The Ropshaw Buck!

Steve Johnson

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  • Category Big Bucks
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  • Prostaff Member Steve Johnson

Deer Hunting It started this summer when I took stock of my arrow supply. The attrition of previous seasons left me with three crooked hunters with strange flight characteristics. The situation called for an order to Allegheny Mountain Arrow Woods. I asked Bill to send me 4 dozen tapered Douglas fur shafts. When the order arrived there were 49 dowels. As I put the dowels through the process of building the shafts into arrows, I wondered if the extra shaft might have special lucky qualities.
The dozen hunters that received the 160 grains snuffers had a finished weight of 600 grains. When they were flight tested to receive their rank number, it was difficult to pick the best. I did get them numbered and decided that #1 was also #49 of the batch- putting the luck up front.
My wife informed me that we were out of ground venison and put in an order. It's tough work but I don't mind. My friend had been complaining about deer eating his hostas and had asked me to help out. So now I had a good excuse and a place to “execute” the order.

The property had a nice oak tree in the perfect place to hunt on a southwest wind. When the wind finally went southwest I went hunting. Things change - the tree that I intended to hunt was prone on the ground. This necessitated improvisation. The tree that I ended up roosting in was back in cover and only offered two shooting lanes. The trade off was that I had world class background cover.
As I settled into the hunt I became aware of how mellow the afternoon had become. I had my bow hung-up with #1 nocked and ready. After watching and listening for an hour, I heard an animal approaching from behind me. The wind had died down and that wonderful windstill condition settled in. The animal turned out to be a medium size buck without antlers. He had lumpy pedicels, a wide span between his ears, but nothing above the hairline. I caught glimpses of him through the thick cover. He entered a thicket. Then I lost him to sight and sound. I wondered if maybe he was a steer.
About twenty minutes later I sensed the presence of another animal in the area. I stood as slowly as possible and unhung my bow. Looking back in the cover I saw the moving white line between a deer's tail and flank moving toward the thicket. Shortly two of the three saplings at the head of the thicket began to shake violently.
This development commanded my full attention. After awhile the trees quit shaking and a large buck emerged from the thicket and stopped with a tulip poplar tree blocking the forward part of his shoulder. Decision time - by leaning left I could see his ribcage but didn't like the feel of the shot, so I waited.
This deer was a monster in every sense of the word - his antlers were a solid mass in profile. His body was huge with a deep chest and torso that made his legs look small. His face looked oddly small with a pronounced Roman nose.
The deer was wired into the mellow groove of the evening. He would take three steps and just space out awhile before moving again. His course brought him around into my main shooting lane where he stopped broadside to look around. The distance was twenty yards.
The bow drew quietly and #49 slipped into the evening air. The buck leaped and gave the double back leg mule kick. He the roared down through he woods like an avalanche. His flight startled some deer in his path and they came down with the cosmic snorts.
Shot analysis time had come. The shot had been quiet in every respect. The hit had not generated that hollow "thunk" of a good chest hit or the crack of hitting bone. I had been leery of hitting him in the massive shoulder as my recurve bow pulls only 56 pounds. I concluded that the shot was probably a bit too far back. I descended the tree, assembled my kit and proceeded to run several errands.
The next morning I was on the trail early. The blood was sparse but not difficult to follow. After about two hundred years the sign lessened and trailing became difficult. As time went on I would loose the track then check openings and trails until I again found sign. What helped was that the animal seemed headed in a general direction. After two and a half hours of trailing I found I was on a point protruding into the river. As I hadn't jumped the deer I concluded that he must be down and probably in very thick cover. I turned around and climbed into a fallen treetop and inspected it thoroughly. Then I proceeded from blow down to thicket inspecting every inch of the ground. About three hours into the search I looked over a bush pile I was inspecting and saw the white underfur and massive heap of the buck.
The rush was incredible; I went from a condition of fatigued doubt to one of exuberant elation. As I approached the fallen deer his size and bulk both amazed me and dismayed me. The animal looked to easily approach 300 lbs. I had tracked him over a distance of ½ mile, crossing two fences and one deeply incised ravine. I am a senior bowhunter weighing 150 lbs.
A bit of planning seemed in order. Back in the truck I had a hauler rated to 500 lbs, it won't jump fences. Having some experience with moving dead weight I knew the ravine was beyond possibility.
The plan that looked doable was to drag the buck down grade to the river bank. After marking a tree branch with my red bandana handkerchief I returned to the truck, drove home, loaded a 2 ton come-along and a 12 foot aluminum skiff and returned.
I launched the skiff and rowed down the river until sighting the handkerchief. I beached the boat in a depression of the bank and with some exertion loaded the buck. His weight made moving the boat very hard. I could slide it about 6 inches at a heave, eventually getting it launched. The row back was pure pleasure, I love hydraulics.
I dreaded the arrival at the pier because I didn't see how I could lift the deer up onto the dock from the bobbing boat. Good fortune smiled as the dock came into view, there was a lower level platform below the main surface.
After lashing both ends of the skiff securely to the pilings, I was able to heave and pull in stages until I moved the buck onto the stage and up onto the pier. I went to the truck and returned with the hauler.
After a considerable struggle I loaded the deer and rolled to the end of the pier. At that point it was uphill from the river to the lane where the truck was parked. By pulling ten feet uphill then turning across slope I could stop and let my cardio descent from redline to something more reasonable. Eventually the buck and I made I to the road. I backed the truck up and placed two 2x10 ramp boards onto the truck bed.
After examining the steepness of the ramp I knew I couldn't roll the weight up into the truck. At that point I secured the come-along to the front of the truckbed and extended the wire cable back to the deer.
Antlers are lovely, the perfect attachment for a line to connect to the come-along hook. Click by click I cranked the buck up into the truckbed. I loaded the ramp boards and cart, then beached the skiff and flipped it over.
By the time I reached home six hours had elapsed from the start of trailing in the morning. I tried for some sympathy from my wife for my worn-out condition. She just gave me hell for shooting something so hard to retrieve. I guess I’ll have to try for something smaller next time.

Posted by Steve Johnson under Big Bucks on November 10, 08 06:00 AM | Permalink

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