The Arrington Buck Story

At 215 points as a non-typical, Tom Arrington's Knox County giant is a real eyecatcher!

That's a lot of buck! Tom Arrington poses with the giant wallhanger he took in November of last year. Photo courtesy of Tom Arrington

By Tom Arrington

The 2003 Missouri deer season was going to be a great deer season - whether I harvested a deer or not. Earlier in the year I had deployed to Iraq to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and I certainly didn't think I would be hunting this year with my best friend Dave Pape.

About eight years ago Dave invited me to hunt his family's farm in Missouri, and it's something we do every year, regardless of where we're stationed. As luck would have it, I re-deployed from Iraq in time to hunt. Upon returning, I learned the circumstance had been reversed and now Dave, who's retired from the Army, had volunteered to deploy to Kuwait as a civilian contractor. He wasn't going to be home to hunt this year.

Both Dave and I had spotted a very large deer two days before the 2000 gun season began. We were doing some scouting prior to the season and were on some high ground about 700 yards away when we spotted this giant buck eating in a cut soybean field. He stayed in the field for about 20 minutes and then walked into a patch of woods. Later that day we built a stand in that patch of woods in hopes we would encounter this large buck.

On opening day of the 2000 gun season Dave went to his stand and sat for a couple of hours and then decided to climb down. As he was climbing down he got busted by this giant buck that was coming up behind him. It was the buck we'd seen in the soybean field two days before the start of the season! Dave couldn't stop talking about the size of this animal. We never saw him again that year. In fact, that was the only encounter we had with the deer. After a year or two we assumed he had been killed by someone else or had died. Boy, were we wrong! He was just smarter than we were and continued to evade us.

A NEW SEASON WITH NEW CHANCES

As this year's bow season approached, I was pretty excited about just being able to hunt. I was fortunate enough to have arrowed two deer this year, and I was able to do some in-depth scouting for the upcoming gun season. Once the scouting was complete, I chose a couple of different locations that we normally didn't hunt. Now I just had to wait and see if the stand locations I'd chosen would pay off during the gun season.

My primary stand location was chosen because it was in a well-traveled corridor between a creek and some standing corn. A lot of deer used this area to move between several soybean fields and a couple of cornfields that weren't cut yet. It seemed to be the perfect place for a stand. It had everything deer needed: water, access to food and plenty of cover. The creek to the south also acted as a boundary between the farm I was hunting and another farm that I didn't have permission to hunt on. The farm to the south of my stand always had a lot of hunters on it, and they really put a lot of pressure on the deer. My plan was to stay all day and catch deer using the travel corridor or catch any deer the hunters from the other farm pushed my way.

On opening day, Nov. 15, 2003, the temperature was in the high 30s to low 40s. There was a cold misty rain that lasted about five hours. Around noon, the rain let up and the skies started to clear: a great day to be hunting. As the day wore on, I spotted movement behind me. It was a doe - and she wasn't alone. As I looked behind her, I noticed two other deer. I was sure they were bucks.

The doe started to move, and when she did, the two deer behind her also started to move. The lead buck was a spike; the buck following was a shooter. He was a nice non-typical. I studied his rack for a long time, and I really thought he would look nice on the wall. I started to tell myself that it was only the first day, and that something better might come along. So I talked myself out of the shot.

What was I thinking? As I sat there the rest of the day, I saw nothing at all. That's when I really started to question my decision. I replayed the entire encounter with the non-typical all night long.

Weather on the second day was a little warmer with a south wind and no rain, which I thought would really have the deer moving. This was good, because the stand I wanted to hunt that morning was a south-wind stand. As I moved to my stand, I noticed that it was really foggy out, but I didn't think it would be a problem later in the morning. I was in my stand by 5:30 that morning - plenty of time for things to settle down.

As the sun came up, I noticed that the fog had gotten even worse. I couldn't see 30 yards in front of me. A herd of deer could have passed by and I wouldn't have seen them. It was about 8:00 a.m., and I was getting worried. The fog was still thick, and unless a deer climbed my tree, I wasn't going to see one. I had to do something.

My normal mode of hunting during the rut is to stay in the tree all day - but it wasn't going to happen that way that morning. I decided to move to the same stand site I was in on opening day. It was about 8:30 a.m., and off I went. The entire way to my new stand location I thought about my movement to the stand site. I knew I might bump some deer, so I had to keep the movement slow and steady and keep the wind in my face.

Before I started into the woods I decided to use a drag rag on my way in. It took about an hour to get to my stand. I made sure I worked the area over pretty good with my drag rag. Once I reached my tree, I put out six scent canisters around the tree. When everything was ready, I climbed into the tree and settled in for what I thought was going to be a long wait. I had no more than sat down when I noticed movement from behind me. It was a nice 8-point buck. As I watched him, I was curious as to how he would react to the scent I had put on the ground. I decided to let him walk. He'll be a nice buck next year.

The 8-pointer had scarcely left when I caught movement out in front of me about 100 yards away. As I looked through the binoculars, I knew that it was a shooter. This buck was carefully working his way toward the standing cornfield to my right. I chose a spot I thought I could shoot him in, but as I lifted the rifle and looked through the scope, the fog was just too thick. It would have been a tight shot, so I decided to let him continue on the same course. The risk I was taking was a huge one. The buck would have only had to turn a little to his left, and he would have disappeared into the standing corn.

He continued on his same course, and when he crossed my scent trail, he started to take notice. I was still undetected, and I was able to watch this nice buck for a while. I chose a small opening at 50 yards, and if he crossed this area that's where I would t

ake my shot. As it turned out, he did exactly what I thought he would, and when he hit that opening I squeezed off my shot and he dropped. The shot was a little high and behind, so I had to put one more shot into the deer.

THREE CRITICAL DECISIONS

As I look back on this hunt, I notice that three critical decisions led to the encounter with this deer. The first decision was passing on a shot at the non-typical buck on opening day. If I had shot the non-typical, I would have been happy, and would have considered my hunt a successful one.

The second decision was to move stand locations. This wasn't the first key decision I had to make, but it was the most critical one. During the rut, I'm in the stand from dark until dark, and I've been fortunate enough to take a couple of nice deer at the farm between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Had I stuck it out in my original stand location, who knows what would have happened?

When to shoot the buck was my third key decision. There were a couple of times I thought about rushing the shot for fear the buck would change course, and I would never get a shot. I had to trust my experience and wait the buck out. I knew I had a solid plan in place. I just had to give it time to work and not rush. As fate would have it, everything worked out.

THE BEST-LAID PLANS - SOMETIMES WORK!

The buck I harvested had 17 points and scored 215 in the non-typical category for Boone and Crockett. This deer had an inside spread of 23 inches. His right main beam measured 26 6/8s inches and his left main beam measured 27 7/8s inches. His smallest circumference measurement is 5 4/8s inches with his largest circumference measurement being 7 1/8 inches. The G3s measured 11 inches and 11 1/8 inches.

After harvesting the buck, I e-mailed Dave about the deer and sent him photos, but it wasn't the same. It would have meant more if Dave could have been here. This is the first year we haven't hunted together in eight years - and what a year not to be together! We e-mail each other about every week and have started making plans for the 2004 deer season. It should be a good one!



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