February 01, 2016On Sept. 30 I had a trail cam photo of a buck I had only seen once before the year prior from the road. It was on a property near my home, which I did not have permission to hunt until September of 2015. At the end of summer the land owner approached me asking if I'd like to hunt back on his land. I expected some sort of lease option but it was not presented that way at all. I was given permission for myself, my wife, a good friend, and my dad. Being close to home I knew enough to setup a camera. When I got the first picture of this buck, nicknamed, 'Dozer.' I knew he was a shooter but the true magnitude of this buck was not shown in a side view photo.
I hunted him three times in October, two times he came in but it was close to dark. Dozer's core area was two trees with weeds around them in the center of cornfield. One of the two trees was an oak tree but it did not yield acorns this year otherwise I would have set it up with a stand for an evening hunt. Learning that he was bedding there I decided to hunt one hedgerow away rather than trying to enter the bedding area potentially spooking him. Both encounters in October were short and bitter sweet. He walked through the corn making all kinds of noise, hence his name Dozer. Both times he came in right about dark and walked the corn to where the headlands meet the main rows. I could not get a shot.
On Nov. 2 after adjusting to his evening pattern, I got out of work at 4:30 and quickly set up a stand in a new location trying to better pin point his exit from the standing corn. I used a walking trail to access the spot which was a hedgerow that connected to the trees bordering the walking trail, splitting the cornfield in half. I set up on the downwind side of the intersection, and stayed about eight yards off of the field edge as not to be silhouetted against an open sky. Once setup I heard something coming down the walking trail, it was just the land owner was out for a walk and walked within 20 yards of my tree. I felt I was defeated but decided to stay put as my target buck didn't usually move until close to dark.
Gary Gillett's giant buck green scored 174 2/8" and was aged at 4.5 years old.
Not long after the land owner disappeared out of sight I heard a deer. It was a small doe on her nightly feeding route. I passed her and she went about her business moving out of sight. About 15 minutes later I heard a heavy hoofed deer approaching on the other side of the hedgerow that split the cornfield. I got one glimpse of the buck and knew it was Dozer. He was walking the hedgerow and had passed me heading down the opposite side. I quickly grabbed my trusty Rod Benson grunt call and made two quick grunts and heard him stop walking. After a few seconds of silence he let out a soft grunt. I replied, and I heard him thrashing in the hedgerow. It was really thick between us, I didn't even realize I had already turned him around.
I turned my head away from him and let out a loud vocal bleat. He let out a loud grunt and busted through the hedgerow so I repeated with a second bleat. Dozer was at 20 yards quartering hard towards me, by this time I had my bow in hand. He let out two of the loudest grunts I've ever heard, they were growls actually, so loud I could hear them echoing through the woods behind me. One softer vocal bleat and he was broadside at 14 yards. I drew and settled in just behind his shoulder and released. I watched my nock disappear behind his shoulder and he bolted into the corn running between two rows. I then heard him crossing rows and at that point he either had crashed or got to the edge of the hedgerow and continued running where I wouldn't have heard him.
I sat there replaying everything staring at my nock glowing on the ground and after about 20 minutes I climbed down and retrieved my arrow. The arrow looked good and didn't have a foul smell so I marked the spot and backed out quietly. When I got home I told my wife (who had just returned from hunting a different spot), called my dad, and my best friends Wade and Nathan. We met at my house, gathered up lights, lanterns, and camera equipment. When we got back to the location where I shot, we didn't see much blood where I hit him and there was a 20 yard clearing in the corner of the field where the corn didn't grow. I counted the rows when I watched him disappear down the row so we walked over to that spot and there was a blood trail of all blood trails covering two rows of corn in both directions. We went about 50 yards until it was obvious that he cut across the rows toward the hedgerow.
He didn't make it that far. The noise I heard was indeed Dozer crashing headlong into the corn. It had been nine years to the day since I arrowed a targeted buck. I have seen reduced deer numbers in my hunting spots in the last 15 years and it has been a mental struggle to pass bucks when I actually see them. I do not have great leased property to hunt with lush food plots and preferred bedding areas. I hunt private land with permission and the areas I can hunt are pressured by a high hunter density, but I prefer to hunt deer on their terms, not in habitat man made for deer. When I walked up to Dozer I cannot describe the wave of emotion that hit me. It was a plan that came together on a true Michigan giant in a pressured area.
The best part of all was seeing my wife, dad, and two best friends walking up to Dozer. I smile as I write this because for me, that is what hunting is all about. For my family and friends, deer hunting is something much bigger than a pastime, it is a 365 day journey that begins on January 2 and ends January 1.
We paid our respects to Dozer, got him back to the clearing where I shot him, cleaned him up and took some photos. By this time I had my Mom, uncles, and father-in-law at my house as there was some text messages sent once we found Dozer at the end of the blood trail. I could not be more thankful for the opportunity to share the experience with my close friends, and family. Dozer Green Scored 174 2/8" and was aged at 4.5 years old.
Gary Gillett is part of Blackops Outdoors, a small company/organization that is all about hunting deer on their terms, hunting deer in pressured areas, and going to extreme measures year round to match wits with mature bucks. He also manufactures a deer mineral called "Rack On," sold in southern Michigan. For more info
www.blackopsoutdoors.com/#! or his Facebook page.