November 6: Steve Frantz

Sometimes the little decisions we make as deer hunters end up being the very reason we’re successful in the field.

Sweet November and Steve was back in Ohio with outfitter Ty McCombs of Whitetail Outfitters of Ohio. The 2016 rut was off to a sluggish start thanks in part to a spell of warm weather. The bucks just weren’t moving much during daylight hours. The other unique aspect of this hunt was Steve’s decision to hunt with his PSE RDX 365, making this his first time hunting whitetails with a crossbow.

The guys decided to hang a few Reconyx cameras and set some mock scrapes on a ridge. When they pulled the cards a few days later, a 140s class buck Steve nicknamed “Gnarly” could be seen checking the scrapes along with another buck nicknamed “The Bucket 8.” This ridge would be where they’d make their stand.

The morning of November 7 Steve and cameraman Keith hung a second camera stand under cover of darkness on the ridge. The morning started out busy with a decent eight pointer showing up right at daybreak. Not much later, a three and a half year old ten pointer showed to freshen up one of the scrapes Steve had made.

A snapping branch caught both Steve and the ten pointer’s attention. Both turned their heads to see Gnarly bristled up and stiff-legging his way onto the scene.

Both deer started posturing for a fight and though the ten pointer was sorely outclassed, it didn’t stop him from raking his antlers through a tangle of dead cedar limbs. Steve had a shot on Gnarly at 45 yards during this intimidation game, but chose to pass in the hopes of getting footage of a brawl.

That decision cost him the shot as the bucks never fought. Gnarly peeled off to head down the ridge and by the time Keith swung the camera around the tree trunk, he was out of range.

Steve thought the game was over but he wasn’t about to give up.

The ten pointer walked on and Steve hit the MAD Growl with a soft grunt. Now 80 yards out and down the ridge, Gnarly stopped and looked back. Another grunt and the deer started back up the hill to investigate, eventually breaking into a trot.

He circled downwind of Steve at ten yards and once again Keith had to swing the camera around quickly to get the deer in frame. Still on the hunt for the grunting buck, Gnarly ran out to 20 yards before stopping to look back in Steve’s direction.

That pause was all Steve needed to unload his RDX, piercing both of Gnarly’s lungs and allowing him to notch an Ohio tag on the 144 4/8” buck.  His first crossbow kill was finally in the books and it’s unlikely he would have killed at all without it.

Remember how I mentioned that little decisions can make a hunt? Had Steve been hunting with his bow, the configuration of the second stand for Keith on camera and a limb on the tree would have prevented him from taking a shot on Gnarly. Only by shooting a crossbow was he able to harvest this buck which begs the question; In deer hunting, is there really such a thing as a little decision?

As told to Tim Kjellesvik