Editor’s Note: Twenty-seven-year-old Mark “Buck” Owen of Wooster, Ohio, found and took a buck of a lifetime wearing Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity camouflage. He says, “I really like Mossy Oak, because I am also a turkey hunter and like a more-open pattern. I wear the camo I use for deer hunting to hunt turkeys. I’ve been wearing Mossy Oak for 6 years. I was in a sporting-goods store and saw a really-nice coat. I didn’t even look at the camo pattern. I just liked the way the camo looked. I knew it would fit into the terrain I was hunting. So, I bought the coat. When I learned it was Mossy Oak, I started buying my pants, shirts and the rest of my hunting clothes in Mossy Oak. I stuck with the pattern and company, because my success has been in Mossy Oak. I believe that when something’s working for you, you don’t need to leave it. I’ve been a fan of Mossy Oak for a long time, and I see no reason to change.” Owen used his PSE Dream Season DNA bow to take the big buck. The story of how he found the deer, how he got permission to take the deer, and the agony of his defeat before the thrill of his victory makes this story unusual, exciting and a dream come true. This week Owen gives us the secrets of finding big bucks and getting permission to hunt them, as well as the techniques he used to pinpoint when and where that buck would appear, and the way he took this 2nd biggest Ohio bow buck ever.
I checked the trail cameras about every week, to learn when the huge buck was coming to the feeder (see Day 1). For quite a few days, the buck only fed before daylight and after dark. Then, he vanished for about 3 or 4 days, and I didn’t get any pictures of him. In the morning, he was coming to the feeder about 20 or 30 minutes before daylight. In the evening, he would show up about an hour after dark. I needed some daylight pictures, so, we would be able to hunt him during daylight hours. I hoped that buck was not totally nocturnal. Hopefully, sometime during the season, he would show-up during daylight hours. I learned that none of the other bucks were using the trail the monster buck was using. He was the only buck traveling this trail during the summer months.
We put the trail cameras out in July, 2013, and the Ohio bow season didn’t open until September 28, 2013. The first picture I have of the big buck during daylight hours was on September 16. I figured out why the buck started moving during daylight hours on that day. When the soybeans are green, the deer feed on them heavily. When the soybeans are dry, the deer feed on them heavily. But when the leaves on the soybeans turn yellow, for some reason, the deer won’t feed on them at all. Also, when the soybeans’ leaves turn yellow, this is when we saw the bucks start to lose their velvet. As I mentioned earlier, there was a soybean field on one side of the woodlot, and a corn field on the other side. The corn hadn’t matured and hadn’t been harvested yet. Therefore the tastiest available food was the corn coming from the feeder every day.
Most of our Ohio deer have hard antlers by the first of September. But this buck was just losing his velvet in mid-September. In most of the pictures that we were getting of this buck, he was only showing up every other day. When the buck was gone for 4 days, I really got nervous. The first daylight picture taken of this buck, when he was in hard horn, was at 3:58 pm. His eyes were wide open, and he looked like he was out-of-sorts. I told the landowner I had really-good pictures of the buck in the velvet. He asked me not to show those pictures to anyone and not to tell anyone where those pictures were taken. I told him I’d like to show the pictures to my buddies, but I wouldn’t tell them the property where this buck was.
Here is another key to taking a big buck. The first thing that most of us do, including me, when we find a big buck, is show all our buddies the pictures. However, you have to make sure that no one knows where you’ve found that big deer. Although you may trust your buddies not to go after that buck, you don’t know what other hunters your buddies may tell the location of the big buck, if they know it. At 27-years old, I realize that I am a young hunter. I don’t know everything or nearly as much as other hunters who have been hunting 50 or 60 years know. But I do know enough to stay hushed-mouth about a big buck like this one.
As we got closer to deer season, I took the landowner’s crossbow and put a new America’s Best bowstring on his crossbow. I shot the crossbow several times to make sure it was lined up and sighted in, and at 20 yards, the crossbow was really lethal. Once I had his crossbow sighted in and ready to take this big buck, I went with him to hang tree stands. I picked a tree that had three trunks coming out of the same big trunk, because I knew then a deer couldn’t skylight me. I wear Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity when I’m hunting. I have the utmost confidence in that camouflage pattern, but I still like to use limbs and leaves to break-up my silhouette. I’ll place my tree stand about 30-yards from where I expect the deer to appear. Then, if I make any noise before I take the shot, the deer is less likely to hear me. I placed the platform of the tree stand at 27 feet, so, when the landowner stood-up, he would be 30-feet high in the tree. I like to hang my tree stands high, because if I have to move to take the shot, the deer is less likely to see me.
We set the tree stand up on a rainy Saturday. The landowner had a different tree in mind where he wanted to set his stand to be right over the feeder. But I suggested, “This is a big buck. We don’t want to take any chances of spooking him, before we take him.” We moved back 20 yards from the feeder and set the tree stand up in this triple-trunk tree, from where we should be able to see the buck coming from at least 50-yards away. Then I asked, “Would you mind if I put a second stand on one of the other trunks of this tree? Then I can video you taking this big buck, on the first day of bow season.” The landowner looked me in the eyes and said, “No, I’ve been thinking about this hunt. You’re going to hunt this stand on the first day of bow season. If you don’t get him on the first day, you also can hunt him on Saturdays. I am going to hunt the buck too. If you get him, he’s your deer. If I get him, he’s my deer. You have been doing all the work keeping up with this deer. I know this buck will mean more to you than he does to me. I wouldn’t have done the work you have done to find this buck, pattern him, keep up with the trail camera pictures of him and do all the things you’ve done to make sure I would be able to take this buck. You definitely deserve first chance to take this buck.”
That was on September 21, one week before the season opened when the landowner told me he wanted me to hunt the first day of bow season and have the first chance at this buck. The 21st held a lot of meaning for me, because my father, Jim Owen, passed away at the age of 62 on April 21 from a massive heart attack. He was an outdoorsman, a life-long trapper and a coon and coyote hunter. I shoot white fletchings on my Gold Tip arrows. So when I got back home that afternoon, I wrote on the fletching of my best arrow, “Dad’s Shot,” because this was the arrow I planned to use to hunt the big whitetail.