Here’s a story of incredible deer hunting success, stemming from a last minute change of plans and the generosity of good friends. My friend Dave Skinner took what looked to be a blown hunt, and turned it into a great trip with a dandy buck on the ground. So read on for more details on this giant whitetail and how it met up with Dave’s arrow. It’s definitely a story worth reading! -MK
“I was scheduled to hunt in Illinois from Oct 29th to Nov 3rd and at the last minute the plan fell apart. Here I sat in KY with my best friend enroute for a midwest hunt and I had no place to go.
I started contacting friends in in Ohio, IL, and Missouri that had connections to see if anyone could accomodate two last minute hunters. I needed somewhere we could buy tags over the counter. When good friend, Damian Riffle, learned about my predicament, he unselfishly invited us up to hunt on his lease. I was REAL excited!
Damian had been sending me pics of a huge typical 12 pointer all summer long teasing me. The thought of actually killing him was far from my mind, but the opportunity to hunt an area that had produced five 150+ deer for Damian in the last 5 years had me chomping at the bit to get in a tree.
We had intended to arrive in time on Saturday the 29th to hunt, but after missing a big buck in KY the evening before and having a pretty restless night, I decided to sleep in instead. The plan was for Damian to get us some directions to our stands for Sunday morning then show us around and turn us loose for the rest of the hunt.
The morning hunt was slow but several several small bucks were up and cruising so it kept us on the edge of our stand. We climbed down at 11 and met with Damian for a tour of the farm. I quickly realized why Damian had been so successful over the years. This farm was laid out like a bowhunters dream! It is one big long winding ridge top with fields on top and thickets on all the sides. With so much thick security cover it was easy to walk right up to all of the stands and food plots without worry of spooking deer.
The sign blew me away! Scrapes that looked more like hog wallows, rubs everywhere, trails that were 6″ deep… While looking around, we checked a few Covert trail cams. One camera was located on a beatiful clover field and as Damian was scrolling through the pics he looked up and just shook his head. The big 12 had been in the plot an hour before sunset on Saturday. Had I not slept in I would’ve been sitting right there! Oh well…
The plan for the evening was set. I got to choose my stand first and my buddy Dave got leftovers. Needless to say, I was heading to the clover plot. That evening was quite uneventful. One lil button buck made an appearance and fed for 45 minutes while Damian and I watched. I couldn’t help but think my chance at the big 12 had slipped through my fingers.
As promised I let Dave pick his stand the next morning. He decided to head to the other end of the lease and hunt a nice funnel coming down off of a food plot. I decided to hunt a stand not far from where we parked. Literally I could see the truck from the stand. It’s on the peak of a ridge with a huge thicket layng out in front and a large block of timber behind that had recently been logged fairly intensely. It was an awesome looking spot but seemed unlikely just due to the close proximety of the “Parking lot”. Before I could even get set up a young buck walked right up the road in front of me. Very much a positive sign! I got settled in and at 9 am my hopes were sinking, no more deer sightings.
I sent Dave a text to see if he had seen anything and while waiting on his response I decided to hit the horns together. While rattling I got Dave’s response and was actually texting him that it was so slow I was thinking about climbing down around 9:30. Before I could hit send, I heard grunting in front of me. I stood quickly, grabbed my bow and clipped on. I could hear crashing and limbs breaking. Then a flash of antler… BIG Antler! Next thing I knew a doe popped out 12 yards to my left and turned and walked broadside 7 yards from my tree. Right behind her was a shooter buck. I didn’t immediately recognize him, but there was no doubt he was a shooter.
I was getting ready for that same 7 yard broadside shot when he locked the breaks and I realized he had picked up my scent. I had been relying on the thermals to carry my scent above the deer and although it had worked eariler, this old guy had gotten a small whiff of something. I went ahead and drew as he turned to look away and thats when I saw that big kicker/drop tine coming off his G2! It’s him! OMG! It’s him…. Dont screw this up…. clank! Somehow I bumped my back pack and something fell. He was now on high alert, 12 yards away and getting ready to bolt. I realized if I leaned out 8-10 inches I’d have a shot. I leanded forward, leveled the pin behind his shoulder and squeezed the release… Oh no, deflected! I hit him way back. I quickly nocked another arrow as he bounded a couple times and stopped just 40 yards away. No second shot opportunity was available and he slowly walked away. I was totally sick to my stomach.
I called Dave and told him what had happened. I then Called Damian and told him. I figured he was gonna kill me. I had just shot his largest deer on the lease and made a terrible shot. I was bound and determined not to make another mistake. The last time I saw the deer he was 40 yards from our truck. I was afraid he may be laid up near the truck and I wanted to give him plenty of time. I let Dave know he was going to need to sit all day because there was no way for him to leave his stand without risk of bumping him. After 2 hours I slowly climbed down and walked out the long way to the road and had Damian pick me up.
8 hours later we headed back in to look but 2 small rain showers had washed away any trace of a blood trail. He was no where in the immediate area of where I last seen him so we headed towards water which was down hill. We looked all around the water sources until dark and eliminated that area from the search. We backed out for the night.
That night I hopped online and researched tracking dogs. I found a guy nearby that is a member of the United Blood Trackers. He agreed to come down the next afternoon with his tracking dog to help us find the deer. The wait was excruciating. I urged Dave to go ahead and hunt the next day while I waited on the dog to show up.
That afternoon the dog showed up and we headed back out. Unfortunately after many trys the dog just wasnt able to pickup the trail. I honestly think there were just too many deer in the area and she was confused by the lack of blood scent but the overwhelming scent of deer in general.
Damian decided he was going to head towards the bucks core bedding area. He headed into the woods just 20 yards from where we parked. Within just a few minutes Damian hollared that he had blood. Finally!!! Now maybe the dog can pick up the trail and we’ll find him before dark. I let the dog handler enter the woods ahead of me and I eased in. As I approached eager to see the blood trail, Damian gave me a big smile and pointed over his shoulder. All I could see was main beam!!! I’m not sure what I said next, but it was very loud and very high pitched, and involved hugs and jumping up and down…. kinda like the reaction a girl makes when she gets her first designer purse or something… The kicker to the entire story is where he died. It was 50 yards from where we had been parked the day before and Dave had walked within 30 yards of him on the way to his stand that morning. We would have found him much sooner had we not waited on the dog, BUT…. We could’ve easily lost him had we not waited as well. I think it’s always best to play it safe.
Damian had been watching this buck since he was a two year old and has thousands of Covert photos of him over the years. He has the left side shed from him at the age of 2 and 3. The big typical 12 was 4.5 y/o, grosses 174″ and field dressed around 200lbs. He’s my best buck ever and I’m forever grateful to Damian for inviting me up. Hopefully I get to repay the favor someday.” – Dave Skinner