By Tyler Thomas
It all started 3 seasons ago. In the fall of 2009 I was hunting one of my favorite properties in the rolling hills of southeast Ohio. This farm was nestled in the wooded forest amongst a variety of agricultural fields. It had seemingly the perfect recipe for growing mature whitetails. Based on seasons past I could draw a simple conclusion that some very nice deer called this particular place part of their home turf. I had my eyes fixed on a handful of bucks sporting some intriguing antlers.
I was fortunate enough to see several nice deer that fall and even began a relationship with some young bucks that were the owners of some great potential. Throughout the next few seasons a couple of those bucks remained homebodies to the same farm. I know that each of them left the property at various times throughout the year but each of them felt comfortable in the landscape enveloped on this farm.
Skipping over a few seasons and pages of precise detail and memories, I will pick up in the late winter of 2012. I was spending some time doing what I love most; shed hunting. I was walking a honeysuckle edge between a cut cornfield and standing bean field when my eyes connected with white tines lying in the short grass. I had found one of the many shed antlers that I was after.
Many of the deer that I have any amount of history with get a specific name. For some reason this buck didn’t have a name, and as it would turn out he never would. Although I had watched this buck grow from a promising 2 year old in 2009 to a solid 4 year old in 2011, he didn’t have a name. Sometimes a certain buck has a certain characteristic or behavior that will lead way to a fitting label and sometimes the naming of a buck is watered down and unnecessary. In this case, I just admired the mature deer and respected him as a buck without any attached label.
That leads me into the summer of 2012. In May and June I saw a mature buck beginning to grow some impressive antlers. I quickly realized that the five year old bruiser was one of the same bucks I had watched for three years and the buck I had the sheds of from last spring. Through trail camera pictures and evenings glassing the bean fields around the area this buck became one of my targets for the upcoming fall.
As he, and a handful of other deer, continued to stay true to the pattern of seasons past I became confident that I might harvest this deer. His rack grew into a neat, heavy typical 8 point frame with a double brow tine on his right side. In late July or early August he went into stealth mode as so many big deer do. He became nocturnal and even stopped showing up to my mineral sites. Skipping ahead to the beginning of the Ohio archery season, my stands were hung and all preparations in place.
One of the best moments in my life occurred on September 23, 2012. It has absolutely nothing to do with any whitetail deer. Though I love to hunt and enjoy every second in the outdoors, nothing will ever compare to that day in early fall.
My wife Jen gave birth to our first child, our daughter, Piper Wren Thomas. She is such a beautiful little girl. Piper has brought so much joy to our family and I love her with all that I am! God has certainly blessed me with Jen and Piper.
On October 6th I was perched high in a tree between my favorite food plot and a spring fed pond in the middle of the woods. Archery season was finally here for me. A massive cold front had just pushed through bringing cold temperatures and overcast skies; two of my favorite hunting conditions. An overall slow evening suddenly turned into a beautiful display of God’s creation as several deer began to move toward the pond. The light sparring of antlers peaked my interest. As I slowly turned my curious eyes toward the commotion I knew instantly who was moving my direction. In a blur I stood and drew my bow. The rack was distinguishable, without a doubt, but I remained focused on the task at hand. I let the deer get into position for a lethal shot. My pin settled on his exposed vitals with a slight quartering away angle. As I squeezed the release I heard the undeniable sound of a well placed shot.
The buck was heavy footed as he stumbled through the timber. After about thirty minutes I climbed down from my stand. Two hours later I returned to find the deer. The double lung shot made a nice clean harvest.
God had certainly placed that buck in front of me that day. I believe whole heartedly that I was needed at home this past fall. October 6th was the very last day I hunted this year. I sure do enjoy every moment I spend in the great outdoors, pursuing whitetails. But there are a few things that mean more to me; my personal relationship with Christ and my family. I would not trade my daughter for the best hunt in the world. These moments are precious as I watch her grow. I want to be the father that models a life of love for God and for her, and this fall was the beginning of that!