As deer season approached in 2013 I had several bucks on my hit list. I had been running ten cameras all summer and there were three bucks I wanted: a monster 7 pointer needing to be culled, a 10 pointer that would gross over 160”, and most of all, the buck I had been chasing since we bought the property in November 2012. We called him the “Big Boy,” not just because his rack was huge, but because he was at least 6.5 years old and had four neck rolls from the amount of muscle and fat on his body.
Unfortunately, none of the bucks I was after developed an early season pattern predictable enough for me to have a good chance with a bow. The weather remained warm until the end of October as well, inhibiting the daylight movement of the deer on our property. I normally hunt every weekend of bow season once it opens in September, but these bucks were smart. I couldn’t risk going into their area unless conditions were ideal for them to move. It killed me not to be in the woods, but I remained patient.
Throughout my short career of hunting, I’ve learned the old adage many of us have heard is true: good things come to those who wait. When you achieve an outcome because of your patience, the satisfaction of the reward cannot be matched. The difficult part about being a deer hunter is that many times, if you do exhibit patience, the reward might not come in the same year. While that consequence is challenging for most to accept, it only makes the success sweeter and more gratifying when it comes.
My second outing of the year came on October 23rd. The temperature was in the low 60s and the deer were making more appearances in the daytime as the rut neared. Around 4 in the afternoon, I heard movement. I was able to stand up in time to get my bow ready and the camera rolling. A young 10 pointer with two kickers off his G2s approached. He stopped at 7 yards, quartering away. At 140”, this was the biggest buck I ever had in bow range, but he was only 3.5 years old. Every part of me wanted to take the shot and get my first self-filmed buck kill. Once again, the old adage crept back into my head: good things come to those who wait. He slowly moved on after being in range for almost two minutes, almost as if he were testing my discipline. I was seconds away from failing.
One week later, on November 1st, I found myself in the same stand. The first week of November is my favorite time to hunt because the deer are moving and the bucks respond well to rattling. I expected nothing less on that cool afternoon and soon, I had the cull 7 pointer coming in. As he worked his way from left to right at 35 yards, I kept the camera on him and readied my bow. I tried getting him to stop, but he continued through the brush, never presenting a clean shot. I could have taken a chance, but that was not the ethical thing to do. I let him go. I hoped and prayed once again my patience would later yield success.
I hunted eight more times before rifle season, but to no avail, so I began preparing for the opening day of rifle on November 16th. I checked the forecast. It looked like it would be bad for a second year in a row with temperatures in the 60s and heavy wind and pouring rain by 7:30 in the morning. Clearly less than ideal conditions for deer movement, it became easier to second guess myself on the decisions I made to not shoot earlier in the season when I had the chance. I kept telling myself patience would pay off.
Finally, opening morning came and I decided to sit in a box blind I helped build with our good family friend, Don Robinson. My dad dropped me off at 5:30AM and headed off to his spot. As I was getting settled in, he called and informed me I left my binoculars in the Ranger. He quickly turned around and I climbed out to grab them. After returning to my stand, I figured all our commotion spooked every deer out of the area and into the next county. But as dawn broke, a small five pointer I saw many times during bow season appeared in the field. He quickly skirted across like he was on the scent trail of a doe. Later on, a lone doe walked by through the woods behind me. I got my gun up and ready, knowing a buck could likely be behind her. Several minutes passed and nothing appeared. The morning sun quickly faded behind clouds and the rain started to pour. The sound was deafening on the metal roof, making it hard to focus on my surroundings. Thunder sounded in the distance. Then, an Evergreen branch, known to be a frequented licking branch, dipped down and whipped up dramatically at the end of the field. I scanned the area with my binoculars to see if a buck was working the scrape just below it. I saw nothing and the feelings of doubt and defeat began working their way back into me.
As the rain carried on, I received a call from my dad, who was sitting a few hundred yards away. Both of us were concerned about lightning nearby. But at 8:25 in the morning on opening day of rifle season, it just seemed too early to give up.
Out of nowhere, I spotted a buck skirting the edge of the field in the thick brush. I raised my gun and could see he was big, but had no clear shot from only 60 yards away. Still on the phone, I informed my dad I had to go. I grabbed my Primos Buck Roar tube and Estrus Doe Bleat and tried to turn the buck my way. I started with two bleats and then worked in a tending grunt call as I bleated a couple more times.
Three minutes passed and nothing appeared from the thick brush. He moved on, I thought. I called my dad back to tell him about the encounter. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I looked to my right and there the buck stood, not more than 50 yards away. I set the phone down and put the scope on his rack to see which one it was, still able to hear my dad’s voice coming from the speaker. After two years of constantly analyzing trail camera photos, there was no doubt who he was…the Big Boy.
Although I had the video camera with me, I didn’t think twice about it. I wasn’t going to risk missing this opportunity. My dad’s voice became non-existent. It was just me and the Big Boy now. I put the crosshairs behind his shoulder. The rain poured down. 8:28AM. Ka-pooow!
The rain engulfed the sound of the shot instantaneously. He ran with his tail down and dragged his front right shoulder. I knew I made a good shot. I picked up the phone to hear my dad still talking and frantically interrupted him in a shaking, adrenaline filled voice. When I told him I got the Big Boy, he didn’t believe me. The rain and wind had completely muffled the sound of the shot. He didn’t hear over the phone, either. I reassured him this was no joke.
I waited 15 minutes and got out to look for him while my dad headed over to help. Normally we will wait longer before going to retrieve a deer, but the rain was coming down hard and I didn’t want to lose the blood trail. As I went to where he stood, there was no blood to be found. Slightly worried, I walked slowly towards where he ran and 80 short yards later there he was, laying in a small opening amongst the undergrowth.
At 213 pounds and 14 points, he was the biggest buck I had ever taken, grossing just over 155” at 7.5 years old. After the hunt, I couldn’t help but reflect on the ramifications of all the decisions I made in the past two years leading to that moment. Maybe if I had chosen a different stand location in the past, I would have seen him sooner. Maybe if I just stayed in the blind all day each time I hunted, he would have appeared. All the times I could have shot a younger buck or forced a shot that wouldn’t have made a clean kill, I instead grudgingly waited to fill my tag. I spent multiple hundreds of hours physically out in the woods over the span of two years hoping I would see that buck. The feeling I had after recovering him reaffirmed the one constant thing I’ve learned in my hunting career: good things come to those who wait.
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