Today’s W2H reader success story is a great one, told by Jake Rodriguez, as he details his hunt for “The Hulk”. Congrats Jake! – MK
By Jake Rodriguez
I am a father of two, high school teacher, and coach two high school sports (wrestling and football). To say my time has to be managed properly to quench my whitetail addiction is an understatement, as there is a fine line between using my “available time” for family and deer hunting. I am learning to play the line well as I get older but the challenge is great, thankfully, so is the support from my wife. I can credit her understanding approach to my dedicated successes. This is a deer I have been watching for 3 years now and was #2 on the hit list. I have him pegged at 5.5 years old. Multiple trail cam pics and two encounters confirmed he was frequenting my 76 acre tract. The land is comprised of heavy timber, a bit of swamp, two creeks intersecting, 15 acres of open hay/food plots, and plenty of mast surrounded by beans and corn. It really has it all. This piece of land has been very gracious to my father and me with our deer hunting endeavors. To say we are blessed would be an understatement!
The weather had been warm for 3 consecutive days. On the weekend of October 24th temperatures were soaring but dropped 20 degrees in the evening of October 25th. I knew a dark absent moon night coupled with dropping temps would make for a great morning hunt. My plan was to close the distance on a buck I had heard grunting near his bedding during an evening hunt three days prior. This strategy would put me right on the edge of a creek and also within 100 yards of his bed. The trick was getting in undetected. The leaves sounded like potato chips and it took me nearly an hour to tip-toe to my stand. Once situated, I hung my rattling antlers in the tree in case I saw him at a distance and needed to get his attention. Mind you I never rattle without seeing a buck first, until now. As daylight approached I heard grunting to the north. It was still dark with the faintest of light but I tried something unorthodox. I grunted back four times and coupled it with a light tickling of the antlers for about 10 seconds, before shooting light. I hung the antlers back up and sat with my bow in hand. With the leaves so crunchy and the morning so quiet, I felt I could hear everything. It didn’t seem I had grabbed the attention of the buck from the North, but 25 minutes later, as the sun came up, I had a buck closing in at 40 yards from the south (downwind of me). Did the buck circle all the way around me? If so, I must have passed the scent control test. The shot happened so fast I didn’t have time to get nervous or think about what to do. It was all instinctual. When he got to 20 yards he turned broad side (slightly quartering to) and I was already at full draw. I stopped him with a “mehh” and touched my release from the seated position.
Upon release I did not see the impact of the arrow, all I had to go from was the buck’s post-shot mannerisms. The shot caused him to jump, like a mule kick, but his legs stayed tucked under, he did not kick. He bolted 40 yards and stopped, stood, then disappeared. I did not hear him crash, fall, or run any farther. I was overcome with doubt using the buck’s reaction as my only gauge on what to do next. With the story of Mark Kenyon’s “Jawbreaker” looming in the back of my mind, I wanted to take no chances on bumping this deer, particularly when I did not know the shot placement. I waited a never ending four hours to get out of my stand, and when I did, it took me 20 minutes to get 20 yards revealing my dark red blood filled arrow. There was immediate good blood but it look darker than what a lung shot typically shows, so I decided to back out and go home, I did not track, look, or even walk near where I thought the deer could have bedded. In fact, I dropped down in the creek and walked the entire perimeter of my property so my scent would not bump the deer if he was bedded. On my ride home I began thinking about my confidence in my shooting and how well I typically place arrows. I had convinced myself I bumped my sights the previous day during a stalk on another property. I shot my bow at home and had three perfectly placed arrows in the heart. Sights were fine! Not sure as to what could have happened, I waited eight excruciating hours in an attempt to take zero chances. I also called Joe Walters with United blood trackers. He and his dog Maddie greeted me at a local restaurant and we headed back to my farm
At the impact of the arrow there was great blood and proved to be a great starting point for Maddie. She immediately started hustling down the trail as Joe allowed 30 ft of rope to separate him and his Daschund. Joe stopped, looked back and said, “this dog is going nuts, is this the direction he ran?” It was! To the “T.” Two minutes later Joe was congratulating his dog as she ate the tail of my buck. The buck had only gone 40 yards and laid down in the last spot I had seen it. Upon review the arrow passed immediately through the heart and collapsed the far lung. The shot was perfect. The blood I was witnessing on the arrow was heart blood, not liver, and my shot was true, not back. The sense of relief and LACK of doubt upon recovery was very rewarding and so was the rack of the “Hulk.” This deer is one of my nicer bow kills and the work, time, patience, and effort were rewarded handsomely with a deer of which I have great respect.
This hunt taught me so many lessons of patience and abnormalities. I still don’t understand why that heart shot deer did not crash on the run, or fall to his death. Or why he didn’t mule kick or my arrow didn’t provide the reassuring “thwack” sound. This mortally wounded deer kept his composure and fooled me into believing I had done something wrong. I do not regret being cautious in recovering this animal because it taught me better patience, that deer do not all respond the same way, and I was also able to meet a fine veteran outdoorsman Joe Walters and his dog Maddie.
Statistics from the HULK:
Rough Gross score: 145 0/8”
Rough Net score: 139 4/8’
Notable: 20 2/8’ inside spread