Ohio's No. 3 Crossbow Buck

Ohio's No. 3 Crossbow Buck

Dave Ross thought his hunt was ruined - but a series of exciting events put him within crossbow range of one of the biggest bucks ever taken in the state!

By Dan Armitage

He'd been boogered. Or rather, his tree stand had been "boogered up" by someone who didn't want Dave Ross to be successful hunting deer from his tree stand, which the 20-year-old had set up in a woodlot he had permission to hunt outside Xenia.

It was last Oct. 4 - opening day of Ohio's 2003 archery season - and Ross had to wait until his shift ended at 7 a.m. before he could hit the woods.

He drove his pickup truck the four miles from the cement plant where he works to where he had set up a permanent tree stand in a large Greene County woodlot. The stand was set up about 20 yards back in the trees, adjacent to a standing soybean field where Ross had twice seen a big buck during the previous season. He had moved his stand closer to where he had seen the buck, which he estimated to be a 12- or 14-pointer.

To increase his odds at attracting the big deer within range of his crossbow, Ross had also set up an automatic game feeder timed to disperse corn and a commercial deer food at 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily. He cut several shooting lanes between his stand and the feeder and the trails leading to it from the woods and from the bean field.

"I was parked and suited-up by about 7:15," said Ross, who donned scent-free clothing and rubber knee boots and coated himself with scent-eliminating spray before striking out for the 300-yard walk to his tree stand.

"I got up in the stand in time for the feeder to go off at 7:30 a.m., and at about 8 a.m. some deer started moving in - a buck and three does. They came downwind to within about 25 yards of me and just stopped. They all put their noses up like there was something wrong," recalled Ross. "They just looked kinda' jumpy, and then they took off the way they came."

Dave Ross' huge Greene County buck scored 230 1/8, making it the third-largest crossbow buck ever taken in Ohio. Photo courtesy of Dave Ross

At about 10 a.m., Ross left the stand for the morning, thinking that something was wrong as he drove home to get some sleep.

"I just thought something just wasn't right," he said. "There was no reason for those deer to spook like that."

Ross returned to his stand at 2:30 p.m. under overcast skies with air temperatures in the mid-50s and a slight breeze out of the west.

"At about 3:30, four does came in to about 30 yards and stopped. They threw their noses up and took off. Then a buck, maybe 7 or 8 points, came in and did the same thing."

The feeder went off at 4:30 as scheduled, and after watching yet another group of does come in, stop and spook before getting into crossbow range, Ross knew something was amiss.

"About that time, I was getting pretty upset," said the hunter, "and I figured I knew what was wrong. I guess I just didn't want to believe it. Someone had threatened to 'booger up' my stand - put cologne or perfume or something around the stand to scare the deer."

Convinced that that was the case, and that it would be futile to continue hunting from his sabotaged tree stand, Ross climbed down at about 5:15 p.m. and started to walk back to his truck.

"I was walking down a haul road, out of the woods and along the edge of the field, when some movement caught my eye," Ross recalled.

"I looked over to a weedy patch about 35 yards off to my side and saw a deer."

One glance at the rack told the startled Ross that it was "his" buck.

"I couldn't believe it! I crouched down, put an arrow back in the crossbow and started a spot-and-stalk approach to get closer," the hunter explained. "He was in an area of high weeds and above me, and his head kept bobbing up and down.

"At one point, I was about 25 yards away when I snapped a stick with my foot. His head popped up and he looked right in my direction. Then another head popped up! It was a smaller basket rack, and I figured the bigger buck had been bumping heads with him, which would explain why his head was bobbing up and down.

"They weren't really going at it, just sparring with each other."

The wind was in the deer's favor, however, moving from Ross to the high weeds where the bucks stood. The deer stared back at him for what Ross said "felt like an hour," and he fully expected to "get busted" by the pair of whitetails standing directly downwind from him.

For some reason the deer did not scent the hunter, or if they did, they ignored it, and went back to their playful jousting just 25 yards away.

Ross said he would have taken a shot then and there if he had had a clear shooting lane to the buck, but weeds between him and his target forced the hunter to continue his stalk to get into a better position.

"I got to within 19 yards, and my heart was just coming through my throat!" recalled Ross. "I peeked up and the big buck was broadside to me, paying all his attention to the other buck. I slowly brought the crossbow up and put the crosshairs behind his shoulder for a double-lung shot."

Ross pulled the trigger but didn't see his arrow strike the deer.

"I heard the deer grunt, and knew it was a good shot."

The whitetail took off across the bean field, and Ross, still shaking from the exciting chance encounter, continued down the logging road to his truck. There, he stashed his crossbow and, after a 40-minute wait, grabbed his gutting knife and headed back to where he had shot the deer.

"There wasn't much sign there, but once I reached where I had seen him run through the weeds there was blood up high, and I knew he was going down."

Seventy yards into the bean field, Ross found his deer.

"I remember saying to myself, 'That's a non-typical!' and then trying to count the points," said the hunter. "I tagged and gutted him and then took him to some truck scales nearby to have him weighed. Then I brought him to the check station the next morning."

Although the truck scale's weight receipt showed the field-dressed deer weighed more than 300 pounds, Ross didn't realize how "big" a kill it was until Ron P

errine of the Buckeye Big Buck Club green-scored the huge whitetail's multi-tined rack. Perrine identified 30 points and gave the rack a green score of 232 2/8, telling Ross that he may have taken one of the largest whitetails ever felled by a crossbow here in Ohio.

Following the mandatory 60-day drying period, the rack scored 230 1/8, proving Perrine's prediction true.

"Because it was shot so early in the season," explained Perrine of the 2-inch loss over the drying period - most of it in the spread - "there wasn't time for natural shrinkage. Regardless, this is one dandy rack!"

"Dandy" to the tune of the third-largest buck ever taken in Ohio, at least compared to the Buckeye Big Buck Club's current record book, compiled in 2002. According to Jim Jordan, the BBBC's scoring supervisor, the Ross rack ranks third behind racks scoring 251 and 232 taken by crossbow hunters in years past.

"My buddies kept telling me it was a record-sized rack," said Ross. "All I knew was that it was a nice deer."

He also has a "real good idea" who it was that "boogered up" his stand.

"I'll deal with that," said Ross. "It's kinda' funny that the guy who messed with my stand actually might have helped me get that deer. Who knows if the buck would have ever come within range of my stand? He wanted to keep me from getting that buck, but I'd say his plan backfired!"

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