Always Trust Your Guide
My First Ohio Buck!
In the early 2000s, Pennsylvania wasn't recognized as a Big Buck State. Many Pennsylvania hunters believed that you had to travel outside of Pennsylvania to kill a trophy buck. After researching hunting outfits on the internet and talking to a few outfitters, I decided to hunt the state of Ohio.
Bill Pyles, the owner of Bowhunting Outfitters of Ohio, briefly told me about his outfit in Licking County, Ohio. As we talked on the phone, I could tell Bill was passionate about whitetails. He informed me that he had a dozen different farms to hunt in three Big Buck counties. Confident that I would have a great experience, I book a hunt with Bill for the fall of 2008.
Throughout the summer, Bill and I talked numerous times. Every few weeks, he would send me trail camera pictures of deer on the farms. I spent many evenings in the backyard practicing with my Mathews bow. I wanted to make sure I was comfortable at taking shots from longer distances. The excitement I had looking forward to my hunt was starting to boil over.
As summer turned to fall, and the weather began to change, I eagerly waited for the calendar to change to November. Finally, the time had come for me to make the 4 hour trip to Bill's outfit. I kissed my family goodbye, and they wished me luck on my hunt.
When I arrived at Bill's, he was waiting for me. Together we viewed numerous trail camera pictures of bucks that had been cruising the farms. I was impressed with the quality deer Bill had pictures of on the farms. Bill explained the plan for the following morning and then gave me directions to the bed and breakfast where I would be staying.
I thanked Bill for his time and hoped in my truck. It took me about 15 minutes to reach the bed and breakfast. As I was checking into my room, I heard a familiar voice. Peaking around the corner, I saw John Davidson, my mentor and friend. John had come to Ohio to hunt as well, and it was a mere coincidence that we were staying at the same place. I called out to John, and he immediately turned around. We both laughed as we shook hands and then started to talk about hunting. The conversation was short as we decided to finalize our check-in and then go out to eat dinner.
John invited me to ride with him to a small diner. The diner was little, and there were very few people eating. As we walked to our table, I couldn't help but notice all of the marvelous smells in the air. John and I talked through dinner, and I savored each bite of my open-faced roast beef sandwich. John and I talked about where we would each be hunting.
After finishing our delicious meals, we headed back to the bed and breakfast. John and I were still shocked; we ended up staying at the same place, yet we were excited to have a familiar friend to hang out with during the evenings. This hunt was already turning out to be a success. I was excited for my morning hunt.
My alarm clock went off at 4:45 am. I quickly showered and got dressed for my first-morning hunt in Ohio. Bill arrived around 5:45 am to pick me up and take me to the farm where I would hunt. I grabbed my gear and jumped in his truck. As we drove to the farm, Bill and I talked about the rut that was starting to take place. He informed me that I would be on an oak flat in one of his most productive treestands. I couldn't wait to get into the stand and find out if he was correct.
Watching the headlights from Bill's truck as we pulled into the farm, I could see deer in one of the cut cornfields. Bill pulled up near the farmhouse and turned off the engine. Grabbing all my gear, I followed Bill as he started up a well-marked trail. After walking to the top of a hill, Bill told me to follow the pink ribbons that would lead to the treestand. I thanked Bill for the ride, and he wished me good luck.
Switching on my headlamp, I was quickly able to see the pink ribbons along the logging road. I walked down the logging road to the treestand. Carefully I climbed up the ladder and sat in the stand. I hung my Mathews bow on the bow hook and nocked an arrow. My eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness once I turned off my headlamp.
Watching the sun slowly cast light on the open woods, the birds began to sing their morning song. From the treestand, I could see that I was at the end of an oak flat. I could hear acorns falling to the ground and squirrels scurrying to find them. There was very little wind, and I could hear deer walking behind me. Slowly I turned around to locate the deer that were walking. It was light enough for me to see a beautiful 8 point following a doe. My heart began to race as they came towards my stand.
Grabbing my Mathews bow, I carefully attached the release to the d-loop. Patiently I waited for the doe to walk by my stand. The large-bodied buck followed the same trail the doe was on. As I looked at the buck, I decided not to take a shot at him. I had only been in the stand for 20 minutes, and I didn't want to be tagged out. The two deer walked down into the draw and disappeared. I hung my bow back up on the hook and texted Bill to let him know I passed up the 8 point.
All morning deer funneled by the stand. I saw seven different bucks before noon. Deer came to the oak flat and ate acorns before they headed to their bedding area. I texted Bill and told him I thought it would be best if I sat all day. He replied that he would come and pick me up after dark.
I couldn't believe how many deer were on this farm. My stomach growled to let me know I needed to eat. From my backpack, I pulled out two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. While I was eating, I watched three does bed down about 45 yards away from my stand. As quiet as I could, I ate the rest of my food. I didn't want to scare the bedded does away because they were great decoys.
The three bedded deer slowly stood up around 2 pm. I could hear a buck grunting in the distance as the deer disappeared down a draw. A few minutes after the deer left, a small buck came into view. The young buck went to the area where the does were bedded and sniffed each bed. With a flick of his tail and a few leaps, the buck disappeared down the draw after the does.
Watching the sun sink in the western sky, I anticipated more deer movement in the last hour of the hunt. More deer walked past the stand to eat acorns. I lost count of how many deer I had seen. The sun finally disappeared, and I packed up my gear. Following the pink ribbons on the logging road, I made it back to the farmhouse. Bill was waiting for me and wanted to hear about my hunt.
Talking a mile a minute, I told Bill about the buck I passed. He listened intently to my every word. When I finished talking about my hunt, Bill told me about the farm I would hunt tomorrow. He dropped me off at the bed and breakfast, and I took my things inside.
Eager to find John and tell him about my hunt, I dropped my belongings off in my room and then went to his room. John and I shared stories from the day. He had seen quite a few deer as well, but he didn't see any shooter bucks. I asked John if he wanted to go back to the diner for dinner. We made plans to meet in half an hour to eat.
I went back to my room to change and get my keys. John met me in the lobby, and we headed to the diner for another fantastic meal. John and I had such a great time talking about past vacations and soccer games. It was easy for us to talk because I spent most of my childhood at John's house. Together we laughed about past hunts we had together and shared success stories from previous adventures into the woods. As time passed, we both were eager to go to sleep. I drove us back to the bed and breakfast, and we each went to our room to go to sleep.
Once again, my alarm went off at 4:45 am. I showered and dressed for the hunt. Bill arrived to pick me up, and I was ready to hunt a new farm. A light rain fell on the windshield as we drove to the farm. Bill explained that we had to cross a large cow pasture to get to my stand for the day. I was excited about the new stand location and carefully followed Bill to the treestand.
Crossing the long pasture, I couldn't help but notice the large cluster of trees in the middle of the field. Following Bill, I realized we were headed directly to the trees. When we reached the trees, Bill showed me the green ribbons I needed to follow. Without questioning his judgment, I cautiously followed the green markers to the treestand.
I was a little perplexed when I reached the stand. The treestand was in a tree near a small funnel that overlooked a thick brushy area. A small creek ran by the treestand, but the place looked too thick for any deer to walk in. Carefully I climbed the ladder to the stand. As the sun came up, I could see a highway of trails through the brush. My doubt quickly turned to anticipation! I knew right away this hunt was going to be eventful.
Not long after hanging my bow on the bow hanger, I saw a herd of does walking my way. The deer came to the small creek and slowly began to drink. I watched as the younger deer played while the mature does took long drinks. One of the adult does quit drinking and looked in the direction from where they came.
Slowly I turned my head to look in the same direction. Immediately I could see antlers in the brush. I needed to be careful not to spook the does, but I also had to grab my bow. As I watched the buck come further down the trail, I knew that he would give me a shot. My Mathews bow was still hanging on the bow hanger, and I needed to make my move.
Cautiously I reached for my bow and removed it from the bow hanger. One of the adult does saw me move, and she started to stomp her foot. Frozen like a statue, I waited for the buck to close the distance, and I prayed the does would not spook.
Staying motionless as possible, the deer by the creek went back to drinking. The cruising buck was now about 40 yards away and focused on the group of does. In one smooth motion, I was able to grab my bow and attach my release to the d-loop. My heart was racing out of control, and I needed to slow it down.
Closing my eyes for a few seconds, I took several deep breaths and tried to relax. Opening my eyes, I saw the buck was almost ready to walk into an open area only 25 yards away. As the unsuspecting buck walked behind a giant oak tree, I drew back my Mathews bow.
Finding my anchor and looking through the peep, I waited for my target to stop in the open. As the buck came out into the open, he stopped to check out the deer by the creek. My 20 yard pin floated behind the buck's shoulder, and I let the arrow fly.
The arrow flew in slow motion, and I watched it disappear through the buck. My initial thought was the arrow had hit the deer low. The buck kicked and began to run directly towards me. The other deer stood motionless as the wounded deer stopped only 15 yards away from my treestand.
Blood was dripping from the low wound. Not confident with my first shot, I nocked another arrow and looked to make a second shot. The buck had stopped behind a tree, and I could only see a small part of his vitals. Drawing my bow again, I found the back of his lungs and released my second arrow.
With my heart in my throat, I watched as the buck walked into a thicket. I sat in the stand, shaking and praying. I grabbed my phone and called Bill to tell him the news. Bill told me to stay in the treestand and wait for him to arrive. I told Bill it would be a daunting task to stay put, but I would wait for him to come and get me.
Bill must have been close because he was at my stand in less than fifteen minutes. I climbed down from the treestand when I saw him, and together we checked the first arrow. The blood on the arrow was good, but there was plenty of white hair with the blood. I told Bill that I thought the arrow had hit low. Next, we walked to where the buck had stood before I shot him a second time. I found my second arrow, and we looked at it for a few minutes. Bill and I discussed what to do next. He felt it would be best if we backed out for a few hours and then returned later. I agreed with his plan, and together, we walked back to his truck.
Over the next few hours, Bill and I went to a few different farms, checked trail cameras, and ate lunch. Bill called his friend William Hollar to see if he wanted to help track and recover a deer. William agreed to meet us at the farm and give us an extra set of eyes.
On the way back to the farm, I called John to tell him I had shot a buck. We talked for a few minutes, and he wished me luck on the recovery. When we pulled into the farm, William was already waiting for us. I grabbed my bow, introduced myself, and waited to hear the plan. Bill and William talked, and I listened intently. Both of them felt that we could track the buck and see where he went into the thicket.
Together we walked to where I had shot the buck with the second arrow. Immediately we found pools of blood that we were able to follow to the red brush. William said he would walk around the red brush to see if the deer had made it through the thicket. Bill and I continued to follow the blood trail.
Twenty yards into the thick brush, I looked up and saw a bedded buck looking at us. I whispered to Bill, and he stopped moving. The wounded buck was watching every move that we were making. Bill told me to nock another arrow and shoot the buck. I pulled an arrow out of my quiver and looked for an opening to take a shot.
Before I could find an opening, the buck stood up and began walking away from us. Immediately I turned around and started running out of the thicket. I ran past Bill, and he wondered where I was going. I decided that I would run around the thicket and wait for the buck to walk out.
Running in tall rubber boots was not easy. As I rounded the far end of the red brush, I ran past William. He wondered where I was going and began to follow me. I wasn't sure where I was running, but I wanted to get ahead of the wounded buck.
Sprinting up a small hill, I made it to an open field behind the thicket. Scanning the red brush, I saw the buck walking towards me. Behind me, I could hear William walking up the hill. The wounded buck must have heard William too because he began to run towards me. With my bow at full draw, I waited for the deer to give me an open shot. The injured buck ran into the open field and stopped for an instant. He was too far away for a shot, so I lowered my bow. The deer began to stagger as he tried to walk away. William had finally made it to where I was standing. Just as he was about to talk, I took off sprinting towards my buck.
The buck saw me and began to run across the field. There was no way I would catch up to the buck, but I figured he would expire if I pushed him. While I was running, I could see the deer was starting to stumble. The wounded buck made it to the field edge and tried to jump a fence. The buck was unable to clear the top strand of the wire fence. I watched as he collapsed on the other side of the fence just inside the woods.
Breathing heavily, I stopped running and turned around to wave to William. Bill had caught up to William, and they were both standing together. It took a few minutes for them to make it across the field, but I waited for them. When they finally got to where I was standing, they looked at me and started to laugh. Bill asked, "What in the world were you doing?" I replied, "I figured he was mortally hit, and if I pushed him, he would die sooner!" Both men looked at me and continued to laugh.
After Bill and William stopped laughing, we walked over to where I saw the buck crash. Bill helped me drag the buck under the fence, and he started to take pictures. Both Bill and William continued to shake their heads and laugh about what they had just experienced.
Once the buck was loaded into the truck, we drove back to the bed and breakfast to meet John. John came out to see my buck and hear about the hunt. Bill began retelling the story to John, and by the end of the story, all of us were laughing. Bill mentioned that we should take the buck to the check-in station and then to the processor. I hopped back in his truck, and we went to the check-in station.
Bill and I talked as we made our way to the processor. He was still in shock about the events from the day. Bill had never seen anyone try to chase a deer down. At the processor, he told the story to the owner. Again, we all had a good laugh!
My first trip to Ohio had been a success. I found an outfitter that was amazing to work with, hunted some great farms, harvested a beautiful 9 point, and have a story that will always make Bill laugh. No matter how many times I hear Bill tell the story, it still makes me laugh.