By Mark Kenyon

This is Part 2 in The Journey 2013 series, in which I’m documenting my 2013 season week by week! – MK

My first weekend of the 2013 season was jam packed with close calls with some of my top bucks in Michigan, and the following week continued that trend. This time though, the excitement was in Ohio and the bucks were even bigger.

On Tuesday, October 8th, I encountered one of the biggest bucks I’ve ever had the privilege to see in the woods while hunting. And if he would have closed just a few more yards, this blog post would have featured a smiling face and hands on antlers. Oh … so … close.

Hi, My Name Is MacGyver

After the first weekend of the season, I was excited but also frustrated by my close calls. That said, I was just dying to get back in the woods and wash those bad memories out of my mind. On Monday the 7th I had time to head out for an evening hunt on a new property, so I excitedly headed out early that afternoon.

To access this property I had to walk about 3/4 of a mile through a creek, so the going was slow, but I felt that I had stealthily gotten in without putting any deer on alert. I was feeling good, and I quickly set up my climbing sticks and portable treestand. All was well in the world until I pulled out my camera arm and camera. At this point I realized I had forgotten to bring my “fluid head”, which is the piece that connects my camera arm to my camera. Without it, there would be no filming. Epic fail. Luckily though, I’m a real MacGyver (I wish haha), and I created a hillbilly camera mount using two pieces of paracord and some simpleton knots. It wasn’t pretty, but in a pinch it would have worked! Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I didn’t end up seeing any deer that night.

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Off To Ohio

The following morning it was on to greener pastures, as my buddy Josh and I were to headed down to our Ohio lease for our first hunt there! Needless to say, we were excited. Earlier this year, Josh and I had seen three different shooter bucks bedded on the property while we scouted, and we’d seen another six P&Y quality bucks while driving nearby back roads. We were feeling pretty optimistic as we arrived to the property Tuesday afternoon.

Since we had picked up the lease pretty late this summer, we’d only been able to manage one previous trip, and we’d only gotten one stand hung. Because of that, we had to sneak in on Tuesday and hang two more sets. Josh and I each strapped on a stand and sticks to our packs, and headed in our separate directions.

Setting Up + My Camera Issues Continue

My plan for this sit was to set-up in an area where I’d be able to see a lot of ground. Given this would be our first time ever hunting here, I wanted to hopefully get a better idea of how deer were using the area. That said, I set up in nice maple tree on the edge of a bean field, which formed a finger that cut into the timber. Ahead of me was another finger of timber jutting out into the beans, and behind me was a second finger of timber – with a ridge that ran the spine of the finger. The tree looked to be perfectly positioned for observation, and also offered shots to the ridge behind me, the field ahead of me, and a trail that cut to my left, connecting the two fingers of timber. On top of that, this was one of those trees with perfect cover. I was stoked!

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I settled into this promising set, and turned on my camera to do an interview. The screen came to life, and then just as quickly a red light began to flash. My heart dropped. Next a warning message flashed across the screen. My stomach felt as though a sack of marbles had somehow been ingested. “Battery low, power off camera”.

Nooo!

How could this have happened? I’d just charged the camera battery the day before. Regardless of my disbelief, the camera proceeded to shut down, and I was left for the second day in a row without adequate means to film my hunt. That said, with the excitement high for my first hunt in Ohio for 2013, I wasn’t about to not catch the evenings events on film. Even though it was after 4:00 PM, I had to do something. So I hurried down the tree, and huffed it across the bean field and back along the property border all the way back to my truck, to retrieve my backup handicam.

30 minutes later I returned, frustrated, drenched in sweat, and 3 pounds lighter. On the bright side though, I had a camera that worked. It was time to hunt.

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Big Buck, Big Buck

The first couple hours of the evening passed uneventfully, as I enjoyed a warm Ohio night, and a comfortable tree. Finally around 6:00 PM does began filing out of the timber across from me and into the bean field.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the property Josh was enjoying a similar night. First a few does, and then finally a nice 2.5 yr old 8 pointer emerged (see below).

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Back on my side, I happily watched a trio of does feeding across the bean field when all of a sudden I saw a flash of ivory across the way. I retrained my focus on the east side of the field and my jaw dropped.

Standing there in the beans, and slowly walking my way, was a giant.

I immediately trained the camera on the behemoth, and began filming this masterpiece of nature.

For the next hour, I filmed what ended up being one of the largest bucks I’ve ever encountered in the wild, as he slowly fed his way down the edge of the bean field towards me.

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As the buck approached, I texted Josh “Big buck, big buck” and then proceeded to I carry on a one sided conversation with myself that went something like this…

“Keep it calm. Keep it cool. Cool as a cucumber … You got this.”

“Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.”

“Wow, you’re keeping it together really well. Good job Mark…. Don’t think about it too much though, that might make you freak out. Don’t think about. Keep your cool!”

“Wow he’d look good on the wall… No, don’t think about that! Don’t count your chickens til they hatch!”

“Breathe. Breathe. Breathe”

I literally sat there in that tree, thinking through these very things and much more, for just about an hour. If someone could have been in that tree with me, and heard everything that was going on in my head, I’m pretty sure they would have thought I was in need of being institutionalized. I must admit, I was sounding a little crazy. But I was holding it together! I was ready to shoot this deer.

The buck, along with a second 115″ish buck were following the edge of the field right to me, but eventually a curve in the field edge caused them to disappear from my view for about 20 minutes.

Finally with about 15 minutes of daylight left, they re-emerged into the field at about 75 yards.

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Another buck had joined the group now, and the two smaller deer began to slowly move across the field and passed in front of my stand at 50 yards. The bigger buck though held his ground, feeding and occasionally raising his head to show off his massive 9 point frame.

Much to my dismay, after needing him to just move in another 15 or 20 yards, the buck turned around and slowly began walking back the way he came. Eventually stopping to work a licking branch over a scrape, he turned and looked back at me one last time. If he could speak, I would swear that buck had looked right at me and said “Not this time buddy, not this time.”

Lessons Learned

When it comes to lessons learned this past week, my mind turns to two things.

First off, always double check your gear. I forgot my fluid head for the camera, and then had a dead battery the next day. These mistakes could have kept me from filming an exciting hunt, and I’m lucky I was able to figure out a way to make the best of both situations. In the future, I need to make sure to take the time to double check all of my gear. Hunting season is fleeting, and one missed opportunity can spell disaster for a whole season. I can’t let my equipment bring me down.

Secondly, I’ve been reminded to always hunt as though there’s a great chance for a kill. I went into my Ohio hunt not really expecting to have a good opportunity for a kill. Having never hunted the property, and only spending one day previous there, I had assumed that my hunt would be just a learning experience. It obviously turned into much more though. I think it was a good reminder for me to always be on guard and ready – because you just never know what can happen. Your whole season can change in just a matter of seconds. You better be ready.

Where We’re Going From Here

From here, things should only get better (I hope!). A little later this week a cold front is hitting Michigan, and that will give me good enough reason to head back into another one of my better spots for a day or two. Following that, Josh and I will be heading back to our Ohio lease this weekend. Hopefully I’ll get another crack at the buck we’re now referring to as “Jawbreaker”.

In the meantime, I hope you’re all enjoying some time in the woods! Good luck hunting and stay wired to hunt!

– Mark