Mike: I would like to post these pictures on the ZONE. This is the new overall Rhode Island state record; it scored 176 gross and settled dry at 172 and 6/8ths. Here's the scoop on the hunt last November.
I had spotted this buck and 5 others in a bachelor group in late summer. I glassed them most every evening in August as they left a woodlot and entered a hay field. One was old and grey; his rack had a great spread but no height. The others were young 8-pointers.
One guy stood out as the dominant buck with the big rack. I figured 150 P&Y points. He was not real big-bodied. All the bucks looked to weigh 180-200 lbs.
I never saw any of the deer again from September to Thanksgiving. They just disappeared from my lease.
The day after Thanksgiving I went out to hunt at 2:30 p.m. I walked to my stand with a scent rag filled with doe estrus of the golden kind. I sat down and got everything ready. I hung my bow, attached the arrow and got my release hooked on the string. The stand was very low, probably no higher than 15 feet, so I had to keep movement to a minimum.
At 4 p.m. I caught movement along a hard-running stream. It was a buck walking right up the stream, water up to his chest. I never heard him at all.
I had all of 3 seconds to realize he would go behind a fat tree and lose sight of my movement. When he did that, I got up, removed my bow from the hanger and came to full draw.
He walked out the other side of the tree and started to leave the stream, coming right to me. But then he sensed something out of place; he stopped and slowly backtracked into the stream. He did not like the situation at all. He re-entered the water and started walking away, giving me a quartering-away shot at 30 yards. I took it, and heard the sickening loud pop that usually means gut shot.
He ran splashing up the stream and jumped into the cattails. I mentally marked the last place I saw him disappear in front of a large swamp oak. I settled down and rethought the process. I used my binos to look for my arrow. I found it sticking in the bank of the stream.
Did I hit him? It sure looked and sounded like it.
I got down at 4:30 and went over to look at the arrow. It was clean as a whistle, washed by the stream water. There was no blood anywhere because the buck had always stayed in the water. He ran up the stream to escape.
I walked upstream to the last place I had seen him. I followed his footprints in the mud and 5 yards later I spotted large splotches of blood on some oak leaves. I let out a sigh of relief, reached down and felt the blood. As I stood back up, he burst from the cattails 10 yards ahead of me. Right then and there I backed out and decided I would return in the morning.
The next day I had to work till noon; it killed me knowing the deer was out there somewhere. I went out at noontime, still thinking he was gut shot. I went to the bloody leaves and started tracking. After 20 yards I looked ahead and saw this massive rack tilting the whole body up in the air. I could not believe my eyes.
The shot had been good; the arrow had hit behind the last rib, entered into his liver and one lung and exited near the off shoulder.
The whole time, from when I had drawn on the buck until I found him, I never realized it was the big boy I had scouted and glassed so many times last summer. Thanks for allowing me to share the story, Steve Ponte.
Steve: I believe your buck will be the one and only Boone and Crockett entry ever from tiny Rhode Island, where bowhunters kill only about 400 deer each year. Way to go man, hell of an accomplishment.
Keys to Steve’s hunt:
- Intensive scouting/glassing in late summer. As I have written many times in OL and books, seeing is believing. If you find Mr.Big in late summer you’ve got a good shot to kill him close by in November.
- The fact that Steve “lost” those bucks in Sept. and Oct. is not all that surprising. Biologists say many bucks split up and go through a subtle “fall shift” of several hundred acres as they shift from summer to winter range. The buck probably moved a few acres off Steve’s lease and then came back through in Nov. He might have been looking for a doe, or his summer/winter ranges might have overlapped.
- Steve was smart to consider his 15-foot setup and tweak his moves or lack thereof to it. Every stand is different and requires you to act and react a bit differently.
- Steve stayed cool and made the bold decision to shoot when he had that one split-second chance at the buck quartering away at 30 in the stream—fantastic! I never want anybody to take a risky shot at a deer of course, but many people are too tentative and let huge bucks get away.
- Great move backing out the second he jumped the buck. One-lunged deer are tough and can go a long ways, though this one punched through the liver wouldn’t have. Still, Steve did the right thing just in case the deer was gut shot.
Another state-record buck and the ZONE is all over it, thanks Steve for the great story and pics!