The eleventh month is a famous one for producing trophy bucks each year in Ohio, and the 2016 season was no exception. Some of the top racks registered with the Buckeye Big Buck Club (BBBC) came as a result of hunters' efforts last November — giant whitetails that fell to archery and firearms hunters alike. November offers hunters a wide range of conditions and situations in which to pursue their passion each season, and many take up arms during no other month. Ohio Wildlife Council member and BBBC officer Mike Rex selected three of the most impressive deer taken by hunters last November, and we talked to the hunters who tagged the trophy whitetails to share their stories with you.
Sixteen-year-old Gage Sisek was flat on his stomach at 5 p.m. on the first day of Ohio's 2016 Youth Deer firearms season. The junior at Logan Hocking High School had just gone eyeball-to-eyeball with the biggest buck of his life to date, and dropped on the trail that threaded across the overgrown field, hoping the huge deer wouldn't spook.
Sisek has hunted deer for nine years, the past half dozen seasons on private property a couple miles from his home in Perry County.
"The farm we hunt is about 200 acres, and my Dad had just bush-hogged a trail two days earlier through the main field that's overgrown with brush and sumac," he explained. "He had seen the buck earlier and told me about it."
Sisek spent a couple of hours of the opening afternoon in a treestand, with his dad sitting at the base of the tree. Soon the 32-degree temperature and the rain/snow mix had both chilled, and a little before 5 p.m. they decided to walk the trails through the field to see if they could jump a deer during the final hour of shooting time. Gage shouldered his single shot H&R 12 gauge and, with his Dad accompanying him a few paces behind, hit the trail.
"Almost immediately we saw a 140-class buck walking away from us at about 150 yards," Sisek said. My Dad said, 'Shoot it!' but I didn't want to; I wanted that big buck he had told me about.
"My dad thought I was crazy for passing that one up, and after I thought about it I agreed, and I said I'd take a shot at it if it appeared again."
So the pair kept walking.
"That's when I looked ahead about 60 yards and saw this huge rack and the big deer looking right at me from behind a bush!" Sisek explained. "So I dropped."
His father had seen the action and followed suit, dropping low. The younger Sisek raised up and risked another look.
"The deer was still there, and looked at me and then just looked away," he said, "So I knew it wasn't spooked."
"I belly crawled to where I would have a clear shot if he continued walking on the trail he was on, and sat on one knee with the gun ready for him to walk out into the open."
Stealing another glance atop the growth, Sisek realized the deer had cut a corner and was headed away from the hunter toward a woodlot. The wind had shifted and a doe the buck was following, which had gone unseen by the hunters, had cut their scent, turned and led the buck toward the woods.
"I stood and dropped the hammer back on the gun. I had only one shot and all I could see was his rack and his head," Sisek said. "So through the sights I followed his neck down to where I figured his shoulder was and I shot."
The deer, about 70 yards distant at that point, jumped and fled into the woods.
"We went to where it entered the trees and found blood, so we backed off and went to dinner," Sisek explained. "We went back in the dark at about 7 and saw blood on the trail and in the woods, it was everywhere. Then it stopped; no blood. So we shined our lights around and there he was."
It turns out the slug had missed the shoulder, but hit the whitetail's front left leg, taking out a major artery and allowing the deer to bleed out.
"The taxidermist who skinned him said there was no blood left. I'm the luckiest kid on earth," said Sisek, adding: "It was not an ideal shot but it worked."
The high schooler's typical 10-point gross scored 191 7/8 and netted a score of 184 3/8 at the 2017 Ohio Deer & Turkey Expo — and it was the largest typical rack scored at the event.
DAVIS SLEEPER BUCK
Steve Davis considered rolling over and sawing some more logs the fateful Sunday that he overslept.
"It was the last day of the long (Thanksgiving) weekend I had to hunt, and I didn't wake up until 7," the-49-year old explained. "I was laying bed deciding if it was even worth going out."
The Wilmington-based whitetail hunter made the right decision.
"It takes me about 10 minutes to get to my spot," he said. "It was warm for the date, like 55 degrees, and I was in my stand about a half an hour when he came in behind me."
The crossbow hunter was perched in a tree along a thick line of hardwoods separating two cut bean fields in rural Clinton County.
"I heard him coming through the trees, his antlers rattling against the branches," Davis said. "He was following a doe I never even knew was there until she popped out and entered the bean field."
Davis recalls that the doe "wandered around in the field for a few minutes" then went back into the treeline. That's when the big boy cleared the trees and stepped into view.
"He moseyed around for two to three minutes," Davis said. "I had a scent wick with deer estrus out in range of my stand, and he went to it.
"When he dropped his head, I knew he didn't want any part of it, 'cause he had a live one on the line."
Davis said that he "allowed the buck to take three steps and I put an arrow into him."
That was at 25 yards.
"I thought I had taken a bad shot," Davis admitted. "I was shaking so bad I'm surprised I hit him. He jumped and ran about 35 yards into the field and just stopped. He was looking around trying to find out where the danger was."
Finally, the buck dropped its head, Davis said, and he figured the game was over.
"I knew he was getting weak. He walked about 75 yards to the edge of a nearby woods and went in."
The hunter climbed down and went to spot of the shot.
"Where I had hit him I found my arrow and my arrow and it was covered in blood, but there wasn't much on the ground," according to the hunter. "But when I walked into the field to where he had stopped he must have been pumping like a geyser, 'cause there was blood everywhere. Ray Charles could have found that deer based on the amount of blood in his trail once he started walking again!"
The buck had gone about ten yards into the woods before it fell — and Davis found the trophy.
"That's a buck of about 10 lifetimes," said Davis, who said he got started deer hunting "late in life," at age 42.
The Ohio Big Buck and Boone & Crockett clubs gave its massive typical rack a score of 194 3/8.
KISAMORE'S SNOWBLIND BUCK
Slipping in before daylight on a frigid Sunday morning, Doug Kisamore walked to within 25 yards of the bedded 216-class buck and took a seat. The plywood box blind, built years ago by a grandfather now too old to use it, could be creaky, but five inches of fresh-fallen snow muffled all sounds and allowed the 24 year old to settle into the ground blind.
The wooden "hide" was too small to allow use of a vertical bow, so the City of Monroe Falls employee was armed with a crossbow, hopeful of seeing a buck he had caught on trail cams many times over the previous two years.
"He was always nocturnal," said Kisamore. "He had shown up in the area three times the year before but the wind wasn't right for me to be there. And then this past season he disappeared from the end of September until the end of October and I was worried he was gone. I had no photos on my trail cams.
Things changed last November when, out of the blue, by mid-month the big buck not only reappeared on Kisamore's trail cams, but was revealing himself — and his massive rack — during daylight hours.
"It was that late part of the rut and he was probably looking for does," said the hunter. "He showed up on the camera three times during shooting hours the week before I killed him."
When the wind was finally right to hunt the plywood blind, Kisamore was ready, staking out the spot all day Saturday, November 19. The box overlooks a brushy field in which Kisamore had cleared an area that he baited regularly.
"I didn't see a deer all day," he recalled.
Same thing the following day — at least, as far as the wind was concerned.
Snow fell heavily that Saturday night. The hunter was up early and made his way through the white stuff that piled five inches high on the ground and clung to every brush and tree branch.
"He was bedded down 30 yards from the blind," said Kisamore. "But there was so much snow he didn't hear or see me come in. At noon I looked up and he was coming out of the brush right next to my bait pile. I got my bow up as quiet as I could, and shot. I got to tell you, trying to hold it together with something like that standing in front of you isn't easy!"
After the 25-yard shot, the buck walked about 15 yards apparently unharmed, actually circling closer to the snow-covered plywood hide.
"He just stood there looking like he wasn't hurt and I didn't see any blood," recalled the hunter. "But at that distance no way I missed! What felt like 10 minutes went by, and he got wobbly legs and down he went."
Kisamore admired the animal and its antlers. It was a rack he recognized.
"I had found his shed the season before," he explained. "He was a 155-class 10-point a year earlier."
The radical non-typical rack atop the buck in the snow before him had put on 85 inches during the 2016 growing season. Boone & Crockett and Buckeye Big Buck Club agreed that it deserved a score of 216 5/8.
If this trio of bucks taken last November doesn't get you excited about hitting the deer woods this month, perhaps you should stay in bed.