Column: The story behind the hunt of a 12-point buck

Photo Provided
Brandon Kiefer's buck, which field dressed at 206 pounds, was taken with a Carbon Express and was his first crossbow kill. Getting a deer like this involves some good fortune, but when a hunter puts in the scouting time and has the right skill and equipment the eventual result will be success.

Column by Larry LaGrange

I can recall working as a youth in our convenience store/gas station in St. Croix. We were busy around the opening of deer season because all kinds of people from everywhere came to Perry County to hunt. Lots of them looked rather well-to-do. Nice hunting clothes, fine cars or trucks, no local twang. They may have been from Indianapolis or Gary or who knows where, but they definitely weren’t locals.

I asked my dad why he never deer hunted. His answer: “I wouldn’t want to be out in the woods with those city guys around, shooting at anything that moves.”

Well, Dad may have been a little harsh, because I’m sure some of them were skilled hunters. So the only deer hunting I’ve ever done is vicariously through watching outdoor shows on TV. I’m always impressed at the preparation, determination, toughness, resiliency and skill deer hunters must have in order to make a kill.

Recently a neighbor of mine, Tom Kiefer, showed me a photo of a big buck his son, Bloomington resident Brandon, had killed with his crossbow. I tried to contact Brandon at the number Tom had given me, but got no answer. That evening my wife, our granddaughter, and I attended “Elf, The Musical” at the IU auditorium. Before the show, standing in the bathroom line right in front of me was Brandon with his two little girls, who were obviously excited to see the play. I asked him about his big deer, and the story follows in his words:

“I hunted the morning of November 4 at a private property in Greene County. This was only my second year there so I’m learning where the deer areas and travel corridors are. I was able to harvest a nice ten-point buck late gun season last year where I had seen many big bucks chasing does during the rut. This year I wanted to focus on bedding areas since it was still early archery season. It’s risky to hunt close to a bedding area, but I felt the risk was worth the reward this early in the season. The idea is that does come into a bedding area shortly after sunrise after feeding all night. During the morning hours bucks will travel through the area looking for estrus does and will scent check these bedding spots. If you play the wind correctly and have a good stand setup, you can catch a buck coming or going.

Over the last year and a half I’ve identified a nice bedding area where I’ve frequently seen deer. It’s located on a steep south-facing slope next to a small creek and an old logging road. Deer will choose these spots as they’re warm from sun exposure and offer protection from approaching predators.

It was a calm Sunday morning as I walked a mile into my favorite spot. I didn’t see anything as the sun came up, and as the morning grew longer I decided to walk back to the truck. On my walk out I always keep an arrow ready just in case. I’ve seen some bizarre things over the years, and that morning trek out adds another crazy experience to the list. As I walked slowly down the logging road, I scouted in front of me for any deer movement or silhouettes. When I approached the turn that leads into the bedding area, I couldn’t see anything that stood out. So I took a few more steps until I was out into the open and immediately stopped in my tracks. At 25 yards upwind was a 12-point buck. He was bedded with five does in some briars and tall grass.

Some bucks, especially mature ones, have a defense mechanism where they stay motionless. The idea is the predator may not see them and move on. I raised my bow and waited for him to stand up. What took 30 seconds felt like 30 minutes. When the does had enough and bolted, the buck stood up and turned broadside facing away. I placed the arrow through his lung and into the heart. He ran off with his tail down, indicating it was a solid hit. I could immediately see bubbly blood, so I knew it was at least a lung hit. Forty yards away, he expired. It was a quick kill, the kind I strive for every time.

After recovering the buck, I realized it was the same one I’d passed on the gun season before. He was only a nine-point then, and I knew if he could make it one more year he would be special. I’ve deer hunted for 23 years and it’s the biggest buck I’ve taken.”

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