For those who do not understand deer hunting, none of this will make any sense. For those who do take part in the annual outdoors ritual that pits man against the most crafty and elusive game animal found in Northwest Ohio, this is where fantasy meets reality.
Ryan Petree is a dedicated bow hunter who has spent hundreds of hours in the woods, studying deer and thinking like a deer while trying to get as close as possible to a trophy of a lifetime. All the while, Petree knew many serious deer hunters will go that lifetime without ever having the opportunity to confront a real monster white-tailed buck on its own turf.
But the hunter still went, day after day, in the cold and the rain and the wind and the snow. The elements always favor the deer, but if you want that remote chance at seeing Mr. Big, you have to go where he lives and tough it out.
While hunting on private land, Petree had seen a huge buck approach his tree stand around Thanksgiving time. He tried to remain steady and calm, aimed his crossbow at the huge deer, and released an arrow. That shot missed the mark, and the big buck was gone.
In most cases, that would be it. Deer with big antlers have even bigger antennae, and it was likely that buck would avoid the area where Petree encountered him and keep an even lower profile.
When Petree got a second chance at the big deer just a few days later, it was an extremely rare event. This chivalrous buck had followed a half-dozen does as they passed near the tree stand, and with a shot he estimated at 17-20 yards, Petree stopped the big fella this time.
After Petree climbed down out of his stand and made a closer examination, the buck turned out to be bigger than he had initially thought. Usually, it's the other way around with deer hunters. They shoot what they are sure is a 12-pointer, and it ends up being an eight.
This was a monster. It had 29 points, with thick, heavy antlers. The inside spread on the rack was 22 inches. The big buck had one 10-inch drop tine, making it non-typical in the scoring books, but it still ranks as what is likely one of the largest bucks ever taken in this part of the state.
When the big buck was taken to an official state check station, everyone froze. Mike's Party Mart had seen something like 10,000 deer checked in during its more than two decades as one of the busiest check stations in this part of Ohio, but only a precious few were in the same class as this guy.
You had to feel bad for all of the Northwest Ohio hunters who had taken beautiful 10 and 12-pointers earlier this season. The pictures of those trophy animals were stunning...until King Kong showed up. Petree's deer is a show-stopper, and one that has created a buzz that is building to a roar in the deer hunting ranks throughout the Midwest.
What's the big deal, you ask. To an ardent deer hunter, this is the Megabucks winning ticket. This is the cherry 1957 Chevy Bel Air you find under a dusty cover while cleaning out grandpa's barn. This is a clear, daytime picture of a UFO, complete with a videotaped interview with the little green man.
For the real deer hunter, it is a sport, a hobby, a religion, an addiction and an art form. They have their family, their job and deer hunting. That's all they need.
Experts estimated the huge deer was about 6 years old, and although its body was not exceptional in size, its antlers are jaw-droppers. It is easy to surmise he was the biggest, baddest dude in the woods and for miles around, and that any other mature bucks had cleared out to avoid confrontation with him.
While a few will display jealousy, most deer hunters will celebrate this prized animal. After it is officially scored, the big buck will takes its place among Ohio's finest whitetail trophies. Meanwhile, the real hunters will be back out in the woods, looking for the chance to meet this buck's nephews, his sons or his cousins.
Matt Markey is The A-T outdoors columnist.
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