329257 Ohio Trophy DeerEvery deer hunter dreams of harvesting that trophy buck. Here are three Ohio hunters who realized that dream last season.By Dan Armitage
Jerry Weingart has documented more record-size whitetails over the past half-decade than any deer hunter in Ohio. Read that “documented.” The North Benton-based hunter is the president of the Buckeye Big Buck Club (BBBC), an office he has held for five years and counting. The 58-year-old has tallied his own share of Buckeye State trophies, including a monster out of Mahoning County with a non-typical rack that taped a score “north” of 166.
Weingart has hunted Ohio deer “my entire life; I hunt other game too, but deer have always intrigued me with their beauty and antlers. I have fun watching them even if I don’t see a big buck.” Although he oversees the Ohio record deer program that maintains the books documenting the biggest whitetails harvested in his home state each season, the Portage Country resident doesn’t consider himself a “trophy” hunter.
“I consider myself a mature deer hunter,” he explained, pointing out that by ‘mature’ he means the whitetails he pursues, not the hunter. “The most common mistake deer hunters make when targeting trophy size deer,” he said, “is not playing the wind correctly. When deer smell you, they are gone. Especially the mature bucks, who haven’t lived that long by being dumb.”
Weingart confirms what recent BBBC records show, that most of the big deer falling to the efforts of Ohio hunters meet their end early in the bow season. “Early in the bow season, the deer are still in summer feeding and movements and easier for hunters to pattern,” he explained, adding, “and southwest Ohio has become a prime place to go when looking for big deer in recent seasons. Adams and Greene counties have given up some really nice deer in the recent past.”
He attributes that to a lack of deer hunting pressure and a good mix of habitat in Ohio’s southwestern counties, especially agricultural lands that offer easy food sources and the nutrients needed to nurture big whitetails.
As for the season underway, as of press time Weingart had already heard word of some bruiser bucks documented on trail cams. His forecast for Ohio’s deer hunting prospects, especially for those hunting mature whitetails, is for success similar to what Buckeye hunters documented in 2017/2018 — of which the following are three highlights.
The Fall of Rashan
With two dozen Pope & Young qualifiers having fallen to his bow since age 13, and three Boone & Crockett class racks, David Wozniak knows a trophy deer when he sees one on the hoof. What makes the Dennison, Ohio hunter a little different from his deer hunting peers is that he avoids hunting during the rut.
Eight of the last ten mature bucks Wozniak has harvest have come well before or after the time period most Ohio hunters consider to be prime time for harvesting whitetails. According to the pro staffer for the Archer’s Choice television show, and echoing Weingart’s findings at the BBBC, deer movements and patterns are more predictable early and late in the season, and therefore easier for hunters to intercept.
Wozniack has found that the deer, bucks and does, move from feeding to bedding areas in regular patterns when they aren’t distracted as they are during the rut. This isn’t news to avid Ohio deer hunters, most of whom take advantage of only the early opportunities. Not so Wozniak, who hunts both “shoulder” seasons.
Two years ago this month, a ten point whitetail with trophy potential showed up on property the Tuscarawas County resident hunts. By January 2017, the big deer had disappeared from the trail cams Wozniak set up to pattern a buck impressive enough for the hunter to nickname “Rashan,” after a particularly dominating defensive tackle for the University of Michigan.
By last season archery opener, Wozniak has assumed Rashan was long gone, as there had been no signs of the big buck — at least in the areas the hunter scouted through the spring and summer. Then came the rut — and Rashan.
When Wozniak spotted the deer in mid-November, he estimated that the whitetail had added some 40 inches to its massive rack. The problem was, Rashan was a night owl and rarely moved during shooting hours.
Last December’s bitter cold snap and sudden snowfall changed that, and the second Sunday of the month Rashan made a pre-sunset move. The turnip plot Rashan was visiting was positioned next to a bedding area, and the deer were using it as a transition plot as they made their way to a standing corn field.
Even though young bucks and does were eagerly hitting the plot during daylight hours, Rashan was a night stalker. Similar to last fall, he arrived about the same time of year and his daylight activity was slim then as well. However, like most reclusive bucks, it usually only takes some cold and snow to bring them to their feet early. Sure enough, on December 10th, the cold settled in with a skiff of snow and Rashan made his first daylight appearance at 4:40 p.m. to feed in a favorite turnip patch.
Two evenings later, with overnight temperatures forecast to plummet, Wozniak was set up over the plot. He was rewarded for his frigid wait at 5 p.m. when Rashan stepped into view to scope out the turnip patch for any sign of danger. Wozniak had played the wind right, and when the deer walked within range; the hunter loosed his arrow and dropped the deer with a rack that tallied a score of 200 inches. The entire sequence was caught on film, which you can see on the Archer’s Choice television show.
Young Lohan’s Buck
Soft spoken folks don’t usually make for good radio interviews, but once I got young Luke Lohan talking on my weekly outdoors show a year ago this month, you could feel the teen’s passion for deer hunting. He had recently bagged the buck of a lifetime from his family’s modest 46-acre Belmont County farm, and he still displayed some signs of the fever that accompanied the feat.
Lohan had been catching images of the big deer for three years via trail cams he had placed on the property, sporting a rack that grew practically as fast as the teenaged scout. The footage captured during summer of 2017 gave the hunter hope that the coming fall would offer the opportunity to harvest the giant on Lohan’s limited home turf. “The deer visited my feeder regularly,” Lohan explained, “and had made several scrapes by late August. “Then,” added the hopeful hunter, “he just disappeared.”
The deer was AWOL the entire month of September, at least from Lohan’s view, and the hunter “pretty much wrote him off.” Then October rolled around. And so, did the big deer, appearing in images on trail cams that showed a potential 27-pointer. Lohan got an opportunity to hunt the deer when rain gave him a rare weekday off from his construction job.
With crossbow in hand, he hunted through mid-afternoon from a stand, and decided to hunt a different one that evening. “After rattling and seeing some does and small bucks feed past, it was getting dark,” he said. “I tried grunting a few times and I guess that did it. He came up off my side and at first, I didn’t think it was the big one. Then I saw he was huge and I tried not to look at the rack. I was all I could do to wait for him to walk into my shooting lane.”
A clean 24-yard shot sealed the deal — but not immediately. Lohan waited as the deer ran off and then went back to the house to wait. He and a friend retuned in full darkness and hours later and found the brute 100 yards from the stand.
Luke’s buck received a gross score 221 5/8 and netted 209 5/8, making it the largest deer ever taken by crossbow in Belmont County, and one of the largest deer taken in Ohio last season.
’Bout Time Bebout Buck
“It took me 53 years to kill a big one,” Morgan County hunter Jim Bebout told a reporter a year ago this month. A “big one” indeed: the 65-year-old hunter’s whitetail carried a rack with a gross of 211 inches, and inside spread of 21 inches between main beams of 29 and 30 inches.
The Stockport resident was hunting a lease adjacent to a 400-acre farm he had hunted since 1957. That property had been leased as well, so Bebout concentrated all his efforts on the land he had to himself, establishing trail cams to scout for significant whitetails.
One in particular, estimated to be a 150-class buck, drew most of Bebout’s hunting attention during the 2014 season. That deer didn’t show up the following two seasons and Bebout figured it had been harvested by another hunter. Until Bebout’s son, hunting morel mushrooms in April of 2017, found a massive shed antler practically under his dad’s treestand.
Despite not appearing on multiple trail cams on the property, Bebout was optimistic the big buck was still around come last deer season. He made the 30-minute round trip drive from his home to his lease every chance he got. In the foggy pre-dawn of October 26th, he headed out only to find that he had forgotten his scent-free hunting jacket. He returned home, retrieved the garment, and busted several deer on the walk to his stand in the dawn light.
Once in his treestand, overlooking a mix of woods and ravines, Bebout grunted and rattled about every 15 minutes. Forty-five minutes in, he saw a big deer moving to his rear. Three grunts got the buck’s attention and the deer turned toward Bebout at 80 yards.
The deer moved steadily to within 50, then 25 yards of the hunter, where the buck rounded a tree and came into range of Bebout’s crossbow. Bebout shot, saw he made a good hit, and the deer made a quick exit.
After climbing down almost immediately, Bebout noted the amount of blood at the point of impact. Risking pushing the deer, Bebout followed the dense scarlet trail practically back to where he had parked his truck ¼ mile away. He had pushed the deer too hard; the wounded whitetail jumped from a briar thicket ahead of the hunter. The buck bounded ten yards — and folded to the forest floor for good.
Every deer hunter dreams of harvesting that trophy buck. Here are three Ohio hunters who realized that dream last season.