Let me start my story with the preface that in my family, a “monster” is a good thing. Here’s what I mean. I started hunting and fishing as a very young boy. Anytime a member of our family or hunting group caught or harvested a large animal it is referred to as a “monster.” For example, when I was five years old I caught a two pound crappie on Kentucky Lake with my grandfather on an old cane pole. When I finally landed the biggest fish of my life, my grandfather proclaimed, “Boy, you just caught a monster.” Or when I brought home a rabbit that was big and fat, my dad would say, “I see you got yourself a monster there.” Anyway you get the idea.
So this story is a true tale of two monsters. As I stated, I’ve been hunting since a very early age and was blessed to grow up in the woods of Tennessee. Although, I consider myself an accomplished hunter, after 40 years of hunting I had never killed a true monster whitetail. Sure, I have killed deer to hang on the wall and put meat on the table, but nothing worthy of the title of “monster.” That all changed this past hunting season.
I’ve owned an area of land in Southeast Indiana for about eight years. I have planted food plots, built ponds for water, and created habitat just like the magazine articles describe. For seven years I saw tons of deer. Tons of does, spikes, and six pointers. But never anything that would score greater than 130 gross. Every year I would harvest a doe and a buck that were respectable but nothing that would meet the monster classification. (I believe that deer meat is the healthiest and most environmentally friendly meat available, but that’s a different story.) Anyway, on October 23rd I went to my farm to hunt. My tree stand had been in place since mid-September and was selected well in advance with information from trail cameras and personal scouting. So I knew it was a good spot for general deer activity. The day was a hot day in October with no wind and I could only hunt the afternoon. Although the season had been open for three weeks, I hadn’t had the chance to hunt and the temperatures were consistently in the 60s and 70s so my motivation to hunt was low. I decided at the last minute to go hunting on this particular day and was late getting to the stand in the afternoon. As I climbed into the stand and buckled in my safety harness I was sweating like crazy and actually dropped my bow release. So I had to unbuckle, climb down, retrieve the release, climb back up, and rebuckle. So now I was really sweating. I sat down, hot and frustrated and looked to my right and see a group of turkeys coming my way through a break in the field. I quickly decided that since it would be unlikely I’d see a deer on a day like this, I’d just harvest a turkey and salvage the day. I quickly loaded a turkey arrow (I always keep one in my quiver during this time of year when both deer and turkey seasons are open). There were six turkeys: four jakes and two toms just walking and pecking across the field heading my way. Three jakes walked past me without a glance. As seems to always be the case, the last bird of the six was the biggest, so I selected him for our table. As the final turkey drew within 40 yards on a slow but steady walk, I brought my bow to full draw. As I swung to sight in on the big boy, I bumped the bow rest that was attached to the tree just above my left shoulder. The tiny noise was just enough to spook the last jake that was directly under my stand. The entire group disappeared in a flash. So now I was hot, sweaty, and angry with myself. I had practiced this move, shot my bow every day, and planned this moment all summer only to jack it up on my first hunt.
At this point, I’m talking to myself in not so nice terms. I removed the turkey arrow and put it back in my quiver and replaced it with one of my deer arrows. As I hung up my bow and sat down, a great looking doe came prancing out into the field at exactly 45 yards (per my range finder) and stood broad side. I am not exaggerating, she walked with a prancing gait, flicking her tail from side to side, her coat was a flawless tan brown, and she defined the term “doe eyes.” I realized based on her movements and body language she was flirting with someone. I reached for my bow as she kept looking behind her and walking in a tight circle. I thought to myself, “There might be a buck following her, so get ready. But, don’t shoot another eight pointer that will be just like last year’s. This is your first day to hunt of a long season, be patient.” Then I heard a gut wrenching grunt followed by a long low wheeze. I had actually never heard anything like this in person. Sure, I’d seen hunting shows and read stories, but this made my heart stop for a moment and then go into full sprint mode. I moved only my eyes and saw him. A true, without a doubt, unquestionable “monster.” The doe froze, I froze. This deer had the widest rack, I’d ever seen and he had a drop tine. I’ve always been fond of drop tines. I think they add a little character to the rack. But the most incredible things were the size of his body and his walk. He looked like a thoroughbred horse with rippling muscles and he walked like he was the king of this jungle. Each step was a statement of dominance. I’d been told by a good friend that I would know when I saw a monster by the way he walked. He was right. He slowly walked closer to the doe and I went to full draw. Damn if I didn’t hit the bow rest again!! I know! How clumsy can I get? The doe spooked a little, but only a few yards. The monster continued to walk closer. When he got to where I estimated the doe was previously standing, he stopped and inspected the ground and sniffed the area. I placed my 45 yard pin right on his vitals and let the arrow fly. I watched the arrow in slow motion fly through the air and shave fur off the deer’s underside. I missed!!! But, I couldn’t have. I had practiced. I was a great shot with a bow. No chance I would miss, not at 45 yards. Unbelievable! I reached for my range finder as the monster jumped and moved a few yards to my right. I ranged the deer again – 45 yards exactly! The doe was standing right in front of him now. I was way off on my distance for the first shot. When the doe moved I thought the monster had gone to where she had been standing but he had stopped short by about 15 yards. But, now I was sure of the distance. I knocked another arrow, drew my bow, avoided the bow rest, lined up his vitals, and released. Again, seemingly in slow motion I watched the arrow fly through the air. This time it hit exactly where I was aiming. After that, it’s kind of blur for a few minutes. I know an experienced hunter watches carefully where the deer was hit and where he runs, marking the exact spot where he entered the woods. I did none of that. I was shaking so hard that I just sat down in my stand. I know if someone had seen the tree at that moment they would swear that it was possessed, because the whole tree was shaking. I waited the text book 30 minutes, according to my dad, to get down from the tree just at the end of shooting time. I walked to the spot where I was sure he’d been standing and looked for blood, my arrow, droppings, anything. I found nothing. Nothing! I walked in the general direction I thought the deer had run. I was bent over walking slowly like a hound trying to find a scent. Now it was getting dark and I was doubting my shot, questioning my tracking ability, wondering if I should wait and come back in the daylight. But, the temperature was in the 60’s and I didn’t want to waste the meat. I should also say that I only had a little hand held personal flashlight. So I decided to keep looking. I found one drop of blood on a trail that left the field on a diagonal through a small clearing. When I say one drop of blood, I really mean one small tiny drop sitting in the cup of a dry curled leaf. So, I started slowly walking that way. As I entered the clearing just beyond the field where I had been hunting, I heard a doe blow. So, I turned off the flashlight. I don’t know why. In hind sight it makes no sense. I just did. I took about five or six more steps in the dark and immediately regretted turning off my flashlight. Because that’s when I tripped and fell face first on top of a Monster! I literally tripped over the deer I’d just shot. I was lucky to not be impaled by the massive antlers. But with that thought quickly removed, I’d never been so relieved, excited, and giddy about a harvest in my life. I stood up and yelled to the heavens, “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!” I had just harvested a deer of a lifetime. For those keeping score at home the monster weighed 254 pounds on a certified scale, was a main frame 13 pointer with a drop tine making it a 14 pointer, and raw gross score of 178 inches. (I don’t believe in deductions. A deer is as big as it is. I’ve never understood why you’d deduct anything.) I did send one of his teeth to the State of Indiana for aging. The official age was 6.5 years. An incredible buck by almost anyone’s standard. Free roaming, no fences, no breeding, no steroids, food supplements or growth hormones.
That would be a good story by itself, but probably not worthy of this publication. But as the title goes, it’s a story of two Monster Bucks.
I live in Cincinnati; my land where I killed the aforementioned monster is about an hour away in Indiana. In the small suburb of Cincinnati where I live, the residents are concerned about deer eating their flowers or harassing their small dogs. So this year the police organized a team of certified bow hunters to assist in reducing the deer “nuisance.” I, of course, eagerly signed up for the program. Each hunter had to pass a background test, demonstrate bow or crossbow efficiency, and attend an organizational meeting. No problem, I qualified with both the compound and a crossbow with ease. Why was I so eager after having just killed a monster? Well, being obsessed with this deer hunting thing I’ve had a trail camera on my kids’ swing set in our backyard for six years. Every year right around Halloween I’d recorded this one deer passing through my yard. Six years ago he was a no doubter 200+ deer with 18 points and enough mass to build a tree house. So for six years, I watched this deer walk by or hang out in my backyard for a week or so without being able to do anything about it. During those years, it was strictly against the law to hunt in this community. So I “suffered” year after year, until this year. I had in the past gone so far as to draw my bow and aim, but just couldn’t be a poacher. My dad taught me that a poacher is anyone, no matter what the circumstance, that harvested, injured, or killed an animal illegally. No exceptions. I wouldn’t have been able to look him in the eye if I’d released that arrow. The only thing lower than a poacher to my dad was a lying poacher. So, I didn’t shoot in the past. But this year would be different.
On October 30th, one week after the first monster was slain, an even bigger monster was on my mind. About six houses down from my house is one of the approved hunting spots. This spot is really tough hunting for several reasons. First, it’s as thick as pea soup with honeysuckle, briars, and those annoying little sticky things that get all over your clothes and the wife complains about getting all over the laundry. Second, the only way to hunt the area is to enter next to my neighbor’s house. He has asked that no one enter his property until after the sun was up. His wife didn’t want to see hunters walking through her yard in the dark (very understandable). So after getting the approval to hunt in the neighborhood, I scouted this spot extensively and saw absolutely no deer signs at all. None, nada, nothing. Not a single nugget of waste, no trees rubbed, no scrapes, not even a hoof print. But I knew the big deer had to live somewhere close by and that was the thickest, nastiest, and most isolated place in our community; and I reasoned it to be the perfect spot for an old mature buck. Because I’d seen this one deer for six years, I had a file of pictures on my computer that I’d titled “Godzilla,” again because he was a true monster. So on the morning of October 30th, I parked in the area in front of my neighbor’s house. I did call the night before and let the homeowner know that they’d see my truck parked in front of their house and got their okay. I sat in my truck until official sunrise. I even watched my neighbor take out the trash and gave him a wave. Being mindful of my neighbors, I was prepared for a quick and stealthy entry into the wooded area next to their house. I grabbed my crossbow, cocked it, and checked my quiver. Then I strapped my climbing stand onto my back and stepped into the woods. Again, it’s full daylight, so I was moving as quietly as possible. That’s when Godzilla appeared like a ghost. He stood up about 30 yards away from me in the spot where he’d bedded down for the night. He was massive! I mean massive as in he could have eaten the deer I’d shot seven days earlier. I couldn’t believe it. Godzilla was looking right at me. I was dressed in a full camo leaf suit with a full face mask. He seemed not to see me and there was absolutely no breeze. He began to slowly move to my right and bob his head up and down trying to identify what had awakened him. Where the monster I shot a week earlier looked and walked like a thoroughbred, Godzilla looked and walked like a Brahma bull. He had points going everywhere and walked with the limp of an old man. You know the tough old man that no one messes with. An old man that could still kick your butt if you crossed him. I thought to myself, “You can do this; just stay cool.” That’s when my heart went into hyper drive. It was pounding so loudly, I know Godzilla could hear it. I waited forever for him to lower his head and look away still confused as to what was out there. I silently loaded a bolt in the crossbow and as slowly as humanly possible, I raised the crossbow into shooting position. I lined up my scope, placed the 30 yard cross hair just behind his left shoulder, took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger so slowly I thought it would never release. The bolt came screaming out like a flash of lightning and went completely through the monster. He wheeled and ran toward the green space behind my neighbor’s house in a dead run. I knew it was a perfect hit and he was mine! I sat down on the ground right there in the woods and thanked God for an amazing blessing. I waited about an hour before tracking the deer. I wanted to get everything ready for a rapid extraction. I wanted to make sure any passer byers wouldn’t see me dragging a deer. Not because I was doing anything wrong, but just being respectful that not all people are informed enough to understand what hunting is really all about. This time I knew exactly where he went. I found my bolt and a blood trail that even a foo-foo dog could follow. I found him ten yards into the woods and drug him to the edge of the yard. I have one of those hoists that attaches to the trailer hitch of your truck. It allows you to raise the deer then pivot it into the bed of the truck. It’s really handy if you don’t have help loading a deer. It’s rated at 300 pounds. I set this up during the time I was waiting. As I started to crank the deer up to swing it into the truck, (it should be said that we are not allowed to field dress a deer within the city limits, so this was a whole deer), the hoist began to bend! Honestly the vertical bar bent and then it wouldn’t pivot to swing the deer into the truck. I thought the hoist must be defective. Oh no…. The deer was that big! He weighed 306 pounds when I got him to the butcher. He had 20 points and bases that looked like small trees. His gross score was right at 190 (again, I don’t believe in deductions). I sent his tooth in for aging and his official age was 8.5 years. That’s what living in a no stress environment will do for a deer. A true monster!!! Godzilla is in the house! (I did my job in saving someone’s roses and foo-foo dog. We actually found a pellet right under the skin of his rear flank. Someone must have shot him with a pellet gun to get him out of their flowers.)
A buddy of mine accused me of being the luckiest guy on earth when it came to hunting. I agree there was a lot of luck involved, but let’s review. On monster number one, I planted the food plots, dug the ponds, and scouted the place for 8 years. Although, I’d never seen that buck before I knew where the deer were and how they used the fields. On Godzilla, I watched him for six years and got prepared for the possibility of a legal kill. I practiced, scouted, and I was prepared. Lucky definitely, but I prefer blessed. Blessed beyond measure to live in a country where we can have the freedoms, rights, privileges, and responsibilities we have. Thank you to all those of have fought, died, and defended my rights that allowed me such a great opportunity. Also, thank you to all those ethical hunters out there that help to keep this great tradition alive. Our licenses, fees, and taxes keep hunting alive and an enduring gift for our children…. Thank you.