Over the years, Ohio has become my favorite state to hunt. Many factors play into this such as the proximity to our home state of Michigan, building history with deer on our farm, management practices & quality buck genetics, rolling ridges with deep hollows topped with golden corn fields...the list could go on.When I get down to it, it’s life events here that make Ohio special. Stories of success at our skinning shed, an old converted corn crib, chased with cold beers, make for the central location after a successful hunt. It’s our version of a Michigan buck pole.
Note: the following is a recap from an Ohio youth deer hunt this season written by our dear friend, Jason Brown:
A dozen times or so in the last four years we’ve met up here, mostly under the cover of darkness - smiling, laughing, living. It’s what comes naturally to deer hunters. These short bursts of time in special places like the skinning shed each fall is what completes us; what completes me.
Passing down special places and traditions to our kids is a priority I have for my two sons.
I’ll never be able to thank the Lord enough for what we have been blessed with.
This year, I brought my son Gibson down to our special farm where the guys and our crew have spent so much time. There was much anticipation. Gibson had just taken his best buck on the opener of Michigan’s gun season, with it came extreme confidence.
This is the second youth gun season Gibson has taken part in, but the first using a special cartridge we helped launch a few years ago with our partners at Winchester – the 350 Legend. To be able to use a straight-wall cartridge with all the benefits that the 350 Legend offers almost feels too good to be true. It was literally built for states like Ohio and Michigan.
Where we hunt, management is a priority. Two years ago during our first trip, we had to make a few tough calls on some very solid three-year-old bucks. I prayed we’d have an opportunity at a mature buck.
After a solid morning of rain, we relocated from an upper corn field. We worked down to the Banks Blind on a food plot where bucks like to cruise during the rut. A break in the rain pulled a hot doe out of the timber. Moments later, a mature buck we didn’t have much history with emerged right on her tail. A case of Buck Fever ensued for us both. I was running the camera and trying to assess the situation. Everything was happening quickly. I probably rushed the whole situation moving from one window to the other. The buck was so close to our wind line it made me nervous. Even though Gib has taken plenty of deer, turkey and waterfowl...he hadn’t been on a hunt with so much build up before. He had seen all the trail camera pics and heard all the stories...he was ready. We both had our reasons for wanting this to happen so badly.
We flat rushed the shot. The hit was back on the deer; we both felt sick. Adding to the moment, two more bucks in their 130’s caught wind of the hot doe and worked into the food plot at 70 yards. Pure torture. They left the field and so did we. I knew the buck would not survive the night. I didn’t want to pressure him, so we backed out. The chances of that buck being within 150 yards of where we shot him was much better if we let him lie for at least 12 hours.
The replay of the shot went on and on in our minds throughout the night. What went wrong? If we could just turn back time it would have been different. But this is how a hunter grows. As a hunter and as a person. Lessons aren’t easy, they shouldn’t be…we grow from the tough ones. These were my words to Gib throughout the night. They were also messages to myself. Sleep came hard that night.
We woke to a wet landscape, but heavy rains missed us. We met our friend Jarod at the property who we lease the farm from. He knows the property better than anyone. We started at the last spot we saw the buck and found blood. We guessed he went west into a deep hollow, full of great places for a buck to lie down. 45 minutes later we turned up nothing.
Our next spot to search was a hollow east of the food plot where the buck had initially come from. Gib had been telling us he had a feeling the buck went in there after being hit, but at the same time, he seemed to be losing hope. 10 minutes later, I found the beautiful buck. Rain-soaked, but there he was.
We got lucky and avoided disaster. A gut-shot is deadly almost 100% of the time if treated with patience. We made the right decision after the shot happened - we backed in the hopes he would lie down and expire. In the end, he was 150 yards from our blind, tucked up against an old green mossy log in the hollow where he probably lived his entire life.
This was the culmination of many things. In this same blind was where Gibson shed a few tears as a 12-year-old after we passed some deer that would be his best ever bucks. As a 14-year-old, a foot taller and now a young man, he struggled to hold back tears after making a poor shot on a what would normally be a chip shot for him. He knew he was better than that and it ate him up. But the vaccine for Buck Fever is experience...he’s still learning the lessons we all learn as hunters.
In a year when the search for a vaccine has turned the world upside down and families inside and out, Gib and I hope we never experience an antidote for Buck Fever.