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Crossbows Gear & Accessories Hunting

22 Points On 20 Acres: The Jeff McCulley Crossbow Buck

by Jeff McCulley   |  July 23rd, 2012 0

An 8-point, just out of range, tempted hunter Jeff McCulley several times. But he waited for a deer to come within 40 yards of his crossbow. This 257 4/8 buck entered a clearing as McCulley was about to pull the trigger on a doe. He changed his target when he saw antlers. Photo courtesy of Jeff McCulley.

The archery season had already begun in Ohio when I acquired permission to hunt a total of about 20 acres. My first outing was an afternoon hunt that I expected to produce more results from a scouting perspective than a hunting perspective. The property had an area of large pine trees with some very thick cover to one side. There were open woods with some large, very dense thickets in the back of the property. A brushy fencerow with a few trees separated the area of pines from a large field to the other side. Farmland bordered the other side of the woods to the rear. I found an area that appeared to have a fair amount of deer traffic, and I picked that spot to put up my ladder stand.

The first morning in the stand brought four does within bow range, but I had already decided, since there was very little — if any — hunting pressure, that I was going to hold out in hopes of taking a nice buck. A few days later, on an evening hunt, I watched a small 6-point and a couple of does feeding in the field to my right. On a morning hunt a week or so later, I saw a buck working his way around the edge of the field through the brush and into a big thicket. Even though I didn’t get a good look at his rack, as the cover was too thick, he appeared to have a decent set of antlers. Several hunts went by with sightings of does and the smaller buck I had seen previously.

In early November, on a morning hunt, I got a good look at the buck I had seen around the edge of the field as he passed through the area at about 50 yards from my stand. He carried a very nice 8-point frame with long tines, a wide spread and pretty good mass, too. Unfortunately, he passed through, never getting close enough for a shot. It did not take much thought for me to decide he was the one I wanted.

A few days later, just before dark, I was watching a couple of does feeding and grazing in the field when the little 6-point showed up to keep them company. The three deer were soon joined by a smaller buck, which I had not seen before. The two bucks started to play around with each other, sparring back and forth. I thought for sure the sound of those two sparring bucks would bring the big 8-point out to have a look, but he never showed.

Not wanting to spook the deer, I remained in my stand until well after dark. Finally, all of the deer decided to move on. They passed right by my stand and left the area.

As the Ohio gun season arrived, I decided to continue my pursuit of the big 8-point with my crossbow since the landowners did not allow any gun hunting. A few opportunities at does and one of the smaller bucks presented themselves, but I had no chances at the big 8-point. Hearing a few shots on surrounding properties during the weeklong season made me start to think my chances at the big 8-point might have evaporated.

One evening, just before Christmas, I found out that “my 8-point” made it through the gun season. He entered the area where I was sitting, but not wanting to step out of the cover to present a shot, I watched him again as he worked his way out of sight.

With only a month of deer season left after the holidays, I continued the hunt for the big buck.

There is one word that describes January bowhunting in northeast Ohio — cold! Usually there is quite a bit of snow, too. Any bowhunter who has hunted the late season in the Great Lakes area of the country knows that it takes serious devotion and a true love of the sport to endure the kind of weather Mother Nature can throw at you at that time of year.

With temperatures in the single digits, some mornings the thought of taking a doe for some fresh tenderloin was starting to sound good, but I kept alive my hopes for a chance at the big buck.

On the morning of Jan. 5, 2010, I thought my shot was going to present itself as the big 8-point stepped out and headed my way. At about 40 yards, he stopped and looked back as the small 6-point appeared and made his way toward me on the same path. As he reached the bigger buck, he changed his path and passed by my stand just out of range, with the big 8-point following behind him. Once again, I watched the big buck disappear out of sight.

I returned that evening for a hunt, and hoped to see the buck moving again. Not long after climbing into the stand, three does passed through the area within range, but I chose not to shoot, hoping the big buck might show himself again.

On the way home that evening, I couldn’t stop thinking about how cold I had been that evening and how good some fresh tenderloin would have tasted.

The next morning was quiet. A few hours in the stand with no deer movement, cold temperatures and an empty stomach sent me home to get a bite to eat and warm up a bit.

On the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2010, I climbed into my stand about 2 p.m. and got ready for the evening. A little time passed when the big 8-point appeared and made his way toward me on the same path as the previous morning, except this time he continued straight toward me. Passing directly under my stand, he never offered me anything except a shot straight down through his back. Hesitating to take that type of a shot, again I watched him as he disappeared out of sight.

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