Late one evening, just before the spooks, the goblins and the children came out for a night of trick or treating, Bob Thomas of Seaman, Ohio, got the treat of a lifetime. On October 31, 2011, Thomas had put his grandson, Javin, in a tree stand where Thomas had seen a monster buck earlier. “I usually start crossbow hunting about the third week of October because that’s when Ohio’s rut arrives,” Thomas says. “Our family hunt was in Chillicothe, Ohio, on a 2,500-acre farm that we’d been hunting since 1994. Due to this area’s heavy deer population, I might often see 30 to 50 deer.”
Thomas was hunting on a 250-acre tract about 5-miles from the main farm where he’d taken one mature buck from a stand there several years earlier. “But I’d seen a big drop-tine buck on the main farm, and my grandson wanted an opportunity to try and take that buck. So, I hunted the smaller property and let my grandson hunt the drop-tine buck.” The smaller tract Thomas hunted was an island of oak trees surrounded by soybean and corn fields with a ridge funneling down into the oak bottom. Thomas spotted numbers of scrapes and rubs on the way to his stand and expected to see some bucks. Heavily-used deer trails came too from both the soybean and the corn fields. “This small island of oaks was a primary feeding, breeding and traveling corridor with all the signs indicating that big bucks came there,” Thomas reports.
Thomas hadn’t started deer hunting until he was in late his 60s and didn’t have the time or the inclination to learn to shoot a deer rifle. He found his Horton’s Legend (www.hortoncrossbows.com) crossbow with a riflescope deadly out to 50 – 60 yards with a Rage broadhead on the front of the bolt. “As I walked toward my tree stand, the woods were so dry that every time I took a step, the sound was like a popcorn popper,” Thomas explains. “I thought if I continued to walk to my tree stand, I’d spook any deer in or near that oak flat. However, I’d only gone a little ways into the oaks when I noticed an old oak tree that had fallen across a 4-foot-deep ravine there.” Thomas decided he could get down in the ravine, rest his crossbow on the tree across the ravine, see the many scrapes and rubs there better and have a natural blind that should produce a buck. “I had only a few hours before dark to hunt, and in that ravine, I had the wind in my face,” Thomas recalls.
The ridge that funneled down into the ravine was 100 yards in front of Thomas. His tree stand was 200 yards from the back side of the ridge in front of him. Thomas became frustrated after standing still behind the fallen tree and seeing nothing, although plenty of rubs and scrapes and acorns broken in half were there. Eventually he spotted a fox squirrel running through the leaves and next a monster whitetail walking on top of the ridge. “What a huge buck!” Thomas thought.
Through his binoculars, Thomas watched the big buck work three scrapes on the ridge’s top. Just as the big buck started to disappear over the ridge, Thomas realized his rack was mammoth. Once the buck vanished over the hill, he walked a straight line to the tree stand Thomas had decided not to hunt. “But as I turned around to place my binoculars on a log, I spotted another monster buck at 50 yards, walking straight toward me,” Thomas says. “I ducked my head behind the fallen tree, picked up my crossbow, nocked an arrow, took the safety off and turned on the scope’s red dot.” Part of the top of the fallen tree was in the ravine where Thomas was standing. Through the limbs, Thomas saw the buck looking for him and said to himself, “Step out of the ravine, and go up the bank, so I can get a shot at you.”
The huge buck walked up out of the ravine and presented Thomas with a 50-foot broadside shot.
As Thomas remembers, “When I heard the plop that the arrow made when it hit the deer, I knew I’d made a good shot.” The big buck ran to his left, stopped and looked back at Thomas, making Thomas fear he’d missed. Finally the buck turned and walked up the hill in front of Thomas, who quickly picked up his binoculars. As the buck came halfway up the hill, he twitched his tail erratically. Thomas knew from past experience that when a buck twitched his tail after a shot, he’d had a good shot on him. The buck looked back down the hill to see what had hit him.
“When the buck walked further up the hill and turned to look back at the fallen tree where I was, I thought I’d missed the deer altogether,” Thomas explains. “But the buck kneeled down on 2 feet and then laid down on his side as I watched through my binoculars. My 42-year-old son Bobby was hunting 50 miles away from me, so I called him and announced, ‘Bobby, I’ve just shot the biggest buck ever.’ He answered, ‘Dad, don’t go to the buck yet. Leave him where he is, and I’ll come to you to make sure he’s dead.’”
After an hour, Thomas retrieved his flashlight from his daypack and shined it out in the field to where his son and grandson had parked their trucks. Bobby and Javin stayed at Thomas’s stand in the 7:00 pm darkness, while Thomas followed the buck’s blood trail. “About halfway up the hill, I discovered a little blood,” Thomas says. “I prayed, ‘Lord let the deer be at the top of the hill when I get there.’ Blood was all over the leaves where the deer had laid down just before dark. I followed the blood trail for about 15 feet, walked around a big tree and found my buck in a patch of greenbrier. Before taking this buck, I’d mounted 16 other bucks, scoring from 140-160 on Pope & Young. I realized this buck was bigger than any of them. One of the adjacent landowners later told me, ‘I had a trail-camera picture of this buck with four other huge bucks, and this buck was the smallest in the group.’”
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