This title may conjure up images of some poor soul getting gunned down by a high smellin’, low down, thievin’ outlaw in some old western, but it’s actually a bowhunting story. The characters bear no resemblance to those mentioned above, except for maybe the high smellin’, low down part.
I was hunting with Mike Misch. We both hunt from the ground with our vintage Bear “Kodiak” recurves, and we love it. In the 41 years that we’ve been hunting together we thought we’d seen everything, but this season two bucks that I named “Angus” and “The Bushwhacker” reminded us that in nature the possibilities are endless. The more time you spend in the woods the more you will be amazed by what you see.
I saw Angus for the first time on November 13, 2013. I was sitting next to a long brushy ravine that extends out into a cornfield. I call it “The Finger”. A movement at the far end of the field caught my eye. A large set of antlers emerged from the woods 250 yards away. As the buck came down the field he passed by me at 50 yards. Though only an 8 point, his rack was massive. I also noticed something strange. His fore legs were almost all white.
A second buck emerged from the woods 75 yards to my left. As the 2 1/2 year old 7-point approached, Angus came out to meet him. Angus dwarfed the smaller buck. His neck and chest were so thick it reminded me of a beef cow, thus the name “Angus.”
Our 2014 hunt began on Halloween night. I dressed up like a Sasquatch and went out looking for treats, but got tricked instead. The next few days were treat-less as well, but on the morning of November 4th a change was in the air, mostly in the form of fog. It started out wet and drizzly, but the rain stopped shortly after daylight. After waiting out the rain, I was late getting to my favorite spot, a narrow crop field dividing two deep, brushy ravines. It’s been the site of many exciting and educational adventures over the 15 years I’ve been hunting this farm. I call it “Mongo Run”, after a monster buck I took there several years ago (TBM, Apr/May, 2010). I also took “The Phantom” (TBM, Feb/Mar 2013) in this same spot. This year it was planted in clover.
Before I was even settled in, a doe broke out into the field closely followed by a nice 8-point. He had a tall rack with long tines, but not much mass. He had another unusual feature, two white throat patches. I named him “Double Throat Patch” or “Patch” for short. He followed the doe past me at 30 yards. I still had two weeks to hunt, and he was on the outer fringe of my comfort zone, so I decided to pass on the shot. As they moved on down the field he kept the doe on a short leash, never letting her get more than a few yards ahead before lowering his head and rushing to catch up. They soon disappeared into the woods.
About an hour later they came back, or so I thought. I was fairly confident it was the same doe, but upon further observation, I realized this was a different buck. This buck had a wider rack and longer brow tines. I surmised he probably kidnapped the doe from the other buck. No shot opportunity was forthcoming, as they hung along the far edge of the field. The buck stopped in front of a big bush and started licking and rubbing his face and antlers against the overhead branches. Then he stood up on his hind legs and stretched his neck to reach as high as possible and commenced to rip and tear at that bush with reckless abandon. When he dropped down on all fours again, a shower of leaves and twigs came fluttering to the ground. Then he pawed the ground with great enthusiasm, first with the left hoof, then the right. Then he put his hocks together, hunched his back and urinated to carry his tarsal scent to the scrape. Satisfied with his work, he sauntered on down the edge of the field and melted into the brush.
“Wow!” I thought to myself, “Now that’s how to make a scrape!” I named him “Bushwhacker”.
The next morning Mike was hunting the same clover field about 400 yards from me. Just as the sun was beginning to show on the horizon a medium sized 9-point with a split right brow tine appeared across the field. The buck worked a scrape, then continued to follow the field edge. As he wandered along, he was bathed in the orange glow of the rising sun, which inspired the name “Sunny”.
Meanwhile, I was having an encounter with a small, scraggly looking buck. He had a small, ugly, unimpressive rack with four of his eight points broken off. It looked like the damage had been done while in velvet, as if he ran through a fence and sheared off all four points in one shot.
That evening I hunted The Finger. I was hoping to see Angus again, but didn’t really expect to. In my experience, bucks like that tend to be a one shot deal. For three hours, the only action I had was a coyote that trotted past out of range. But just before dark I noticed a deer standing along the far side of the ravine. I zoomed in with my video camera for a closer look. “Yes!” I whispered to myself. Angus was still alive and bigger than ever, and still wearing white socks. But now I noticed another strange detail. Except for the brow tines, the tips of all of his antler tines were nearly black as if dipped in paint.
Unfortunately, he was 120 yards away heading away from me, but I had renewed hope of getting another chance at him, hopefully a little closer. Since I saw him in the same spot as last year, I figured this must be his home territory.
The morning of Nov. 8 was one Mike will never forget. He was hunting from a ground blind between the clover field and a brushy ravine. We hadn’t had much action the last two days and today was looking to be another loser. It was a cold, dark day and Mike hadn’t seen as much as a squirrel for 2 1/2 hours. He was cold and was contemplating leaving early when suddenly a doe came running down the field with a small buck in tow. It was the same 8-point that I saw a few days earlier that had 4 broken tines. Up until now he hadn’t been worthy of a name, but what he was about to do would earn him the name “Lover Boy”.
With head lowered and neck extended Lover Boy approached the doe. With nose to tail he followed her in a circle then attempted to mount her. Surprisingly, she consented. Just then Sunny appeared. He was a bigger buck so Mike expected him to challenge Lover Boy, but he didn’t. He just stood there and watched as lover Boy repeatedly mounted the doe seven times. While Mike was busy watching the action in front of him, he failed to see an even larger buck approaching from behind him. The buck walked right past Mike’s blind, and got out of range before Mike could react. It was Bushwhacker, and he was not happy about being late for the party. He went straight for the doe, sending Lover Boy scampering away. Bushwhacker didn’t waste any time. After he and the doe circled a couple of times, he mounted up and took care of business like a pro. About that time Patch appeared. Bushwhacker saw Patch and started walking toward him with ears laid back. Patch had no desire to tangle with Bushwhacker and slowly headed into the woods 40 yards north of Mike’s blind. In the meantime, the doe took advantage of the distraction and headed for the woods too. As she got a few yards into the trees, she stopped just six yards from Mike. Bushwhacker’s attention returned to the doe and he was soon on the move headed right for Mike. With his heart pounding in his chest, Mike waited with bow in hand trying not to move and spook the doe. Bushwhacker entered the woods and walked past Mike at 15 yards. When the buck got broadside Mike came to full draw, fully expecting the doe to spook and blow up the whole deal. Amazingly, she never moved until Mike’s arrow flashed past her and buried to the fletching in the bucks ribcage. The Bushwhacker had just gotten bushwhacked! The doe had led him to his doom. She could have warned him but didn’t. Revenge, perhaps? Hell hath no fury like a doe scorned.
The shot was perfect, slicing through both lungs and the top of the heart. The buck went down within 50 yards even though he was running downhill. That was good since we would have to drag him back up the side of that steep ravine. After experiencing similar scenarios in the past, I wisely brought along 200 feet of heavy duty rope. I backed my truck up to the edge of the ravine and dragged the rope down as far as it would go. We only had to drag the buck 30 yards to reach the end of the rope. The buck dressed out at 190 pounds. After tagging Bushwhacker, Mike was left with only a doe tag for the rest of the hunt. Consequently, during that time a big 10-point and two 11-points with “Shoot Me!” tattooed on their chests waltzed past him between five and 18 yards.
I was not having the same good fortune, however. On the evening of Nov. 12, the wind seemed favorable to hunt The Finger again, but by the time I got there it had shifted 90 degrees. It would be useless to hunt my intended blind, and I didn’t have time to hike to a different area. I decided to go to the downwind end of the field and carve out an impromptu blind.
There was a good looking trail coming out to the field and some good cover 15 yards from it. Unfortunately the best spot had a lot of overhead branches that would prevent me from drawing my bow. I didn’t have time to do a lot of pruning so I moved down the field edge another five yards. Big mistake. Just minutes after preparing my second choice hiding place, I heard a twig snap to my left. As I turned to look, a doe came bounding out of the woods and headed down along the edge of the finger. A second later a monster buck burst through the brush into the field and stopped broadside 20 yards from me. There it was, the chance every bowhunter dreams about, but few ever experience. Angus had granted my wish. The only problem was he was standing behind a small cornstalk covered hump. I could only see his head, neck and the top of his back. The only way I could shoot was if I stood up, but before I could attempt the maneuver he was on the run again. I grabbed my camera and got some video as he trotted away with love on his mind. If I had been in the other spot I would have had a clear 15 yard shot.
Later that evening a 4-point and five does and fawns entered the cornfield to feed. Just before dark Angus made another appearance. He came around the end of the finger and was headed right for me. My heart started beating a little faster even though I knew he probably wouldn’t come all the way to me. About 50 yards out he turned and slipped down into the finger. A couple minutes later he came back out and headed away from me with the rest of the deer. Close but no cigar. Fate, however, would bring us together again a whole lot closer.
The next evening was Nov. 13, exactly one year after my first encounter with Angus. I decided to sit right on the tip of the finger. Again, I had two choices where to make a blind. One was between two large limbs of a dead-fall with tall grass and weeds close to the field edge. The other was a natural blind only about 10 feet to the left between another dead-fall and several large, thick, green leafed bushes. It would require very little trimming, but I would have to stand to see or shoot over the dead fall. I didn’t want to stand for three hours so I chose option #1. Little did I know that might have been a life or death decision.
About an hour later, while looking through a mass of branches, I saw several deer running out in the cornfield on the far side of the finger. Because of the thick bushes I would be virtually blind until they came around the corner of the finger, so I picked up my bow and waited.
Less than a minute later a doe came tearing around the corner. Hot on her tail was a medium sized 8-point that I later named “Speedy Gonzales.” When I saw that it was a small buck, I set down my bow and picked up my video camera. Suddenly another buck came flying around the corner. It was Angus. “Oh no!” I gasped, as I again reached for my bow. But then two more small bucks, came streaking around the corner. Meanwhile the doe was dodging and darting around out in the field. It was funny to watch because the bucks were all following by scent rather than sight. They looked like a bunch of hounds on the trail of a fox as they zig-zagged along the erratic scent trail. I managed to get my camera turned on, but before I could point it at anything, the doe doubled back and cut into the brush 40 yards to my left. The four bucks followed suit. Now all five deer were running blindly through the thick brush like a runaway freight train right at me. Suddenly the doe burst through the bushes 10 feet in front of me and flew past me an arm’s length away. As she flashed past, Speedy Gonzales blew through the bushes following right in her tracks. Then Angus, pushing that huge rack, exploded from the bushes one bush to the right of the first two deer, sending leaves and twigs spraying out and fluttering to the ground. Somehow he spotted me as I stood there like a deer in the headlights, with my mouth hanging open and my camera clutched uselessly in my white-knuckled fist. He nearly laid over on his side at my feet as he made a high speed right turn and disappeared into the ravine. I could have leaped on his back and had the ride of a lifetime, but it probably would’ve been a short lifetime. The two yearling bucks took a short-cut and dropped directly into the ravine four yards from me. The doe took the whole gang on a wild ride down through the ravine, then out the other side of the finger and back around the corner in front of me again. Unfortunately they were out of range as they sprinted across the field and disappeared, spelling the end of the action for the evening. Like a vacuum cleaner, that doe had sucked up every buck in the area and took them into the next county.
“Wow! That was intense!” I whispered to myself, with my heart still pounding from the adrenalin rush. I looked back behind me where the freight train had gone through. I suddenly realized that the spot where Angus broke through the bushes was exactly where I would have been standing had I chosen the other hiding spot. I pictured myself either impaled on that huge rack, fluttering in the wind like a raccoon tail on a car radio antenna as Angus bounded along in pursuit of the doe; or bull-dozed into the turf with Angus doing the Tennessee Two Step on my ribcage. Then another thought struck me. Maybe the black on his rack is actually dried blood from the last bowhunter he trampled and gored.
Two days later at daylight I was surprised to see a coyote trotting past. At 15 yards broadside he stopped and turned his head to present me the perfect shot. I drew my bow and released. I couldn’t believe it when he jumped the string. I watched my arrow zip harmlessly through the fur on the back of his neck as he bolted away. As if that wasn’t enough, Angus wandered past Mike leisurely eating clover, then came down the field toward me but on my downwind side. About 30 yards out he winded me to deny me again. Then he rubbed my nose in it by trotting the length of the field flashing that huge rack in the morning sun. I hope he’s as lucky during the gun season as he was during the bow season because I want another crack at him next year (but not THAT close) “Wow!”
My luck was not so good on this hunt, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. I had a great time and learned some things. Small decisions can sometimes have big consequences. If I had made the right decision the first time I would’ve had Angus. If I had made the wrong decision the second time, Angus would’ve had me. Whoever said that hunting on the ground is safer than hunting from a tree has never been run over by a runaway whitetail freight train.
Profile: Gary Olsen is a retired electrical contractor. For the past five years he and his wife Kathy have been building a log home whenever he’s not bowhunting, scouting, photographing wildlife, kayaking or just wandering around in the woods.
Equipment: Gary was hunting on the ground with a 1959 46# Bear “Kodiak” recurve. He used wood (sitka spruce) arrows with 4-blade Zwickey “Eskimo” broadheads.
Mike was hunting on the ground with a 1964 48# Bear “Kodiak” recurve and cedar arrows with 4-blade Zwickey “Eskimo” broadheads.