2018 Ohio 8 Point – “Offhand” Opportunity

 
 

2018 Ohio 8 Point – “Offhand” Opportunity

by Eric Hall
 
13 minutes! 10 paces!  That quickly and at that distance, my 2018 Ohio buck tag was filled while sitting on the ground.  It is an off the wall story with an offhand ending.  I am proud to wrap my tag around this Ohio whitetail buck.
 
The afternoon of November 27, 2018, I was laying in bed with a bad back and a cold coming on like a freight train.  I hunted the morning in 20-degree temperatures with snow and ice and saw only one deer.  I came home, skipped lunch and went to sleep in an attempt to get myself right for the afternoon hunt.  I will be honest, when the alarm went off at 2PM, I hit snooze and contemplated staying home.  It was the second day of Ohio’s firearms season and most people were not hunting in my area.  I heard a total of two shots all morning from my ground blind – not encouraging at all.
 
I forced myself out of bed at 2:15 PM and checked the wind direction on my Hunt Stand App.  The one property was pushed out in the morning and I doubted the deer had time to filter back in.  I was at a loss trying to determine where I would hunt.  The wind was wrong for all my stands on the Covert property.  Looking at the terrain, I decided my best course of action would be to sit on the ground on the edge of the ridge.  The wind would be sucked down into the valley away from where I felt the deer would be bedded.  The cold temperatures and 15 MPH winds would have the deer low in topography to keep warm during the afternoon but the winter wheat and cut corn fields adjacent to my property would be a draw as evening drew near.  It was cold and the deer needed both food and cover.  My plan was to sit between them as close to bedding as possible.
3:35 PM my Instagram and Twitter pic of the valley

I chose to sit behind one of my stands just off a small bench in the ridge.  I picked out an oak tree with grapevines beside me to my left and a small oak still holding leaves in front of me.  The timber is quite open in this section of woods and I knew that I needed to sit with good cover.  This tree provided front, left, and back cover so I sat down.

I removed my jacket and vest and added insulated bibs and another jacket.  I typically will dress light on the way in to avoid as much perspiration as possible in an attempt to stay dry and warm.  It is a strategy that has worked well for me in the past.

Putting on my vest, face mask, hat, and binoculars, I settled into my spot for the afternoon.  I checked the wind and it was perfect.  I was giving up the area below me and to my left because of my scent stream. The wind was being pulled down the hill to the left into the valley below me.  This was my plan all along and I was thrilled as I watched my wind floater drift predictably down into the valley.  I grabbed a quick drink of water and sent a picture out to Instagram and Twitter of the valley landscape.  It was 3:35 PM and the hunt was on.

Using my eyes, I slowly scanned the vertical timber searching for horizontal movement.  I attempted to remain very still not wanting to alert deer that I was in the area.  Five minutes passed and I heard a snap off to my right.  I glanced over in that area but the brush was too thick to see through.  I kept my gaze in that direction and listened.  Three more minutes passed and another snap of a stick.  This time the sound was closer to me.  Slowly, I shifted my head and shoulders to my right.  Through the brush, I caught the outline of a deer moving up the tip of the ridge 30 yards away.

3:48 PM “Buck Down”

Suddenly, there was a lot of noise from behind that brush.  My heart sunk as I thought the deer picked me off and bolted down the ridge and out of my life.  I was not sure if it was a buck or a doe but was
disheartened to think I had spooked a deer this early into my hunt.  I froze in my position and stared in that direction looking for any sign of movement.  A little voice in my head told me to just sit still; I hadn’t seen the deer run off or the telling white tail flagging.  I had not heard it blow and come to think of it, the noise never really got farther away.  I tightened my grip on my Winchester 1300 and waited.

Another snap of a stick and movement confirmed my suspicion.  This time the movement was antlers and the deer was on the bench moving in directly behind me right to left.   The oak tree I picked sat directly on the bench and the buck was making his way down the bench.  He was coming straight for me but from the worst possible direction.

The buck closed to 15 yards in seconds.  I couldn’t turn to shoot him because he would see my movement for sure.  I was too close and he was looking right at my location.  He had me cornered and didn’t even know it.  I was seconds away from checkmate but I still had one trick up my sleeve.  That little voice in my head spoke up again and said: “Shoot the deer left-handed!”

My son James helped recover

I practice shooting left-handed with my crossbow every year and I am proficient to 50 yards.  I added this to my practice routine three or four years ago.  A good number of my treestands can offer a shot to my immediate right and the ability to shoot without moving my entire body seemed like a good idea.  But this was a live deer and not a target,  and it was my 12 GA, not my crossbow!  Doubt crept in but quickly passed.

I pushed the negative thoughts from my head and breathed.  Thinking back, I am surprised at how calm I was.  Everything seemed like it was in slow motion once I made the decision.  The stock of my shotgun smoothly found my left shoulder and my hands changed position on the firearm.  My left hand dropped to the receiver and my right hand slid out to the forearm.  I dropped my cheek to the stock and acquired the deer in my sight.  It was then that I realized I had forgotten one key element.  My crossbow has an ambidextrous safety, but my shotgun does not.  It is a right-hand safety and now my hands were out of position.  I curled my left hand under the trigger group and used my ring finger to locate the safety and turn it off.  I  kept my cheek on the comb of the stock and my left eye looking through my Tasco Propoint sight targeting the buck.

He had stopped 10 yards away and was looking right at me.  Obviously, he saw the movement but the cover in my setup made it hard for him to pick me out.  I dropped my index finger to the trigger group.  It was odd to locate the shotgun’s trigger with my left hand.  Tracing the trigger guard I located the trigger and settled in.   Holding the red dot behind the front shoulder I fired!

The report of the Winchester echoed through the valley.  I watched through the red dot as the deer dropped in its tracks.  I stood up quickly and chambered another slug, but the deer was down.  I stood up looking at the deer for a minute to confirm it was down for good.  I then realized I was still holding the shotgun left-handed.  Shaking my head I said out loud, “Did that just happen?”  I put the safety on and put my arm through the sling of the weapon.  I pulled out my phone and texted my friends, “Buck Down!”  I looked at the time and my phone read 3:48 PM.   Thirteen minutes after sending a picture on social media, I had filled my tag.

Long drag out even with a cart

My phone rang immediately.  It was Mike Figley calling.  Mike was the first story on the Whitetail OCD blog “Never Say Never When Mother Nature Offers Up A Gift“!   Mike’s first words to me were “That didn’t take long”, followed by both of us laughing at the absurdity in the timing of what had transpired.  He didn’t even know that I took an offhand shot yet!

I am very proud to harvest this buck.  A lot of things came together from past experience that helped me fill my 2018 Ohio tag along with new intel that will be beneficial in the future.  I had been picked off in the stand 20 yards away two times over the past three years because the deer walk the point of the ridge and then take the small bench that angles behind my stand.  I now know that I need to relocate that stand to take advantage of the point of the ridge and the bench.  This buck taught me a lesson that will pay dividends in the future.

Things happen quickly in the deer woods and adversity is a part of the hunt.  Looking back, I can say my decision years ago to practice offhand shooting was a key to the harvest this year.  I chose a good location and knew the deer travel behaviors.  I sat in good cover and played the known wind for the location.  All of that would be lost if I had not been able to execute a left-hand shot at the moment of truth.  My left arm and shoulder still haven’t forgiven me (note to self a 12 GA kicks more than a crossbow), but with my 2018 Ohio tag punched I think I can live with it.

Good luck everyone!

 

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Author: Eric Hall

Afflicted with Whitetail OCD, I have been addicted to the Whitetail Deer since the late 1980s. It is an all-consuming and never-ending passion to learn about and ultimately preserve the heritage of whitetail deer hunting. Now I feed that addiction with the Whitetail OCD blog.

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