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October 23: Ben Rising

Every year I anticipate the upcoming season and what buck I may be chasing. I never know for sure if I will even be hunting the same farm or a new farm that I have gained permission on. That factor usually is decided by finding a deer that gets my attention. I put a lot of effort into finding big deer and learning about them. It’s not always easy with family, work and just everyday life but I find just enough time to make my efforts count.

This story starts on May 5th of 2011. That is the day I got the very first picture of “Picket”. All you could see was a split brow and about 10” of main beam. I knew right away he had a lot of potential. I was lucky that he was on a farm I could already hunt. I felt comfortable that I would get more pictures or sightings of him as the summer came.

I could not of been more wrong. Picket was like a ghost. I did not get another picture of him till July 23rd and it was on a completely different end of the property on a trail leading to the neighbors and it was just one picture. BUT man what a picture. He blew up!! I was really excited to say the least. I was on a 2-3 week camera checking schedule at this time and was hoping I would get more info on the next run of cams in 3 wks. When the 3 wks were up, I rushed in and checked all my cams. He wasn’t on any of the 8 cameras I had up. I couldn’t believe it. Where is he?? I kept asking myself that question. Knowing how big deer can be, I just stayed with my routine and tried to visually monitor the farms around and the one I had to hunt. I never saw him once. I started to lose hope that he was still around. I decided to jockey some cameras around and moved into a thicker more reclusive part of the farm but was a lot harder to access without being detected.

On Sept 8th my move paid off. I caught him working the edge of the timber and a weedy crop patch. I knew by the time in the morning that he was bedding close by. I was sure I would get more pics of him now and piece the puzzle together. I did get more pics but very few and far between. He was by far the most unpredictable buck I have hunted. I felt like I was getting my buck schooling all over again. I wanted to get aggressive and get deeper but my gut told me not to. “Just stay low and he will be around” is what I kept telling myself because of the pressure 200yds in either direction from other hunters. In the long run, I was right but as time wore on and the season opened I wasn’t so sure. It was like he knew how to avoid every camera I had or he could read my mind.

What I ended up learning about Picket was that I actually believe he was a roamer. He would stay like 3 days around where I could hunt and then vanish for 2-3 wks. That was exactly what the camera pattern was. I felt my chances to kill him were slim to none, especially being that our season opened on Sept 24th and that morning was when he gave me that last picture until Oct 21st.
The season so far had been me filming Jarod or not hunting at all because we were so busy with work and getting ready for the Outfitting business. I hunted a few times just hoping to see him or another giant. The day of the 20th Jarod left for Colorado, so I would of had no camera man if I was lucky to get lucky and Picket showed up. Well, as luck would have it, I decided to just observe the evening of the 21st from a tree stand that I could barely see the edge that I had most of the pics of Picket on. I had decided I wasn’t even going to hunt him till I knew he was back. At 6:30pm I caught a glimpse of a giant rack for a few seconds slide down the edge of the hardwoods and crop. It appeared that he worked a scrape line. I wasn’t sure if it was picket or another buck, but whatever it was I knew I would know the next day because he walked right by my camera and a tree stand that I had just set in August.

The 22nd I rushed in to check my cam as quietly as I could around 10am. I couldn’t believe it!!!! Picket was back. He had showed up the 21st at daybreak and then I saw him that evening with my own eyes. I knew I had to hunt him now. I went home, showered up, grabbed my camera arm and was in the tree by 3:00. I saw some recent bucks but NO PICKET!! I was crushed to say the least. I was sre that I was going to see him. Then I thought about 80% of the few pics I got of him were at daybreak so I left everything in the tree but my camera and bow. I planned on being back in an hour before daylight.

The next morning I slowly made my way to the stand and got settled. It was very cool and the thermals were rising perfectly. It was 36 degrees. It felt “BUCKY”. I had a few 1 ½ yr old bucks work the scrape line and head off into the timber without detection so my spirits were high. I had a small doe group come out across the crop and work my way but they acted nervous as they got closer. I soon found out why. All of a sudden Picket stepped out broadside at 33yds. I was rushing to get the camera on and get myself into kill mode all at the same time. What a nightmare trying to film yourself! I got the camera focused on Picket and he turned and walked straight away to 50yds and smelled where I had watched two little bucks fight the night before. I thought he was gone forever. Then the does stepped back out of the timber at 15yds and started popping acorns and one coughed and he turned and started right for me. I kept working the camera trying to get as good of footage as I could. He stopped at 35yds and smelled where some other deer had been and started eating some grass. I centered the cam again and just prayed he would turn and give me a shot. The good Lord answered and he turned. I came to full draw and centered the pin and executed the shot. I heard the hollow sound and knew my shot was good. He bolted into the tall weeds and headed for the timber then he turned in the death run and crashed at 75yds.

I was an emotional wreck. I felt like a little school girl. I was freaking out so much. I felt dumber after watching it LOL. But I tie so much into picking one or two bucks out and hunting them. We only get one buck in Ohio so I want to make it count. I honestly feel like it was my greatest hunt I have ever produced. It is the raw, real side of buck hunting and trying to get it done alone. Yes, it would have been a better produces hunt with a camera man, but I got it all – the kill shot, the emotion and the buck. I feel truly blessed!

Ben Rising