishments in 2011 are the result of this effort. Taxidermy photos of ‘The Shed Buck’ expected in early May.


‘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.


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.