After missing a big buck, Jason McClintic's bad luck streak came to an end with the top bow kill in Ohio last season.
Jason McClintic holds the rack of his buck, showing the antlers' mass and a profusion of points. Photo by Tom Cross.
Jason McClintic thought his luck had run out on a buck he had hunted for nearly two years when a big non-typical, following a doe down an old tractor trail, changed everything.
Ten years ago McClintic purchased a small 17-acre farm in Ross County to deer hunt on and to be closer to his job in Chillicothe. Over the years McClintic added acreage to the farm, which is now close to 100 acres. Corn and beans are the primary crops raised on the farm and these crops in turn attract the deer.
"I had a home in South Webster I sold to buy this place. I looked at it once before but was finishing up college at the time and passed on it. About a year later I inquired if the place was still for sale," said McClintic. "I liked the lay of the land and thought 'Wow this was a perfect setup for deer hunting' and I liked the old farm house too."
It's typical Ross County deer country with rolling croplands of corn and beans surrounded by hillsides of maple, pin oak, chestnut oak, and thick second growth from timber cutting over the years.
McClintic, 38 years old, has hunted most of his life. "The family hunted and I started out hunting when I was 7 or 8 years old with my dad and uncles and tagged my first buck while in Jr. High. I started bowhunting later when I was in high school," recalled McClintic.
McClintic has taken some nice bucks over the years and attributes a lot of his success to the heavy bedding areas around his farm he calls 'sanctuaries'.
"If there is one thing as to why we have the deer numbers and quality of deer it's because we have these sanctuaries," McClintic points out. "There's 50 acres the neighbor behind me owns that he limits the hunting on, on the corner is 210 acres of pines that's nearly impassable, plus there is some ground on the ridge top that has been select cut recently. I try to leave those 'sanctuaries' alone as much as possible."
McClintic's tactic for finding bucks is to set out trail cameras usually in late summer between the 'sanctuary' bedding areas and crop fields.
"What I do is put out trail cameras and then place a pile of corn near the camera to bait them in and try to get their picture," said McClintic. "I'll also watch bean fields in September but I use my trail cameras to tell me what bucks are out there. They tell me what time the bucks are there and sometimes what direction they came from or going to. I usually set out two to five cameras. Trail cameras are probably the biggest tool I use in deer hunting."
McClintic started using trail cameras five years ago and much prefers flash models over infrared cameras. McClintic observes that flash cameras don't seem to spook deer like an infrared camera does.
"With infrared red cameras I get one photo of a deer and he's gone," said McClintic. "With flash I can get multiple pictures of the same deer."
It was those same trail cameras that first revealed a young sticker point buck plying the woodlands near McClintic's farm.
"There were no rumors or sightings of that deer I was aware of," said McClintic. "I wasn't even aware it was around until I had pictures of it in early January."
By the bow season opener McClintic also had trail camera photos of three other nice bucks.
"A couple of them were 140 class eight pointers, the other was a 170 class main frame 10-pointer with triple brow points I'd been hunting and missed with a bow the year before," said McClintic. "Due to the trail cameras I knew what time of year I could expect to see those bucks and I knew when they'd be gone too."
A field photo of McClintic and his buck shows the incredible thickness of the bases and how that mass carries out into the main beams. Photo by Jason McClintic.
McClintic split his bowhunting between two locations, one of which was a new spot. "It was land that I hadn't been farmed in twenty years as it was always in CRP and kept mowed but this year it was plowed and planted in corn," said McClintic. "But we had a pack of dogs moved in that started running deer and that affected the hunting on that farm".
McClintic had trail cameras staked out at two different locations abut a mile apart. "I kept check on the trail cameras and that dictated where I spent most of my hunting time."
It was mid-October when one of his trail cameras revealed the big 10-pointer was back in the neighborhood hanging around some bean fields a mile away.
"After I started getting photos of the buck I was definitely targeting that deer," said McClintic. "I have a history with that deer. It was October 2008 when he walked into a bean field one evening following a doe. I shot, I couldn't find my arrow, I couldn't find him, I couldn't find anything. Three weeks later I started getting photos of him again so I knew I had missed. Then I started getting photos of him again this past October (2009) and I thought 'Wow he's still around' so I was ready to go back after him."
The trail camera photos revealed a red fox and in the next series of pictures, the 10-pointer. "He appeared to be running with the fox because 10 minutes after the fox was photographed the buck was photographed," said McClintic.
The fox and the big 10-pointer were caught on trail camera crossing into the bean field two evenings in a row just before dark. By the third evening McClintic was back there waiting on him.
"Right before dark I saw the fox," said McClintic. "Sure enough I heard deer walking in the woods and here came the 10 pointer. He walked down the hill, stopped to rake his antlers on a tree next to my stand and then walked over to the corn pile I had set out for the trail camera and put his head down. That's when I drew and released. The buck ran behind me and stopped and that's when I knew I had missed. I was pretty bummed."
McClintic was frustrated after two years
in a row of getting a shot at the big 10-pointer and missing.
"I told a friend he's yours because I can't kill him; it just isn't meant to be."
After that miss McClintic had a hard time regaining his momentum. "Nothing was working," said McClintic. "I wasn't seeing anything. I was getting frustrated and started jumping from stand to stand. Another thing happened too -- they picked the beans and the deer left."
McClintic moved from the bean fields and began hunting the CRP property again but without much luck. Leaving the bean fields alone for a few weeks was an unknowingly smart move on McClintic's part. The undisturbed deer started to regroup in the area and McClintic started noticing a few does in the picked bean fields in the evenings on his way home from work.
A few days later McClintic received a text from a neighbor reading, "Spotted a few does out in the field by the ditch."
"I started thinking some of the does have moved back in so maybe I need to move back in and see what happens," said McClintic.
Years ago McClintic built a stand in a tall slender locust tree he calls "Ol' Faithful" that's located on a fencerow along the bean field edge.
"It's a good textbook place to have one so I just built one there," he said.
McClintic describes the area as a little finger ridge off a 50 acre 'sanctuary' bedding area that tapers down into an old pasture field with crabapple trees and weedy ditches abutting a couple of 30-acre bean fields. McClintic calls it a true bottleneck.
Looking back, McClintic realizes that staying out of that area was probably the smartest hunting he did all season. "I hadn't been checking my trail cameras, I hadn't been putting out any corn, I hadn't been checking fence crossings," said McClintic. "If I'd had been back there hauling corn or checking trail cameras, I may have moved him out of there. Not only that, if I'd gotten a picture of that big non-typical I would have hunted the place to death and probably messed it up. In a way it was a blessing I wasn't back, but it wasn't planned.
"One evening I got home from work late, grabbed my hunting clothes and thought to myself I don't have much time I'm going to the bean field and see what happens," said McClintic.
McClintic quickly hiked back to Ol' Faithful, arriving at the stand a little after 4:00 p.m.
"I didn't have a lot of confidence as I was just putting in my time, but that's how you do it," said McClintic.
McClintic hadn't been in the stand 10 minutes when behind him something caught his eye and he turned to see a doe standing 25 yards away in an old tractor trail. The doe looked nervous and suddenly took off trotting up the hillside. About that same instant McClintic spotted antlers and immediately thought, "Shooter."
"He was coming along the edge of the woods doing a stiff legged trot with his head straight out. Then he picked up his head and trotted over to where the doe was standing and I drew my bow," McClintic said.
"I remember he put his head down and turned that's when I saw a lot of points and I was trying not to look at his rack," said McClintic. "When he turned I almost released but waited as it seemed he was trying to find the doe. Then he backtracked trying to pick up her scent and when he turned again and was headed toward the doe he gave me a broadside shot at 25 yards and I released."
McClintic shoots a Bass Pro/Red Head, 60- to 70-pound, Kronik compound with Gold Tip carbon arrows tipped with Wasp Jackhammer SST, 3-blade expandable broadheads.
At the shot the big non-typical bolted into the brushy hillside, paralleling the old tractor trail that McClintic had walked in on, and evaporated.
"It happened so fast, I don't know what happened," said McClintic. "I'm thinking 'did I hit or did I miss' and I wanted to find my arrow."
Five minutes of tension proved to be too much for McClintic, so he climbed down and quietly walked over to where the giant whitetail stood, looking for his arrow.
"I spotted my arrow and it was blood soaked," said McClintic. "I looked closer and then saw some hair."
After a few minutes McClintic gathered his composure and started quietly walking in the direction of the deer.
"I was slipping along the old tractor road watching for any sign of deer," said McClintic, "all the while asking myself if I should cut into the woods and try to find the blood trail".
A view of the rack from the back emphasizes the mass of the main beams on the McClintic buck. Photo by Tom Cross.
After about 75 yard down he trail McClintic thought he heard deer and moved a few feet off the path to try to get a look.
"I'm trying figure out if it's him, does, or different deer," said McClintic. "Satisfied it wasn't anything I turned and as I started to walk back I glanced down the hill and in a patch of tall grass I spotted a white belly."
According to McClintic the buck didn't traveled 150 yards.
"When I picked his head up I thought 'Oh my gosh'," said McClintic, who had to sit down to come to grips with what he had just done. "That feeling was a feeling I've never had before. It was unbelievable. I broke into a sweat and then chills and started asking myself where did this thing come from? Then it hit me, I know what deer this is -- it's the 'Pop Can Buck'."
McClintic recalled a trail camera photo taken last January over a corn pile.
When McClintic first checked his trail camera early January of '09 the much younger non-typical was the first photo taken by the camera. "I started going through the pictures real fast and he was the very first picture from the night before but he really didn't catch my eye," said McClintic. "The next day when I pulled it up the computer screen I could see those sticker points and I thought that's a good deer. Later I called a friend and told him I've got a photo of a young buck with a lot of points and huge bases. That's how he got the name 'Pop Can', because that's how I described how big his bases were. So I saved his picture under the file name Pop Can."
McClintic never got any more trail camera photos of 'Pop Can" and never once laid eyes on the massive buck until that November evening after a late day at work and 10 minutes in 'Ol Faithful.
Buckeye Big Buck Club scorer David Haynes, from Jackson County, who scored the McClintic buck said it will likely rank among the top 15 deer in Ohio and will stand as the top bow kill in the Buckeye state in 2009.
"It's a typical 13-point frame with 46-5/8 inches of mass and a double row of points on each beam, and both brow tines fork," said Haynes. "Just the weight of the rack is impressive; you just have to hold the rack. The deer has all kinds of unique characteristics."
After the required 60-day drying period, McClintic's 24-point buck officially scored an incredible 240-0/8 non-typical. The buck's gross score was 250-5/8. The "Pop Can Buck" had 58 5/8 inches of abnormal points and bases nearly 7 inches in circumference.