In early November, John Bennett headed to the same treestand he’s hunted for 15 years. It’s not as if he doesn’t have a choice, because there are three stands on the big farm field, but one stand is his “Old Faithful.”
“The field is around 4- to 500 yards long, and it’s about 100 yards wide,” Bennett said. “The stand I hunt is about in the middle.”
In 2008, Bennett at first didn’t hold out much hope for his spot.
“The field was planted in corn, but it didn’t do very well,” he said. “It was very thin, so thin that when deer were in it, you could easily see them.
“What corn was in there, the deer had destroyed, and it was so bad that the farmer had nothing left to cut,” he added. “But it seemed that they were in there feeding every time I was there.”
Bennett’s job as a carpenter often keeps him away from home for days at a time, and even when he is working locally, his hunting time is often just an hour or two squeezed into the end of a day.
Bennett’s preview of the coming attraction happened during the Ohio archery season.
“I saw him for the first time about a month before I actually got him,” Bennett said. “It was while I was bowhunting, and he was actually with a bigger buck.”
Spots Two Big Bucks
Bennett got to watch the bucks for an agonizingly long time. Both of the big boys, moving separately, trotted around with lowered heads, scent checking various knots of does in the field.
“I was ready, just watching all of them mill around and mill around, thinking that at any time all the shifting would bring one of the bucks within shooting range,” Bennett said. “Each of the bucks got within 50 yards, but I consider that too long a shot.”
Eventually the two bucks exited the far side of the field, passing almost directly under a ladderstand he has on the field. But Bennett stuck to his favorite stand, and got out whenever he could, hoping to arrow either of the bucks. When archery season came to a close, he was understandably chomping at the bit for the Ohio gun season, when hunters may use a shotgun or black powder gun.
“Ever since I got a black powder gun, I don’t hunt with the shotgun anymore,” Bennett said. “I shoot one called the Black Knight, the BK 92, with a 3 x 9 Simmons scope.”
Bennett practices often with the gun, at various distances ranging from 60- to 200 yards.
“You definitely have to learn how the gun will perform at the longer yardages,” he said. “At 200 yards you definitely will have a drop.”
On the last day of the gun season, Dec. 7, 2008, Bennett got home around 3:30 in the afternoon. Moving as quickly as he could, he changed into his hunting clothes, grabbed his gun and headed to his stand. Almost as soon as he arrived, Bennett started seeing deer.
“I figured it out later, and in 45 minutes I’d seen 21 deer,” he said. “I wasn’t there long before I saw an 8-pointer, and then another 8-pointer, both of them decent, but not what I was hoping to see.”
A 7-point buck walked almost directly under his stand and Bennett froze. He knew that if there was one warning snort, the field would empty. But the young buck continued into the field, joining the feeding pair of 8-pointers and three does also nibbling through the remnants of the corn field.
“Then I saw a doe running like she was hiding, like she was being chased and was trying to mix in with the other deer,” Bennett said. “Then I saw 13 doe moving across the back of the field, all moving together, it was pretty neat.
“But I was thinking, does, does, does,” he added. “Where’s that big buck?”
Huge Buck Struts
Question asked, question answered. The buck he’d seen during archery season strutted out into the field. The buck had a question to ask, too, “Where’s my hot doe?” Moving deliberately, he stepped toward the herd of does.
“From where he walked out, he was already a good distance away and instantly walking away from me,” Bennett said. “I got him in my scope, but using my eyes, closer to me, knew that there were branches in the way.”
Bennett had missed a deer years earlier, by hitting a branch.
“I was going back and forth, scope, eyes, scope, eyes, and just not seeing a clear shot,” he said. “Then something made a ruckus in the woods, and the buck turned to look in that direction.”
It was just enough. Although it was about a 180-yard shot, Bennett knew how to make it count.
“I checked with my eyes one more time, and then got the scope on him where it needed to be,” he said. “There was the big ‘Ka-Boom’ of the gun, and then that brief silence, and then this great sound, the ‘Ka-Whap’ of the bullet hitting him.”
Ohio hunter John Bennett went to his “Old Faithful” stand, and his trust in the spot was well rewarded.
The buck just fell over. Bennett doesn’t use binoculars, and although he’d told friends that during archery season he’d seen a buck that sported 20 points on its rack, he wasn’t sure that anyone had really believed him.
And as it happened, he’d been wrong. Standing over his Ohio beauty, he counted 22 points. It was time for phone calls and celebration.
“I’m hoping to get another big one someday, but I don’t mind going years without shooting one,” Bennett said. “Before getting that buck, I’d gone three years without shooting a buck.”
He’ll have to make some adjustments next season, though. The tree which supported his favorite stand for 15 years has died.
“I’m not moving from that spot,” Bennett said. “I plan to cut down the tree and build a shooting house right there.”
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