My first Ohio bowhunting experience
What a hunt!!!! Well, I got the call from Philip Crandall on Wednesday, October 26th, 2005. He said I hope you are healed up from your surgery cause we are headed to Ohio on Sunday October 30th. So if you want to go, the train leaves about 2:00pm in the afternoon, just after church. I asked this Sunday? He said yep, so I started making my plans. As you may not know, I had just had my tonsils out October 12th, which was only 2 weeks prior. And any of us old folks who have gone through that surgery know it is rough!! So anyway I had healed pretty decent, enough to go on the trip I felt so I started going over my gear to make sure I had everything I needed and everything was up to par.
I spent the next two evening’s gluing up shafts and spin testing my new broadheads, the Slick Trick magnum head. Awesome head by the way, one I will be using for a while. Once I had my gear in order I packed, and started getting it stacked up in the garage. Finally it was all together and I was just waiting for Sunday afternoon with great anticipation. I felt absolutely great about all my gear, and knew it was all in order.
Now to back up a bit, I knew we were going to be riding 4-wheelers a lot up there, and had a practically brand new Arctic Cat 400 camo limited edition I had bought in the spring of the year. I liked the machine a lot, but it was made for one person. I had hauled my best friend Scott King up the mountain behind his house a time or two, and found that even though we were the best of friends, we invaded each other’s “personal space” quite frequently on the ride. It was just downright uncomfortable, and I don’t want to hit the woods feeling like that. I want to enjoy myself. So I set out to find the best side-by-side machine that was on the market. I like to cruise the web, so I googled a few searches and started coming up with a number of tried and true machines. But one machine seemed to really get the awesome reviews. As a matter of fact, the only negative feedback was on the ’04 machines that had a gas cap problem, and a noise problem under the bed. So far they have fixed that in ’06.
So once I had checked out all the machines I could, and read several thousand reviews and articles, I decided on a Yamaha Rhino 660 4×4 camo. Now let me tell you, I am brand loyal. Once I find a brand that really does well, it is very hard for me to switch. I love Hondas, but they don’t make a side-be-side. I have never been a big Yamaha fan, but let me tell you, that has certainly changed! I went to the local dealer, made the trade and picked out a few accessories. This was Wednesday afternoon and the same time I got the call from Philip. I came back on Thursday, signed the paperwork and loaded the machine. It fit my little 5×10 tilt trailer perfect!
I headed to the house, picked up my wife and kids, and we went to my folk’s place to give it a test ride. Once I had scared the shorts off my wife, and gave the kids all a quick ride, we loaded up and headed for the house. This machine was smooth!!
Well Saturday rolled around and I had planned a quick hunt up on the mountain behind Scott’s house. Scott was ready to go, so when I got there we loaded up the two Tree Lounges, two bow cases, and a couple of kitchen sinks…J We jumped in and headed up the same trail we had taken with the AC 400. Man, were we surprised!!!!! I could not believe how tight it turned, and how quick we went up the mountain. Compared to the AC 400, this thing ROCKED!! It made turns where we had to stop and back up and maneuver around things with the AC 400. Not that the AC 400 was a bad machine, but this thing was pure comfort and power, with the ride of a Cadillac. We were certainly impressed, even with all the great reviews, which normally makes me a bit biased when I try a new product. But to say the least, it was awesome!!
Now back to the main story…..
Sunday afternoon came, and we finally had the Rhino loaded on Phil’s trailer along with his Big Bear, and all the gear stashed in the crew cab Ford truck he loves to drive. It’s got that big V10 and we zipped right up over all the mountains on the trip with ease. We went and grabbed some gas at Kroger, then a quick stop at Burger King and we were on our way!! We all were excited about the trip, and jabbered amongst ourselves about how big a deer we were all going to harvest.
I guess I had better explain who all is in this truck, and who all will be in this story. First off, Philip Crandall invited me on this trip. I hunt with his son Paul, who is one of the best young ethical hunters I have ever met. Also along is Chip Ulmer, who I have known for years and hunted with in Co before. And myself, Bob Bowers. We all live in SW Virginia. Now we are going to Adams Co. Ohio, which borders Scotio Co. We will be in the little town of Otway, and staying with Mike Freels and his wife Betty, and their son Michael. All are just wonderful folks. They had beds made up and fed us like we were family. Man, that chili was awesome!! Everything was great.
After a stop for Starbucks coffee, one stop for fuel, and one stop at Wal-Mart to buy our license and a few things we needed, we arrived just about midnight. It was cold and crisp there, so we unloaded the gear into the house, and got the Rhino and the Big Bear off the trailer. We ate a bite of chili, talked and discussed the game plan for the next day, and then hit the sack.
3:00am I hear “Bleaaaaaaaaat!!! Bleeeeeaaaaaaat!!!!” and then “Hey!! Time to get up!!” so I jump up and grab my stuff and head for the shower. Michael was using his bleat in heat can as a wake up call….J We all get ready, and I head out to fire up the Rhino. I have my stand and bow loaded, and I get it warmed up. Once I step back inside to see if we are ready to go, Mike tells me that I am going to have to take the spare 4-wheeler cause he doesn’t think the Rhino will make it up where we are going. My heart sank as I was ready to ride my new machine, and already it could not be used. So I load my stuff on the 4-wheeler, and we head to the flat to hunt. Once on the trail, I said to myself “my Rhino would have made this trip easy!!” and was a little disappointed that I didn’t at least try it. But when you go with someone else, and they know the terrain, you go with their advice. Once the morning hunt was over, I decided that from now on I was going to try the Rhino, and if it didn’t go where were headed, I needed to know it wouldn’t make it. I didn’t spend the money to leave it sitting in the yard while I rode the spare machine. So that is just what I did.
Well, that morning was crisp at about 30 degrees, but my new thermals and new wool socks really made the difference. They put me in a nice white oak on a flat, and I parked the 4-wheeler just above me and climbed the tree and got settled in. About 6:10am, I hear a deer feeding on the falling acorns just above me. It mills around just in front of me, and I think that if he waits and eats long enough, it will get light enough for me to see to shoot and I might have a chance at this deer. But once he came around the bend and got close, he spotted the 4-wheeler and bolted right under my stand and out of sight. I feel like it was buck due the size of his body, but I couldn’t see any headgear so I really don’t know. That was the only deer I saw that morning, and once the guys came back down the path, I climbed down and we all headed back for lunch.
At lunch we all talked about the deer we had seen, and our afternoon strategies. Once we all were full and had a game plan, we loaded up and headed out again. Now I was to hunt a nice little flat in front of a clear-cut, and right near a nice little grove of paw paws. I drove the Rhino with Paul to the base of the hill, and we split up and started to make the hike up. Once I got on the flat (Paul was headed up the hollow to a good spot waaaaay up on top, a good hike for a young fellow….J) and found a good tree to climb. I got to the tree I was going to climb, started taking my stand off my back and I see a deer below me jump up out of it’s bed, and run a few feet. She is a yearling doe, and she heads back to the clear-cut, always looking for me but never located me which is good. I climb the tree and settle in, and after about 45 minutes here she comes back with a nice mature doe in tow. They feed on acorns and mill about for 20-25 minutes, and finally move on down the flat. I really enjoyed watching them. Now just before dark 4 more deer come right out of the clear-cut and literally run down to the field. I never can see if they are bucks or does, as it is too dark and they are moving too fast. But I take note of where they came out, and the time. I climb down and pack my stuff up and head back to the Rhino. It was a warm evening, right in the lower 60’s with a slight SW breeze, and absolutely beautiful.
Now I have not mentioned Mr. Keith Rose. He is a friend of Mike’s, and he came along on the hunt as well. He had wanted to hunt above “Bud’s Bump”, which was hill that seemed to like to eat new 4-wheelers alive. Many had met its match there, and it had quite the reputation. So we were going to go on a scouting trip before the evening hunt on Monday, which we did. They were unsure once again of the Rhino, and so we all loaded up on 4-wheelers to go scout the top of the bump. Keith led the way, and once we got to the top and got on the flat, he stopped and said he had hunted near where we were once and thought it was a good spot. I agreed and pinned a tree I wanted to climb. I noticed there were scrapes and rubs about, and good trails and if the wind stayed like it was, it would be a good morning spot. We went on to the back, and found a ton of very large rubs back there. Paul pinned a tree and finally Keith pinned his. We were ready for the am hunt.
Monday night we all talked about the deer we had seen, and laughed and had a great time. I’ve never seen so much coffee consumed at one time. And between the ladybug infestation, and us laughing at each other, we had a grand time! At about 10:30pm, we all worked our way up to bed, and turned in. 3:00am was going to come early…..
I wake up before the alarm, and got up and grabbed my shower. It is supposed to rain today, and we all have our rain gear ready and are loaded and ready to go. Paul and I are going to take the Rhino over Bud’s Bump, and we are ready. Keith gives the thumbs up and leads the way. We zip up the road, and finally reach the testing point, the base of Bud’s Bump. I give Keith plenty of time to get a good head start, cause I don’t want to run over him (Ha! Ha!) and I make my move. I’m in 4-low with the diff. locked in, and the machine just about idles over top. Keith looks around and said “I see you made it, wow!” I get off at my tree, and Paul and Keith head on down the trail to theirs.
It is windy this morning, gusty and swirling. I am wondering if this spot is going to pan out. I start to second-guess myself, but I tell myself, “Go with your first impression and instincts”. So I stick with my original plan and decide to hunt this tree. But what I notice in the dark is that there are way too many small saplings around the base of this tree, so I go to work sawing them down. It took me 20-25 minutes, but I had the time and got the work done. It’s hard with a small saw. So I climb my tree, and get settled in.
The wind is rocking and I doze off in the Lounge for 10-15 minutes. As I wake up, I see it is starting to get a bit light, so I stand and stretch as I like to stand the first hour or so of the morning.
30 minutes later, I see a squirrel pass by my stand. I never heard him it’s so windy. I think to myself I am never going to hear a deer walking! But right at 6:55am, the wind lays down and I make a few bleats with my mouth, as I have left every single call I own in Virginia. At 7:00am, I hear the telltale crunch-crunch-crunch of a heavy-bodied deer coming my way. I look back the way I think a deer would travel in this wind, and sure enough I see the chocolate color hide moving my way. I know it’s a buck. He is by himself, and headed my way down the trail. I struggle to get my bow out of the holder, and finally it pops free. I bring it up and he is now at 50 yards and still coming strong. My heart quickens as he moves closer to my shooting lane. I know he is going to enter a spot that is wide open and 25 yards. When he reaches 35 yards, I go to full draw. I don’t have the peep to my eye, but the bow is full draw and slightly lowered to make it easier to hold. But wait!! What’s this? He is turning, coming STRAIGHT TO ME!!! He stops at 15 yards right across the 4-wheeler trail. He had noticed the saplings I had cut down and had come over to investigate. He looked right, then left, then right again, then right at my tree and bobbed his head straight up and looked me eyeball to eyeball. His eyes got big enough to see the whites, and I’m sure mine looked the same to him. Now I am not looking at headgear, I am concentrating on a spot, and he is offering me NONE! He is perfectly straight on to me. And I can’t move the bow up and the peep to my eye without a lot of movement. If I move the gig is up! He decided it was time to hit the high road, and I know it is now or never. He lifts his front left leg to go, and as he turns ever so slightly, I raise the bow all the way into shooting position, and fire the release. He is in mid-stride, and I had less than a split-second to get this shot off. It seemed so fluid to me. All one motion and I watched the Slick Trick broadhead being pushed by a Cabela’s SST shaft bury all the way to the fletching and STOP! OH NO! I hope my penetration was complete. He bolts almost the way he came, but headed just over the rise 30 yards away and I hear a huge crash just as he passes out of sight. I felt awesome about the shot placement, and all of a sudden the reality of the whole situation hits me. My first Ohio buck!!! And not a bad one either! I do a couple of fist clenches to the sky saying “YES!! YES!!! YES!!!” and then do a little jig in the stand. I thank God for my success once I calm down a bit, and pray he’s not far and expired quickly. After eating a few peanuts and waiting 30 minutes, which has to be what eternity feels like, I climb down, and pack up my stand and sit it by the trail and grab my bow. I go to where he was standing, and see blood not 2
feet behind where I shot. Excellent!
That means I got all the way through. 6-8 feet later I find the shaft with the end broken off right at the fletching.
I look the broadhead over, and it looks like brand new, except one blade is very slightly bent. Wow! A few more steps and I find the small end of my arrow, with blood almost to the nock. I start down the very adequate blood trail, and soon have to move to the side of the trail as there is so much blood that if I stay on the trail I am going to be covered in blood. 30 yards and I crest the knoll, and I don’t see the deer. I know he can’t be far! The woods appear to be wide open so I would have thought I could have seen him right away. Oh please don’t let him run far! One more step and from behind a bush and tree I see a white belly! Yes! There he is! Oh man, this is great. I walk over to the buck, and admire his size and majesty. He is a beautiful animal. I step back and take a pic of how he lay.
I take a few of him before I touch him. I move downwind to get a shot. PEEEEEWHEWWWWW!!!!! Good gracious, that has to be the smelliest deer I have ever killed! Oh man! I’m going to need a clothespin to be around this fellow. He is rank! His tarsal glands are black, as well the lower part of his rear legs. His neck is swelled, and he is in full rut. No wonder he came in to my sweet nothings!!
I take a few more pics, and tag him. I lay my bow across him, snap a few more pics and head up to get Paul and the Rhino.
It’s still early, and I don’t want to disturb Paul, so I go to the Rhino and whistle one quick blast, and wait. After a while I start the Rhino and head back to where my tree stand is. I didn’t know it, but Paul had been very frustrated as the wind was giving him grief and had already been busted twice that morning. He was on the ground and had just about reached the road when I took off down the trail. I dropped the case and came back and found him walking down the trail. We loaded his stuff, and I relayed the story to him as we drove back. Funny thing was, he was so mad he thought I had gotten mad with the wind and all and was just as frustrated as he was. When I told him I had indeed gotten a buck, he said “No really, you shot a buck, really?” After I told him the story, he got excited for me as well, and we dropped his stand and bow off and made our way down to the deer with the Rhino. He took lots of pics of me, and then we loaded “stinky boy” into the Rhino. What a nice little 8 pointer!
We get back to where we left the gear, and load up and come down Bud’s Bump and the first drop of rain hits us as we start back down the trail.
It’s just after 9:00am and we pull back into camp. It starts to rain a bit harder now, and soon the others are back at camp. They all congratulate me on my buck, and I tell the story. We load the buck on the empty trailer and head into town to check him in, get some ice and pizza. Got him checked in and headed back to camp. We enjoyed the pizza and swapped stories of the windy morning. Then we loaded the beast into the Rhino, and headed for the barn to cape and butcher him.
We pulled him up with the Rhino, and started the process. It went smooth and we saved the bones for Mike’s wolves he raises. Keith pulled out a knife he made that was just beautiful. He sure has talent in that area. Once we iced down the quarters, we headed back to camp. It was raining pretty hard by then. One note here. I did not field dress this deer, but waited to do it when I caped him out. What I wanted to see was how much bone the broadhead had traversed, and exactly where it had gone through. It entered the wide scapula blade of the shoulder, and then went between two ribs, into the right side lung, down through the front of the heart, out the side, and through the left lung low, then between the ribs on the left side. Completely through the deer, even though the arrow did not “pass through”. I was very pleased as I could not have made a much better shot on him, no matter how much time I had. I tend to make better “snap” shots than I do if I have to hold it on a spot for a long period of time.
Since the rain did not let up till late, we all did not hunt the evening, but did go out later to scout. We went on the trail that I had gone on the first day I was there. Paul drove the Rhino and zipped right on up, mud and all, no problems. As a matter of fact, some of the other guys were not keeping up on their 4-wheelers. It was fun. After a while we all headed back to camp, and Paul and I headed back early. We grabbed our gear (except all I had was a video camera) and we walked out in the long field across the road from Mike’s house. We walked ½ way down the field, and just about dark we hear the deer running down the ridge across the creek from the field. We retreat back the way we came so as not to spook the deer out of the area.
The next morning I decide we should try Bud’s Bump again, but we all have doubts that we will be able to make it up with the mud from all the rain. I say let’s try it, so we head out. Paul and I have Keith in tow and head up the Bump. I am slinging mud all the way up and 10 feet from the top the Rhino stops. I keep the gas going and Paul jumps out. I cut the tires left and right and it grabs traction and shoots over the top!! What a machine. I am beginning to think this machine will go anywhere! Keith decided to hunt the tree I was in when I killed my buck, and we go close to where he was the same day.
Paul and I drive on back, and park the Rhino back off the trail. We grab our gear and Paul had one of the tarsal glands and we made a drag. We drag the thing down the trail, and went too far. We came back to where we needed to go into the woods, and went in and picked out two trees about 20 yards apart. It was so foggy from all the rain, and it was dripping all morning just like it was raining. It finally cleared about 10:00am. I was freezing, and coming down with a fever. I don’t know why I was getting sick, but I sure felt it coming on. The morning was great though. Two young deer came in and milled around us for 20 minutes it seemed like. There was a doe and a button buck. The doe walked to the bottom of my tree and then spooked at the peanut hulls I had tossed on the ground. She only ran off several yards, and after a while of stomping and neck jerking, they settled back to their routine, but not as easy as they first were. They milled around in front of Paul’s stand for a while, then walked down the knoll a bit. Then here they came back. I videoed them the entire time, then decided I would fill my doe tag since there was not a shooter buck coming in to Paul. I set my camera down, and when I went to get my bow, the doe caught my movement and moved off to a little thicker area and blew once and left. It was fun watching these deer.
Soon Paul could hear a turkey coming. He had a call, so started to cluck, spit and purr a bit. This hen hollered and talked to Paul for 10 minutes. She finally couldn’t stand it and came running in. She got 25 yards in front of my camera, saw me videoing her, and bolted. It was fun. But I was getting chilled. Time crept on and finally at 10:45am, I see Paul start to pack up. I gladly descend the tree and pack up. We walk back to the Rhino, and load up and head over to Keith’s stand. He is all smiles. He tells us there has been deer around him all morning and he hasn’t had a day this good in the woods in a long time. He thinks there is a 140 class buck chasing a doe just out of range. They have crossed about 6 times he said. He seems to be really enjoying himself. So we ease on down the trail and back to camp.
Back at camp some of the guys saw a few deer, others nothing. I am feeling worse all the time, and I can feel the fever heating up. The only Tylenol they had was children’s, so I figure what I need by weight and eat 12 of the grape tabs. I decide I have to lay down and rest. I sweat it out for about 2 hours, and wake feeling much better, but not out of the woods yet. Oops! Didn’t mean that pun…J But I feel good enough to finish the last evenings hunt, so I head back to the paw paw patch on the flat, only this time I drive the Rhino to the base of the tree I want in, and unload my gear. I drive the beast around the bend, park it and get back to the tree. I climb the tree and get comfy, and just try to rest. I’m not feeling the best. I eat a pear off of Mike’s tree he gave me, and enjoy it. It’s was a little hard yet, but very tasty.
Just 20 minutes of good shooting light left, and I hear a deer coming out of the clear-cut into the woods. It’s a very nice doe. She feeds along and after 10-12 minutes, finally gets to 30 yards broadside. I am guessing that with the light I had better take the shot. I see that she is in an area I had lasered earlier and it showed 38-39 yards. I am very confident to 50 yards with my setup, although I normally shoot them less than 20 yards. But I feel good about everything so I draw and put the pin where I want and release. TWACK!!!! Missed her!!! I absolutely missed this deer, right over her back and the broadhead slammed into a rock and the entire arrow was completely trashed. She jumps off 20 yards and looks around, then feeds off toward the fields. I hear other deer moving through the clear-cut in front of me and see a few. It was an exciting evening and a great end to a great hunt, even if I did miss. I’m feeling so bad now that if I were to have shot her, I know I could not have field dressed her and butchered her. So maybe it was for the best.
This hunt was very new to me as I have never bow hunted in the rut and in these kind of conditions. It was a ton of fun, and the three lucky quarters I got at Starbucks really helped me score…..;) The cashier gave me back three quarters for my change. A 1977, 1987, and a 1997. Three lucky sevens. I saved them just for good luck. Guess they worked.
The trip back home was rough as I was fevered pretty badly. We were able to stop and get some orange juice and Tylenol and that helped. I slept a good bit while Philip drove. He did great and drove the entire way to my house. We unloaded the gear and they were off to their place. I was tired, sick, exhausted, but as satisfied as I have ever been. I really missed my wife and the kids, and glad I was able to talk with them on the phone several times during the hunt. Rhonda is such a great mom, and they made me a big “WECOME HOME DAD” greeting which they all signed. Now to butcher my deer which is on ice, and to take my head and cape to the Dwayne Parks, my taxidermist. COOL!!!