During the summer of 2019, a good friend of mine informed me that there was a rumor of a nice buck running around near a spot where I could hunt. Between a busy work schedule and my wife and I building a new house, I hadn’t hunted this area much the last couple of years. However, after seeing a trail cam picture of this buck from another hunter, I quickly decided to start hunting this area more often.
This deer was still in velvet and had five-points just in his brows, had mass, tine length, and points everywhere.
This particular property is owned by my grandmother and is where I started hunting. So, despite not hunting it very often, I knew it well. A month or so before season, I decided to make a trip out to the property to hang/trim out a few stands and hang a couple of trail cams hoping to catch a glimpse of the buck everyone was talking about. While waiting for archery season, I checked my trail cameras and I noticed one picture that had a water drop on the lens and what appeared to be a deer’s rump. I zoomed in on the picture and I saw points going everywhere, including a distinct split G2, through the water drop.
I did not know how many points he had but based on what I could make out I knew he was a mature animal and I started calling him Spike. Spike seemed fitting because he had points/spikes going everywhere. I continued to get pictures of him throughout season but he was pretty elusive whenever I was in a tree.
All of that changed, however, on October 30, on a windy, rainy, and cold night in the treestand. Shortly after getting into the stand, I saw a nice buck running around on the opposite side of the field. The wind was perfect for my stand and I hoped he would make his way over to me, but he eventually disappeared. As the hunt went on it got colder, the wind picked up, and rain came down slightly harder. Does started to come into the field and approximately 30 minutes before legal shooting hours ended, I saw a mature buck step into the field. The first thing I noticed was points going everywhere. I pulled up my binoculars and instantly knew it was Spike. I saw his distinct brow tines and split G2.
As he walked into the field, I couldn’t help but notice how majestic of an animal he was. He was a massive animal with a huge neck and chest and walked through the field with authority. It was clear that he knew he was the “boss” of the woods. He worked the does in the field and eventually ended up 48 yards, broadside, in front of me. I drew my Hoyt, held on Spike, but I didn’t let the arrow go. I didn’t like the shot because I had some small twigs in my site picture, and I knew the wind could affect my arrow’s flight. I also knew that if I hit him poorly the rain would wash the blood away making it hard to track him. I chose to wait and of course he turned and walked away from me. I knew I made the right choice not shooting, but I also knew that could have been my only opportunity at Spike.
I hunted Spike hard after that but played it smart. I only hunted my stands when the winds were perfect and snuck in and out of every sit. At times I thought I was being too cautious, but I wanted Spike to be comfortable staying in the area. I had multiple encounters with him, but he never stepped into bow range again.
It was not until November 20 that I saw Spike again. The night before I contemplated going to another spot to hunt. I had not obtained any trail cam pictures of Spike since before gun season, and I feared he was not alive. My wife and I literally played rock, paper, scissors to decide where I was going to hunt. I had won the game and the decision was made to go out at grandma’s farm that morning. I snuck into the stand on the edge of a bean field and saw a few deer on the opposite side. For some reason, I turned around and looked downwind of me, and much to my surprise I saw a large bodied shadow walking across the middle of the bean field. I suspected it was Spike as he walked across the field with authority and headed straight for the does. As the sun came up, I held on Spike at 130 yards away, broadside, out in the bean field. It was a chip shot with a .450 Bushmaster… I tried to confirm it was him, but I was unable to do so, and again I let him walk. Yet again Spike walked farther away from me and by the time I was able to confirm it was him, he was 175 to 200 yards away. I pulled out my grunt tube and grunted at him. Spike didn’t even pause and walked directly away from me.
Even though I had to work on Friday, I snuck back into the treestand on November 22. It had rained the night before, was windy that morning, and I knew I could sneak into my stand undetected. The wind was not perfect for the stand I wanted to sit in. I even contemplated sitting in another treestand on my walk in, but I had received trail cam pictures of Spike in the bean field, in front of my stand, when the weather was not favorable. As the sun started to rise, I saw two dark shadows in the field, but it was too early to know if one was Spike. I sat as still as I could and eventually, I saw a doe right downwind of me. She knew there was a scent in the area that was different but did not appear to be overly worried, but was curious.
I then focused my attention to the north and saw a large bodied deer, 80 yards away, tight to the fence line. The same spot Spike came out during archery season. I quietly prayed the animal would stay in the field as it looked like he wanted to head into the woods, where I had no shot. Eventually I saw a doe out farther into the bean field and the animal turned and started walking towards me. As the animal got closer, I could see Spike’s distinct brows and I knew it was him. My heart started to pound, and I told myself to calm down, focus, and started to combat breathe. I inhaled for four seconds, held it for four seconds, and slowly exhaled for a four-second count. I then retrieved my .450 Bushmaster and settled the sites on Spike, waiting for a clear ethical shot. At 35 yards, at approximately 7:25 a.m., Spike turned just enough to turn his body to a stiff quartering to me shot. I settled the scope on the front of Spike’s shoulder, envisioned the bullet’s path of travel and squeezed the trigger.
The gun went off and I watched Spike take three steps, jump the fence, and he started to go down. I saw the white of Spike’s belly less then 30 yards away from my stand. I knew Spike was down right there, but I did not believe it. I forced myself to stay in the stand and did not climb out. I searched the area with my binoculars and scope and eventually I could make out two rear legs, a rear quarter, and eventually an antler. At that time, I climbed down and made my way towards him.
It has been six years since I shot my last buck and as I laid hands on Spike for the first time I was filled with gratitude. Spike had made me work for him and I had a tremendous amount of respect for him. My 2019 deer season is a season I will never forget and will forever cherish. I was fortunate enough to harvest Spike, a 171-inch deer you dream about, and a 140-inch 10-point during archery season, also a deer of a lifetime.
Patience and persistence had paid off and I was able to put both animals down quickly. I know I will never duplicate a season like this again but the amount of kind words I have received from fellow hunters has been overwhelming. Even hunters who were hunting Spike also congratulated me and shared their history with Spike with me. This season has truly been a blessing and another great memory made in my grandma’s woods. Shoot straight out there ladies and gents, respect the game you chase, your neighbors, and remember hunting is conservation.