John Eberhart's 2015 Ohio phantom buck

Discussion in 'Unsuccessful Hunts' started by John Eberhart, Dec 24, 2016.

  1. John Eberhart

    John Eberhart Active Member

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    In another thread Maustypsu mentioned me in an unsuccessful Ohio hunt in December 2015 and it got me thinking that more often than not that a hunter can learn more from unsuccessful hunts than successful ones. Typically on successful hunts most things go as planned so there isn’t much to take away from them. However on unsuccessful bowhunts where the hunter/animal had a close enough confrontation, yet the deal wasn’t closed, there had to be a reason why and typically there’s something that can be taken away from that experience.

    In 2015 Mike invited me down to Ohio to bowhunt and to be perfectly honest, even though I said I might be able to make it in December or January, I doubted I would go as from mid-December through March are my busiest months of the year from a work standpoint. However I saw an opening in work in early December and went.

    The property was located in your typical flat ground agricultural area with about 40% timber and brush and 60% crop fields. I don’t remember the acreage but would guess it to be around 80.

    The property was relatively common for farm ground in that there was a plowed under soybean field on the south side that butted up to the road and a large stand of timber to the north of the soybeans. The only terrain feature that jumped up and screamed out from all the timber on this and the surrounding properties timber was that butting up to the soybean field was an extremely dense area of brush and briars.

    The bordering properties crop fields dictated where the deer fed at night as to the east of the properties timber was an extremely plush winter wheat field for that time of year and to the north of the properties timber was a picked cornfield. All the rest of the surrounding properties were relatively open timber and at this time of year all the foliage was down making the timber extremely open and not very secure for daytime mature buck movements, especially since Ohio’s main gun season had ended the week prior.

    During the rut, while hunting in the timber along the gas line (map attached), Mike’s friend Donovan who had the permission to hunt the property, caught a brief glimpse of a monster framed buck that had at least 10 points with at least a 22 inch inside spread. He was on the south side of the gas line which is where the dense brush is in and Donovan said it was the biggest buck he’d ever seen.

    Mike and Donavan had been sporadically bow hunting the ground all season and had seen the big bucks unmistakable signposts and confidently felt he was bedding within that small brushy area and they chose to leave it as a sanctuary area which for its tiny size, was in my opinion the right move. He would have certainly been killed during gun season by a bordering properties hunter.

    Mike was able to go with me during the first day to scout and prepare a couple locations and showed me a primary scrape area in an excellent congestion location along the gas line where a narrow lane converged and went south through the timber. Both the lane and gas line were being well-used as transition corridors. I prepared a location about 33 feet up a tree right where the lane and gas line met.

    At that height the tree had a large crotch that would offer a little cover as there wasn’t much for background cover and the tree didn’t have much for lower branches for concealment cover. Shockingly, we didn’t have to cut any shooting lanes as the gas line and lane were both in line of the tree.

    Once finished I had to walk that lane further south because it went in the direction of where the buck was likely bedding. At the very south end of the lane where it met up with another lane just inside the fence line from the bordering property we found a large active scrape beneath a small oak that was still holding most of its leaves. Not 15 yards from the scrape was a perfect oak that still had its leaves and I set up about 30 feet high in it and cleared the tops of a few trees that would’ve blocked a shot to the scrape.

    We never went anywhere close to the small bedding area but there was no doubt that if he were there, he definitely heard our preparation commotion at both of our set-ups which is never a good thing with mature bucks. Bucks in pressured areas don’t get old by being stupid and other than when they are being driven by high levels of testosterone during the rut, they rarely make vulnerability mistakes and I sort of knew by this and the bordering properties layouts and the areas obvious hunting pressure in the form of box blinds that this buck would likely not be moving during daylight hours.
     
  2. John Eberhart

    John Eberhart Active Member

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    Mike hunted the gas line location and I the oak and on the first day we saw a few does. I hunted alone after that as Mike had to work and one morning from the gas line tree, at 8:15 I rattled in about a 120 inch clean 8 point to within 12 yards and passed on him. The height worked to perfection because as much as he looked around, he never had a clue I was right on top of him.

    Not being happy with what I was seeing and knowing how quick a tree can be burnt out during the late season, I prepared another location in the timber on the north side of the gas line and closer to the winter wheat field. There had been some timber cut which made for a little bit better security cover for deer to pass through or alongside of and I set-up in a tree along the cutting edge.

    On my first morning hunt there I crossed the plowed bean field and when I began walking down the gas line at about an hour before daylight I bumped a deer and when I got farther down the line to where it had been, the unmistakable strong stench odor of a mature bucks tarsal glands were overwhelming. There was no doubt in my mind that I had just spooked the big buck as he was heading back to bed and he had already crossed the gas line heading south. I saw a couple does that morning but knew I was wasting my time hunting for that buck after spooking him.

    That evening I went back to hunt the same tree and set up a Carrylite doe decoy to hopefully lure any buck that was transitioning through the area to within bow range. I saw a couple does as they browsed their way towards the winter wheat field.

    By the time I finished the hunt, removed the steps (wasn’t hunting that tree again) and packed up the decoy in its military duffle bag it was at least an hour and a half after dark and while exiting down the gas line, when I got to the exact same location I spooked the big buck that morning, while not as strong, I could again smell the pungent odor of tarsal glands. No question the same buck had recently passed through and had likely went to the wheat field the does had.

    That was all I could take and I skipped the next morning’s hunt and later went in to prepare a new location along the gas line where he was crossing. There was a faint runway crossing the gas line and due to the amount of rain we had been receiving there were some muddy spots holding some large tracks. While standing on the runway I could make out a few rubs running along it within the timber on the south side so this had to be the place to set up at.

    Unfortunately there were no adequate trees to set up in as they were all pretty small diameter and short for my liking. Reluctantly I set up about 24 feet high in a tree that was 8 yards from the runway. The tree had no large branches or background cover as the sky opening of the gas line was my backdrop.

    Ohio’s late 2 day gun season also opened this day and when I walked out to cross the bean field towards my mini-van there was 3 hunters clad in orange walking from the nearby home to the woodlot directly behind it as though on a drive and while I was changing at the vehicle I heard a volley of 3 shots, likely at does.
     
  3. John Eberhart

    John Eberhart Active Member

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    Because I had molested the area, I hunted at the scrape oak that evening because I could enter and exit it through the plowed bean field without concern of spooking deer. As I crossed the plowed bean field I was checking out the timber line where the buck was bedded within. It was an absolute perfect bedding location as he was likely bedding close enough to the field’s edge to see anything coming at him through it, and anything coming towards him from the timber side would make enough noise in the dense brush for him to hear. Most times a mature buck will bed to take advantage of the prevailing wind direction, but this was totally a visual and hearing bedding spot.

    Although I knew what the scenario would likely be, I went in to hunt the new location the next morning which would also be my last hunt. It was about 30 degrees, there was a slight freezing rain coming down, and it was pitch black out.

    I was in the tree and quiet about an hour and a half prior to first light and about 45 minutes before daybreak, although the ground and leaves were wet, behind me I could hear the faint sound of a deer walking through the timber. He was coming right at me and within moments was crossing the gas line on the runway a mere 8 yards away. I could make out the white halo of antlers over his head and as he crossed the lane I knew my hunt for him was over so I turned my dim entry flashlight on him. It was in fact the big buck and yes he was a proverbial monster as he had at least 10 points and was in the 24 inch inside spread category.

    He spooked a bit and picked up his pace and continued on to his safe haven bedding location. Unless somebody kicked him out of that small bedding area, this buck was not to be killed outside the rut phases.

    I only sat until shortly after daybreak at which time I decided to exit through the area he was bedding in. After all the property was listed to be sold so neither Donovan, Mike or I would have the opportunity to hunt it in 2016.

    As I neared the dense brushy area I heard a couple twigs snap as he was leaving. When I got to it, that same exact tarsal stench was strong in the misty air. Talk about totally appreciating the sense and ability for a mature buck to avoid hunters, this was as perfect an example of it as you could get.

    Of course on the drive home I contemplated what might have happened if I had went in and blew him out of there on day one and set-up a location where he was bedding. It’s always easy after the fact to cherry pick things you might have done differently to possibly get an opportunity.

    Had I set up in the tiny bedding area I would have had to sit all day with 1 ½ hour prior to daybreak entries and well after dark exits and hoped that I set up either on his actual bed in which I would have had a shot once daylight broke, or hoped he might get up and move a bit during midday. Hind sight is 20-20 and I was OK with the way the hunt went, after all I could have taken a 120 incher earlier and went home.

    I was glad Mike offered me another opportunity on a different property in 2016.

    End of story
     

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  4. cutty

    cutty New Member

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    thanks again for sharing john, really enjoy reading your stuff. Told the wife I might have to leave for the woods tonight!
     
  5. g2outdoors

    g2outdoors Well-Known Member

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    That's a cool story and the map helped a lot. It seems to me your conclusion at the end would have been the only way to get after him during that time frame.
     
  6. Maustypsu

    Maustypsu Well-Known Member

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    Man, if you guys can learn from people screwing up, get out your notebooks because the professor is here!!!
     
  7. g2outdoors

    g2outdoors Well-Known Member

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    Your teammates on team 3 already know this...
     
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  8. flinginairos

    flinginairos Well-Known Member

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    Oh snap!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  9. MCDM

    MCDM Active Member

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    Dang he said that lol
     
  10. quadro

    quadro Active Member

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    Really like you're explanation of the hunts !!

    Sent from my QTAQZ3 using Tapatalk
     
  11. John Eberhart

    John Eberhart Active Member

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    First off, a belated Merry Christmas to all. My kids there spouse and my grandkids are coming over around 3:00 pm to; fight (grandkids always get into some sort of physical fight), argue about politics (have a liberal daughter), eat me out of house and home, trash my furniture, nick up the table and chairs, take anything that's not locked down, and then leave me with a house full of Christmas wrap, empty boxes, and dirty dished. You know what? I wouldn't want it any other way.

    Quadro
    My hope is that Red will add a new category for hunters on this site to post their stories and that their stories will be in-depth concerning detail and thought. There is no doubt that it may take a few stories for some to learn how to go into detail, but the more they write about their kill stories, like anything else the better they will get at it. I sucked at English throughout school and now I write, go figure, the more you do anything the better you SHOULD get at it.

    What I typically do is write a brief story and leave it sit and go back to it each morning (clearest mind in the mornings for me) and add detail until I'm happy with it.

    Everything from; seasonal scouting, location preparation, entries, exits, marking routes, type of tree you set up in, where your location is, why you set up exactly where you did, where you parked, what type of flashlight you used (brightness) for dark entries and exits, why you hunted the location at that time of day or season, etc. all need a well thought out explanation. It's amazing that when you force yourself to add detail, it makes you really think about why you did certain things the way you did. It also helps the reader to realize there's more to hunting than just going out and sitting in a tree and hoping something comes by, there is actually a plan of attack.

    Not to be egotistical but I've always been pretty successful at bowhunting and I believe it's been do to my work ethic, however when I began writing instructional information and then kill and unsuccessful hunt stories in the mid 80's, my success rate (as far as size of bucks I took) just kept climbing because I took many hours to write an article and put a ton of thought and reasons why into each.

    Everyone wants to add a little lightheartedness or comedy into their writings or replies to another persons kills or failures and that's great for the forum site and soul. However I challenge everyone to post a couple of their hunting (hopefully kill) stories and take some time (maybe a week) and go back everyday and add some details on why you did everything you did and why you think it might have led to the finality of the kill or the hunts failure and then post it.

    I hated writing in school and now love it mainly because I'm writing about something I'm passionate about and I want other hunters to be successful. I would suggest writing any stories on a word document that can be saved and reopened at will for further detail to be added and when finished, copy and paste it on a saddle hunter post.

    Something else it would do is add more members because deep down inside every hunter is a desire to tell their story and read feedback from other hunters. The feedback interaction itself from every story can be a learning experience for readers following the thread or post as the guys and gals on this forum are definitely above the normal hunting curve because you've made the attempt and in many cases commitment to go outside the proverbial conventional stand box. Most hunters struggle just to try anything different.
     

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  12. Sipsey

    Sipsey Member

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    Storytelling is a gift that can be nurtured, whether oral or writing. Growing up in the rural south i was fortunate to be around some great storytellers. Whether around the fireplace, sitting on a porch shelling peas or float fishing for spots down a nearby stream, the stories never ceased.
    Fast forward to a few years back I received an email from a stranger asking for details of a big black cat I had described on some website. I contacted him the next day and he introduced himself as the editor of the largest hunting and fishing magazine in our state. We talked for thirty minutes or so and he asked, "Ever think about writing?" I said I had but I was currently attending hvac classes twice a week, worked 40-50 hours at a factory and had a new grandson, and had no time even if I wanted to. He said, "Send me something, hunting, fishing, just 500 words or so, you never know." To make a long story short, I wound up with nearly a dozen articles ranging from archery, airguns, fishing, hunting and a large black cat that frequents our area. I found that telling a story is easier than writing one for the public. For me it was quite a bit of work. I can write but I am not a writer. I admire someone who is able to parlay their writing skills into a profession, but I'll stick to telling a lot a tales and writing just a few.
     
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  13. John Eberhart

    John Eberhart Active Member

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    Sipsey

    Great analogy. As I've mentioned many times, I sucked at English and to this day don't know the meaning of a noun, pronoun, verb or adverb. I just started writing crappy (from a sentence structure and writers standpoint) instructional articles back in the mid 80's because the stuff I was reading really sucked and I knew I had information that would help hunters. I struggled big time putting it into words with the proper and sufficient detail, because I knew if I could explain things in a manner that was easily understood, and that hunters could personally relate to with their own experiences, that it would hit home and make sense.

    You are spot on that writing can be nurtured and in my opinion that is the only way to be a good writer. Why you might ask?

    People that nurture their writing skills without having any background in writing through college or other curricular means, do it because they are passionate and likely have a lot of experience in the field of what they are writing about. Writing is not typically their means of employment or livelihood.

    On the other hand people that go to college and get a masters in English or some other form of writing, make writing their livelihood and many come right out of college, do a little research on whatever the topic is that they write about, and write articles that actually get published. I see it all the time in regional magazines where some college graduate with absolutely no successful experiences in hunting, but with a degree and flair for writing, starts having their instructional articles published with no legitimate background to do so. Magazines like them because they don't have to do much if any editing, and the regurgitated material that was researched and altered a bit, is acceptable.
     
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  14. Sipsey

    Sipsey Member

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    Agreed! That's why I have always gravitated to writers of non fiction, whose lives and adventures are the basis for their stories and not research. I remember reading fishing stories by Zane Grey where he chased down huge Marlin with what today would be considered primative tackle. He still holds the widely accepted record even though it was before records were officially kept. He wrote to supply money for his passion. Hemingway, Steinbeck, a guy from India who killed rogue man eating tigers and some of the old outdoor writers all had the ability to let you peer over their shoulders and see and smell and taste what they experienced. That's the writings I have enjoyed.
     
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