Boone & Crockett Buck
By Tad E. Crawford
Normally, I try not to let my deer
hunting success result from pure,
unadulterated luck. Somehow, I’m
not very proud of a trophy unearned. The hunt
of 1987 might have been a series of lucky coincidences,
all right, but I have to say, I also
worked to bring home that trophy.
The best pre-season dreamer would not
have conjured up the series of fantastic coincidences
surrounding my taking of that fabulous animal.
After all, just what are the
chances of finding both sheds, 20 yards apart,
from a Boone and Crockett whitetail? What
about the prospects of bowshooting that same
whitetail just one month later — and from an
evening ground blind five yards away! And
how about the likelihood of recovering this
huge deer, hit and lost the day before Thanks-
giving, after three days of small game hunters
and their dogs combing the area?
Now, it’s no secret we bowhunters are ever
stalking ways to improve the chances of taking
a true trophy whitetail. One of the most important
keys is patience and, as I see it, pa-
tience is twofold. First, a trophy whitetail
hunter ought to have a patient and loving wife
like my Cathy. She has to be patient with me
hunting every day in November. She must patiently
explain to all of my taxidermy customers why I could
take such a long vacation- before I had finished their
trophies. (I pity the guy whose wife can’t love him enough not
to nag when deer season starts and he is out
doing the thing he loves most.)
The second type of patience comes in
when spending time in the field and on stand,
evaluating actions and reactions of whitetails.
This is an important time: more is involved
here than just killing a deer. Even when
you’ve done your pre-season and in-season
scouting, you still have to be able to see what
you’re looking at. Interpretation of sign — or
perhaps the sudden lack of it — is very important
I estimated I had logged some 300 hours
“air time” —— time actually spent in tree
stands — when I tagged the big one. Many
was the day I spent all day, daylight to dark,
without coming down to ground level.
As I bask in my victory of last year, I can
afford to think back to all those missed shots
and opportunities at really big bucks. I do not
have a lot of record racks on my wall, but the
experience gained over the years helped me to
harvest this deer. I guess a guy has to hunt
where the big bucks are before he gets a
chance to bust one.
Northeastern Ohio has produced some
fine whitetails. Dense, overgrown strip
mines, moderate cultivation, and suburbs
provide good trophy habitat. Somehow the
deer I harvested managed to elude hunters,
poachers, cars, and who knows what for several
years. Good health and good fortune allowed him
to grow to outstanding proportions
and horn development.
Up until that year sightings of a huge buck
had been sketchy. Some said the last time he’d
been seen was three years before. Was he still
around? Then, in October, my friend Dave .
Unkefer and his weimaraner found both sheds
of a tremendous whitetail. Well, now, I mean
to tell you, these were nice horns! I rough
scored these 13-point typical sheds at about
183 Boone and Crockett points. So, the big
one was still at large.
Throughout the month of November we
found fresh. extra-large, three-inch tracks and
many large rubs on hardwood trees six to ten
inches in diameter. Then, the rut appeared to
pass and even button bucks were observed
chasing does in heat. Believe me, that’s depressing.
But the big tracks persisted. Dave and another
hunting buddy, Steve Slatzer, tracked
some very large bucks after a fresh snow. Was
the 13-pointer among them?
With snow still on the ground, the three of
us checked out a hidden cornfield we knew of.
Bingo! Buck Heaven! We kicked out six big
bucks- this cornfield was hot enough to pop.
At least a dozen good scrapes surrounding it
The deer were pounding this field so well,
I couldn’t resist locking up my Amacker portable
in an adjacent oak. Covered with Camo
Leaves, it looked great, just like an old squirrels
next. I was ready.
On Monday morning, I climbed up into
that oak, which was to be my daytime home
for the next three days. But by Wednesday, the
only game I had seen were two fox squirrels,
one red squirrel, and a crossbow hunter. All
sign had grown cold — I figured we had left
too much scent when scouting — and my
thoughts drifted to a newly planted winter
wheat field about a half mile away. The deer
had to be somewhere.
It was noon and I decided to check it out.
More mindful this time of leaving too much
scent, I approached into the wind and checked
only the nearest edge of the bare dirt for
tracks. Large tracks were everywhere —-
large, fresh tracks. I resisted the temptation to
scout the edges for the best approach trails,
afraid to show any more presence than necessary.
It was possible that my target animal was
bedded on the adjoining hillside overlooking
this field, so I stayed in the shadows as much
A tree stand was out of the question. No
large trees existed, and besides, this was November 25th,
and all of the leaves had fallen.
Little cover existed anywhere, so I quickly
gathered some light-colored weeds and constructed
a ground blind.
Once settled in, I felt good and things
seemed right. I spent the next five hours sit-
ting on a cold, bare patch of earth behind the
blind, but the balmy, sunny afternoon was
comforting. And I did not rise once for any
reason. I napped, ate a late snack of Kool-Aid
and granola bars and listened t0 the semi-
trucks rolling down a nearby highway. I had
not slept long when I was awakened by the
distress call of my bladder. I whisked out my
porta—potty, a hot water bottle I carry in the
field to keep my stands free from the scent of
human urine. Then, I settled back behind my
I dozed until the five o’clock whistle blew
at a distant coal mine. I peeked out through
the pokeberry weeds to see two deer feeding
intently in the wheat field about 80 yards
away. Both heads were down and, because of a
slight depression in the ground where they
stood, no antlers could be seen. The deer on
the left raised its head first, a nice “skinhead”
doe. The deer on my right seemed larger and
-holy cow! What a buck!
Now he was looking in my direction. The spread of his horns
was well beyond his ear tips. As he looked at
the doe, I counted at least six or seven points
on his left antler. At that moment, I thought I
was probably looking at the 13-point Boone
and Crockett deer of last year’s sheds. What a
privilege to be able to watch such an animal,
undisturbed, at close range and in such good
light. If only I had had some video gear.
I don’t remember getting nervous about
shooting that deer — excited, yes, but not nervous.
All I could think of was that darkness
would soon engulf us and I would have to
leave the stand, possibly spooking them. I
watched and waited.
Twenty minutes went by like 20 seconds.
The doe quit eating and slowly walked past
my blind at about six or eight yards to my left.
The wind was just right, still in my favor. Now
it was Mr. Big’s time to move. Slowly closing
the distance, he stopped about 40 yards out.
I was still glassing him when he started grunting
low, sustained grunts. He put his head
down and started walking directly at my blind.
I chucked the binoculars and grabbed the bow,
If the truth were known, I think I was now
in a state of acute hypertension. I was talking
to myself, “The one thing you can’t do is
move quickly. Get that bow up. Wait for the
right moment to draw. Yeah, the bow is up,
and oh, *?%@$, there he is! ”
Standing broadside, only five yards away,
he just happened to stop in the two foot shooting
lane I had cleared earlier. “OK, easy does
it. Make the draw. Center the pin on that
shoulder. Smooth release and — ” What a
temptation to snap shoot. “He’s too close.
Any moment he’ll be gone.”
I talked myself into completing the draw.
Like a homing pigeon, the pin centered on the
shoulder and instantly the arrow was on its
way. A solid thunk sent the deer bolting in the
direction he and the doe were headed. I re-
member thinking, “No way could I have
messed up that shot. Had to be a perfect lung
hit. Probably find the arrow laying on the
ground from a pass through — great blood
trail. Quick recovery.” Soon I would discover
just how wrong my wishful thinking was.
You readers will now have to pardon an
interruption for a commercial. As you wait to
read what happened to the trophy buck, this
is, after all, my golden opportunity to tell you
about Camo Leaves, a product I invented and
manufacture. Camo Leaves are artificial foliage
that attach to your clothing and equipment
with Velcro. Camo leaves are designed to
break up the human silhouette and provide
better three-dimensional contrast. Picture me
— my suit, headnet, bowlimbs, gloves, all
covered with little Camo Leaves. With Camo
Leaves your prize buck — just like my prize
buck — may never know you ’re there, never
notice your draw, never think of a slight movement
as anything more than the movement of
leaves attached to branches, fluttering in the
breeze. Camo Leaves concealed me from a
buck at eye level less than five yards away!
And now, about that buck my Camo Leaves
and I took.
I waited a few minutes in the blind, my
heart racing like a runaway freight train. Sud-
denly it was raining — pouring, the first time
since I’d been hunting this year. Of all the
luck. I ran as fast as I could to a field about a
half mile away where I caught Steve making
his way back to the truck. All but out of
breath, I blurted out, “I just hit the big one! ”
Steve said he would call Cathy to tell her l
would be home late and that he would return
with a better tracking light.
I returned to the site to search for the blood
trail in the pouring rain. Three hours of
searching turned up nothing. The rain had
done a job and I was more than a little dejected
as we sloshed the mile and a half back to the
It rained all night, but at break of day we
began again in earnest, confident we would
walk right up on my deer. We found the fletch
end of my arrow almost immediately. It had
only penetrated about seven inches when the
shaft broke off.
I remember grumbling about poor penetration
when I spotted something. “Steve.
look there, a rifle! ” There lay an old 22-caliber
lever-action Marlin 39A, very rusted.
The wood stock was so rotted, it fell off in my
hands. The strangest fact of all was that the,
hammer was cocked. I didn’t know what to
look for first, deer parts. or people parts! l
figured the rifle had been there for 20 or more
years and it could wait a little longer to tell is
story. I opted for deer parts.
For three days Steve and I searched. The
few short hours of sleep I had gotten in the last
two nights began to wear heavy on me. We
were both tired from combing every briar
patch and swamp in a half-mile arc around the
hit location. I just knew that deer was hit too
badly to survive. Still, we came home empty
handed. We had been dodging rabbit hunters
and beagles for two days after Thanksgiving. I
was afraid someone had found my buck, but I
had to keep looking. Gun season would start on
Monday, an added threat that someone else
would find that deer.
Things were looking a little hopeless that
evening as I prayed to the “Great Guide” in
the big deer camp in the sky. “Lord,” I said,
“I expect you to deliver that deer to me Ill
how. I’ve worked hard. I know he’s there. Just
show me the way.”
Saturday morning came early. The
weather finally broke. As I looked into the
clearing sky, I was wishing I had a bird’s eye
view of that hunting area. Then it hit me,
could get a bird ’s eye view from a helicopter!
In an hour I had found a pilot at a local
airport and we were up. The initial thrill of
my first chopper flight faded as we circled my
hunting area for an hour and a half. I was almost
glad to hear the pilot say we would have
to head back for gas. I was getting airsick —
and heart sick. I still had seen no sign of my
buck. The pilot suggested we fly back over the
area my deer had come from, since it was on
the way back.
The pilot spotted him first. “‘Wow!” he
said. “Now I know why you rented a chopper!
is looks like an elk. Got to be the biggest
deer I’ve ever seen.”
Yep, there he was, lying in a briar patch,
only 75 yards from some guy’s back door. Of
course, I hadn’t looked in people’s backyards
for the deer. The pilot wanted to set down
right there, but I was afraid this guy would not
appreciate being awakened on Saturday morning
by a helicopter landing in his yard. We
flew off and flew back — this time in my Subaru
— and I can’t say which flew faster. New
land speed records were set that day.
It appeared my trophy buck had run about a quarter
mile from where I hit him, apparently
dying relatively soon. The Terminator double—cut
broadhead had just missed the heart,
puncturing one lung.
I tagged him immediately. We took hero
shots of me and the deer and then we salvaged
as much as possible. Somewhere in between
the photos and the excitement, I managed to
give thanks and take some measurements.
His rack now officially scores 207 Boone
and Crockett non-typical points and has 18
points over one inch in length. He was a rare
animal in that he could pass as a typical at 171
4/8 or as a non-typical.
If you count all the ring-hangers, the buck
is a 28-pointer. The inside spread is 25 inches
and the outside spread is 27 inches with 27-
inch main beams. The deer’s gross score is
214 3/8 and he has 18 2/8 inches of non-typical tine.
His girth at chest was about 52 1/2 inches
and his jaw aged him at about six-and-a-half
years old. The pads on his feet were three-
and-a-half inches long. Field-dressed weight
was 342 pounds.
For all you statisticians, my bow is a Darton 1000MX box, set at 59 pounds. I shot an
Easton XX75 Camo Hunter arrow, size 2213, and, of course, I used the best camouflage I
know — Camo Leaves. They just had to have made the difference.
Now, I will ask you again, just what are the prospects of all these
remarkable coincidences happening to one guy? Once in a life-
time? Once in two lifetimes? What are the
Editor’s Note: Camo Leaves are available
direct from the author at Camo Leaves, 6645
Cleveland Ave. S., East Sparta, OH 44626.
Under license from him they are also being
marketed nationally by The Game Tracker
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