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Tag Archives: Greg Johnston

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.

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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!


Action on the Increase in WNY

AHT Contributor, Greg Johnston Reports From the Stand:

The action is heating up here in Western New York.  I hunted Livingston and Ontario Counties this Saturday and Sunday where I encountered some decent action – including one of my Hit List deer.

Two does work past my stand.

Deer movement is on the increase and this week’s cold snap shouldn’t hurt things.  I hunted our Livingston County Farm on Saturday where I encountered over a dozen deer, including one decent buck that I wasn’t able to get a good look at.

Sunday was warmer and sunny, but I hopped in the stand anyway for an afternoon hunt.  I didn’t have high hopes, but movement was swift throughout the afternoon.  I was able to grunt in one of the bucks on my Hit List, but he locked up at 30 yards, behind a blow down.  With a bad angle and a tree in my way I had to watch him walk.

If it hadn’t been for that tree, I’m guessing this entry would have had a different headline and topic, but hey, that’s why we hunt.  It’s worth noting that I also encountered a 1.5 buck who was clearly in the seeking mode.

I’d say it’s just a matter of time before we start seeing those older more mature bucks on their feet and cruising during daylight hours.  So, if you’ve got the time, I’d suggest you plant your rear in the seat of a stand somewhere.  The clock is ticking…

Be sure to check back weekly as I continue to chronicle my season and monitor deer movement here in the Northeast.

Greg Johnston


				

Pursuit of Memories (and a few ducks too!)

The lens through which a hunter looks at the outdoors changes quite a bit when he or she is a parent. The endless hours of daydreaming about your own success afield is replaced with thoughts of sharing the woods and waters with your kids. Heck, my daughter is probably a decade away from hunting and I’m already thinking about those days to come.

Richard Faulkner has three sons. And his oldest, Nate, is joining Richard next week for his annual pilgrimage to North Dakota. At 12-years old, Nate has caught hold of the hunting bug pretty hard. And while that’s truly awesome, what makes it equally fun is to witness how excited his dad gets when he gets to share the outdoors with Nate.

So AHuntersTales is going along with the father-son duo. In addition to enjoying the time hunting ducks, I’m going to document as much of Nate’s first out-of-state hunt as possible with video and still cameras. The outcome will be a series of blog entries documenting the memories for both Richard and Nate. It should be a lot of fun.

We’re planning to be in North Dakota for the opener next week. Posts should start shortly thereafter.

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Jillian and Blake Johnston showing off their AHT bumper sticker

Check out the picture of AHT contributor Greg Johnston’s kids proudly displaying their AHT sticker on the back of their John Deere Gator! Thanks for the support Jilli and Blakester (now, go tell all your friends at school to check out the blog)!


Shed Hunt Nets Bone, Memories

By Greg Johnston
AHT Guest Writer

I started the spring shed-hunting season hoping to find one set of sheds in particular – and no they weren’t from a 165” giant we’d been passing all year hoping he’d crack the Boone and Crocket barrier next season. This aint Iowa, and my name isn’t Lakosky.

The deer whose antlers I coveted was a 2.5-year old 9-pointer, who frequented my Moultrie all winter long.

The 9-point buck Johnston awaited to drop sheds.

I religiously checked my camera waiting for this particular buck to show up missing antlers. In early February I got the photo I’d been waiting for. The buck I’d dubbed ‘Survivor’ showed up with his right side missing and a few hours later returned with no antlers at all.

In late February I set out hoping to stumble upon these two antlers.

It didn’t happen.

I made three different trips to the woods in February, but had no luck locating Survivor’s sheds in the thick white snow. My luck changed in March, though, when the snow pack melted and I was able to locate both sides of Survivor. The antlers lay approximately 25-feet apart in a travel corridor.

The author with his 3-year old son, Blake

This was a major accomplishment for me as this was the first match set of antlers I’d ever been able to recover.

Feeling more confident in my shed hunting ability, I took my 3-year old son a few weeks later to another family property. With Blake in the backpack, and my wife and daughter at the mall, we set off in hunt of more bone. For anyone with young children, this is a great way to get them involved in the great outdoors – and another opportunity to get you to the woods.

Sheds on the ground!


Blake seemed to really enjoy the day and even claimed he saw a zebra at one point. Not sure on that one.

We were about a half an hour into our quest when I spotted antlers through the woods. I pointed them out to Blake who replied, “They’re from a white buck Dad.” He could obviously see the white of the antlers through the trees. As it turned out there were two antlers and they too were a match set of sheds.

Blake looking tired after a day in the woods!


With two antlers in hand, Blake and I continued our walk where we found four more antlers. Nothing huge, but still satisfying – especially sharing it with my little guy who with any luck will roam those woods for years to come.

The walk back to the truck nearly broke my back, as the 35-pound kiddo was getting heavy after our long journey. He posed for some pictures, but fatigue had apparently caught up him too!

The shed season turned out to be an entire success. I substantially added to my shed collection and, more importantly, made some quality memories with my favorite little guy – memories that even a 165” deer can’t compare to.


The Hit-List Buck Falls

By Greg Johnston
AHT Guest Contributor

Grandpa always said he’d rather be lucky than good, but on opening day of the New York firearms deer season, I was a little of both.

Rewind one week to Nov. 13 when my hunting pal, John Koska, and I were hunting my family’s property in Livingston County.

The author with his Great 8 2010 NY buck


It wasn’t long into the hunt and I felt the vibration from my phone in my safety vest. The message was clear and to the point: “Shooter chasing a doe.”

After a short while John gave me a call and said he watched the buck breed the hot doe and then work past the treestand with the doe at about 25 yards. John said the doe trotted through the shooting lane and that the buck had followed. Not feeling comfortable trying to squeeze a Carbon Express arrow through the young saplings, he elected to pass the questionable shot. You have to respect that.

My question to him was “where did the buck go?” He answered “west,” and that gave me an idea. I had a treestand at the bottom of the hill where the buck seemed to be working towards and with the doe in heat I was confident he wouldn’t go far.

It took multiple encounters for this mature buck to fall

So, I packed my gear, climbed down from my stand and hiked to the truck. From there I drove around the block where I planned on entering the same block of timber, but from the west side. It’s probably about 9:30 a.m. or so at this point.

I eased up the hill and reached the stand. Once settled, I could see a flurry of activity up the hill and it wasn’t long before several does worked by. I then caught a flash of something running and knew that mature buck was exactly where I anticipated he’d be. This meant two things: First, I’d positioned myself so the shooter was now in between John and me; and Second, I was now in a position to try and kill him.

With the help of my 10x42s I could see the brute laying into a tree about 90 yards away. I watched for a few minutes and examined him. “Man, he’s got cool-looking bladed main beams,” I thought.

What now?

I decided to grunt – all while watching him through my binos. He didn’t react, so I became more aggressive with a snort wheeze. At this point I realized it wasn’t meant to be. There is no replacement for love and this bad boy was in it.

At 12:30 p.m. I called it quits, as my son’s birthday party was the next day and I had to tend to some household chores.

With that, I hung up the Bowtech for another year and headed to work for the week, waiting for the following Saturday – the opening of firearms season – to roll around.

John and I talked and decided that the “Great 8” had leapfrogged his way to the top of the hit list.

On opening morning, I was carrying my Remington 1100 Special 20 gauge and entered the woods just hoping that I’d have a chance at the buck – or at least a mature buck. The morning hours came and went with many shots fired, but none from inside the perimeters of our property.

I backed out for lunch and John, my Dad and I discussed the afternoon hunt. After a sandwich, we were back at it. I reached the stand around 2 p.m. and settled in. Shortly after, a doe and yearling worked by. From there it gets a little blurry, because I dozed off in the stand. What? You’ve never done that? Whatever…!

Okay, after my cat nap I awoke to a much calmer woods. The wind, which had been stiff out of the west, had faded and the conditions had improved.

I sat and texted back and forth with John as he was hunting a stand in the middle of our property. It wasn’t long after that I caught movement to my right. Guess who? At 85 yards I struggled to find a clear lane to squeeze a Berennke through. That is until he stopped to work a scrape. I steadied my recticle on him and fired.

Bang.

The deer whirled, ran 10 feet and stopped. Bang. I fired again. This time, he went on a dead run through the woods, but angling towards me and closing the distance. I knew the second shot had hit him, but I wasn’t sure where.

I begged him to stop. And at 60 yards my recent string of bad luck ended as he applied the brakes. Bang. I shot a third time and with that he disappeared over the nearby gully.

So, you’d rather be lucky than good? Grandpa was right! Me too. That third shot had found its mark and entered his front shoulder.

I waited awhile and eased my way along the edge of the gully. What I saw at the bottom of the gully was the end of a lengthy, season-long quest. The “Great 8” was down! I stood at the top of the bank for 10 minutes or so collecting my thoughts before descending down to put my hands on him.

I couldn’t believe it had happened. I called John and told him the news. He was pumped and made his way over for the celebration.

Now my problem was talking my wife into another taxidermy bill. It’s like Dierks Bentley sings: Man what was I thinking?