By Jeff Grinstead
Pro Staffer Jeff Grinstead takes down The Big 6
17 years ago may seem like forever to some but I can remember one day in November of 1997 like it happened fifteen minutes ago.
I took a week off in November to try and take advantage of the whitetail rut here in Southeast Ohio. It was Wednesday morning. I had made plans to hunt with good friend Lee Raines that afternoon on a huge farm down in Meigs County so I was looking more forward to that than I was my morning hunt.
I left the house about forty-five minutes before daylight. I was hunting close by so my walk was only about 15 minutes. Those were the days when u grabbed a shower, bow, release and grunt call and away you went. It was a cool morning, around 40 degrees, wind out of the northwest. It was foggy with a pretty good chance of rain.
My stand was located in a very small piece of woods between a field and a section of pine trees that the land owner had planted about five years ago. To the east was a field full of weeds and brush that hadn’t been touched for years and to the west was a small piece of timber with thick under growth.
As the sun started to come up I could see that it was overcast and decided then that I was gonna get soaked at some point this morning. Of course back then I couldn’t pull my iphone out and check the weather. I had to rely on NBC’s Tony Cavalier the night before on the 11 o’clock news. So far it was a perfect morning with a good wind.
I sat there mostly thinking about my afternoon hunt with Lee. Where were we going to hunt at? What time should we get in the stand by? These were just a few things running through my mind when I caught a doe running across the top of the brushy field with a big bodied deer in tow. It was just foggy enough still that I couldn’t make out from this distance whether it had a rack or not but I sure assumed it did. The action was taking place several yards away and the only thing I could think to do was to blow on my grunt call. It didn’t work the first time so I gave it one last loud hard blow and the buck stopped and looked my way. I had no idea what the doe had done, nor did I care. I had grabbed the attention of this huge buck, finding out later that it’s almost impossible to pull them off a hot doe but I had done it this time. Not sure what to do at this point but I still had the grunt call in my mouth so I elected to give it a couple soft grunts and that’s all it took!
I had grabbed the attention of the Alpha Male in the woods and he was not happy! He took off on a b line right for me. I was shaking and my heart was almost completely out of my chest as the buck was closing ground fast and I mean FAST! I fumbled around for a second as I attached the release to the string and lifted my bow up. I had practiced so much with this new bow and was very confident out to about 30 yards but this was not a target in the yard. The buck barreled down the hill straight at me and when he got to about forty yards he jumped a small fence and hung a right into the small pine trees. I couldn’t believe it. He was going to walk about 20-25 yards right in front of me! The trees were still young so shooting through them wouldn’t be a problem. I could remember thinking that the rack was huge but it looked like it only had six points. I didn’t care. I knew it was big and that I wanted to kill it! I drew my bow back and when I put the kisser button up to my mouth I had forgotten that I had a loose fitting mask on and I raked the feathers across it. The buck heard it and stopped and looked right at me! Telling you what my heart was doing at this point is a waste of time. I put my top pin on his pump house and let the arrow fly. The buck was on red alert and wheeled back to his left just as I fired and ran up over the hill in front of me. I knew I hit him but I can remember thinking as I leaned back against the tree, “oh my god, what just happened?”
I got down out of the tree and walked over to where I hit the buck. I found my arrow and it was covered in blood so I trailed the deer up the hill and into the brush for about 30 yards. It was starting to rain and I was ready to panic because I knew the blood trail was no more if a downpour was coming. I wasn’t sure what to do at this point so I decided to go back to the house and call good friend and hunting mentor Jimmy Kearns. Jimmy is the one who got me started bow hunting so I think he was as excited as I was. His advice to me was to go back and track the buck because it was raining and the forecast was getting worse for the next few hours. I did exactly what he said. I grabbed my bow and headed out into the rain on a mission. I was finding this buck no matter what!
When I got back to where I had blood last things took a turn for the worse. The rain had completely eliminated all signs of blood. The only thing I knew to do was head in the direction the deer was traveling. I covered about 200 yards without seeing or hearing anything. At this point complete disgust had sat in and I was getting sick to my stomach. I knew a fatal shot had been made but I didn’t think I was going to find him. Just as I was about to pull out I walked up to a small ravine and saw the bucks antlers walking out ahead of me about 15 yards. I looked down to grab an arrow and nock it and when I looked up the buck was gone, just that quick! I took off to the other side of the ravine and much to my dismay I saw nothing. I decided then to let him go and round up some guys to look for him later that night.
I went back to the house, called Jimmy and told him where I saw the buck last and what I wanted to do and he agreed. I called everyone I could think of to help look for my buck later that night. Lee and I went hunting that afternoon and all I could think about was finding my trophy! Everyone was meeting at my house at 7 and we we’re heading out to look for my buck.
Lee and I had no luck on our afternoon hunt but to be honest I was ok with that. My focus was on finding my buck so Lee and I discussed a plan to look for it. When we got back to the house my buddies were all in my house laying around watching tv like they owned the place. A few of them even made the comment that they weren’t going out into the rain to look for the buck. I started to get ticked when Jimmy spoke up and said I’ll go help you if you grab my big flashlight out of the bed of my truck. Honestly, I was thinking get your own flashlight but since he was the only one out of five or six guys that was willing to help me I would go get it. When I got out to his truck I was in shock! There laid the biggest six point buck I had ever seen! Jimmy had found my buck! I looked back toward the house and everyone was staring out the window and laughing hysterically. They had got me good!
As the story goes, Jimmy saw the buck lying dead in the woods on his way to basketball practice. I had told Jimmy where I saw the buck last. He scanned that area from the road and saw him. He got out of his truck and went up into the woods and sure enough it was him. He went to practice and got one of his players to help him and they got him out for me.
The Big 6 is the first mature whitetail trophy for me. He gross scored 130 and netted 126 pope and young. I will never forget this buck or the unique story that goes with him. He will always be my favorite!