• TOO July Buck of the Month: Scott Schuster's Late Season Bruiser

    It's time to celebrate another memorable hunt and extraordinary buck harvested by TOO member Scott Schuster. Scott’s unique buck is the largest of his career and a buck we’d all love to have hanging in our Man Room! Congrats to Scott on the harvest of a fantastic whitetail! His story is one of dedication and perseverance, much like all late season success stories. A big “thanks” to Scott for helping us relive his hunt of a lifetime from the 2010-2011 Ohio deer season! Great work Scott!!!

    Intro

    The 2010-2011 deer season is one I will never forget. Through nearly 24 years of hunting I have had that thought many times, but this time was different. I had changed back to a vertical bow to challenge myself. Gone were the days of hunting the same familiar tracts year after year. They had been sold or developed and were now just memories. This year I would be hunting a few new properties and be testing myself on several public tracts. I thought being mobile would be a key element for success under these conditions. So, more than 90% of my sets were from a climber. By early December I had taken two mature does with my new archery equipment and had been drawn back on two nice bucks. All of these things made the season memorable, but the biggest factor was that I would soon encounter a deer that dwarfed every other deer I’d harvested. And this is our story...

    The Hunt

    By now, it was the third week of December. At this point I had two deer in the freezer and a buck tag burning a hole in my pocket. The rut had produced some of my most exciting hunts to date and although I had drawn back on two nice bucks, I had yet to get a shot off. The first gun season had come and gone, and was without question my worst gun season in over 15 years. Deer sightings were very hard to come by; this was a complete reversal of my bow season. Frustration was starting to set in. I had not harvested a buck since 2007 and the prospect of eating tag soup again was really starting to weigh on me. For the next several days I would play my options over and over in my head. It seemed like I would change my decision on a daily basis, if not more often. Then I found myself driving home from work on Friday December 17th… It was decision time. Where was I going to hunt for the bonus firearm season? Northeast Ohio was buried under nearly two feet of snow. Daytime temps were ranging from the low twenties to the mid thirties with plenty of wind for good measure. I could head back down to Belmont County where they only had a dusting of snow and it was a few degrees warmer. Although I’ve had a descent history in my home county of Belmont, I just couldn’t get over my horrible gun season and the thought of a two plus hour drive down and back. The 53 acre tract in Geauga County it would be.

    I called a buddy Friday night to see if he wanted to team up in the morning, but he decided to hunt another property about 1 mile away as the crow flies. So for the morning I’d be on my own. The tract I was hunting had a feeder that had been out since late October. I had put it there in hopes of keeping a few deer in the area for youth season. I had hunted over the feeder one time early in November and had five deer come in just before sundown. However, we had no luck at all during youth season, nor did I have any luck there the two days I hunted there during regular gun season. On my walk in that morning the fresh tracks were easily visible in the deep snow. I went to check the feeder on my way in and the ground was torn up! A quick shake of the feeder confirmed there was still corn inside. I was a little excited. I though this property was finally going to cut me a break.

    My first hunt of the weekend found me headed to a familiar tree about 40 yards from the feeder, where hooked up my Summit Openshot and started to climb. I was settled in well before legal shooting time. Now for the waiting game… The morning was crisp and quiet. All I needed was for a nice buck to show up for an early morning snack. Time started to pass by, as did my enthusiasm for this block of woods. The feeder went off around 7:45 and I just kept hoping something, anything would show up to help pass the time and renew my confidence. Nothing… Now I was starting to think I’d made another bad decision. There was very little shooting all morning. I was mentally beat up and starting to let the cold get to me. About 10:15 I decided I’d had enough. I shimmied down the tree packed my climber and left it at the base of the tree. There was no way I was going to be able to sit here again for my evening set. So I set off for the east side of the property in hope of finding a new spot. I found three fresh beds and quite a few sets of tracks including some that had coyote tracks amongst them. Although the area around the feeder had more tracks, the fresh beds had me hooked. This area would be my evening spot. I backed out and met my buddy Paul for lunch.

    After soup and a sandwich, we ran our clothes through the dryer, while sharing our morning’s experiences. His morning was as uneventful as mine. So, it didn’t take much convincing to have him join me on the property I was hunting, at least we’d have help if one of us got lucky.

    After lunch, Paul and I headed back for the evening hunt. He headed for the southwestern portion of the property and I headed east to the section I had scouted before lunch. As I crossed the property I tried to convince myself that I was making the right decision to set up away from the feeder. To be quite honest my expectations were very low. Once I arrived in the area I planned to hunt, I wandered around for a few minutes trying to identify which tree would give me the best shot opportunity. I picked a nice maple whose first branch was about 22 feet up. I though this would make a great gun rest if a shot was presented. Within a few minutes, I was about 18 feet up and getting myself settled. It was just a few minutes after 2 pm, a little later than I would have liked, but I would have to make the best of it. I decided to sit for a few minutes and let myself cool down before getting my facemask and heavier gloves on.

    After about 10 minutes I decide to go ahead and get my facemask on. As I turn in my stand to access my fanny pack, I catch movement. I can’t believe my eyes. There is a giant buck headed in my direction. He’s at a slow trot about 60 yards to my left moving parallel to my line of sight. I ease up and lay my gun across the maple branch. Through the scope I’m trying to find an opening to get off a shot. Like big bucks usually do, he picks a line that obstructs my view with beech scrub. There are saplings everywhere leaving me no clear shot. The buck turns slightly away from me and starts to ease up a gentle slope; still no shot. At this point my mind is racing. I don’t have a great shooting lane. This buck is going to slip over the ridge and never be seen again. What should I do? My grunt call is still in my pack, so I try to mouth grunt a few times. The buck has no reaction. It’s now or never. The buck continues toward the ridge. Still following the buck in my scope, I look for any possible opening. He’s almost to the crest of the hill. BOOOOM! I let one fly. The deer rises up on his hind legs and spins 180 degrees. He pauses for a moment and scans the area. Then suddenly takes off running directly towards me! Instinctually, I grab my scope and turn it from 9x to 3x and throw it back over the branch only to realize I don’t see the deer. Had I hit him? Did he go down? I pulled my face away from the scope to scan with a naked eye and quickly pick up a tail flinch. Looking back through the scope I have no shot. His body is completely obstructed by trees. I pull away from the scope again and scan the area for possible shooting lanes. There is only one and as fate would have it, within seconds he was heading right for it. I set my scope on the opening and as soon as the buck hit the opening I squeezed another off. BOOM! The buck disappeared momentarily in the creek bottom and then was up the opposite slope and was gone. I studied the hillside for a few moments and then had to sit down. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Then I get a text from Paul, “Is that you shooting?”. I call him back and tell him I just shot at a dandy of a buck. And of course he asked if I hit him. I told him I wasn’t sure. It all happened so fast and both shots were challenging. I told him to stay put in his climber until I knew if I hit him or not. I descended from the tree and walked to the area of the second shot. I immediately pick up his tracks through the snow and find a large tuft of hair across the top of the snow, but not one speck of blood. I continued down the track for another 15 yards hoping to start seeing some blood and suddenly I see the buck stand up from a small thicket not more than 40-50 yards up the hill. It happened so fast there was no opportunity to shoot. I called Paul and told him to head my direction we had a wounded buck to track...

    About 20 minutes later Paul shows up and I show him where my stand was located and where I found the hair. We decided that I would follow the tracks and I would have him flank my left side. We worked up to the location where the deer had bedded only to find one tiny speck of blood staining the snow. We resumed our formation and followed the tracks. At this point his tracks indicated he was moving at a good clip. As we continued tracking, I was concerned with the lack of blood, as well as pushing him into other hunters. After covering the first hundred yard or so, we regrouped and decided to keep trailing. We were both surprised he had not bedded again, but we were getting closer to some thickets that might give him that opportunity. As the approached those thickets I found blood on a sapling he must have rubbed against. I tried to hand signal to Paul regarding the blood and he was making hand motions to me as well. Clearly we had no idea what the other was trying to communicate. I made the decision to try and sneak into the thicket, not realizing that Paul had spotted the buck out in front of us. Paul was carrying an 870 with open sight and did not want to risk a shot at moving target at nearly 100 yards away. As I was making my way through the ticket Paul tried to close the distance between himself and the buck. He was certain that all the noise I was making would have him running for the hills in no time.

    As I clear the thicket, I immediately spot the buck out in front of me. He’s walking at a slow pace at a sharp quartering away angle through the open timber. With little hesitation I throw up my trusty Deerslayer, set the crosshairs, and squeeze. BOOM! The buck shutters and struggles to run. BOOM….BOOOOM! The buck collapsed to the ground. “He’s down” I yelled. Paul and I both run to the deer. As we meet at the deer he says: “Holy shit! You said he was a good buck, but I had not idea he was this big!”. We shared a big high five and then I dropped to the ground and gave thanks for the opportunity to harvest that magnificent buck.







    This was my best buck by far and it was made even more special by having a long time friend and hunting partner there to share this fabulous experience.

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. cotty16's Avatar
      cotty16 -
      I love reliving these stories. Schu, that is a stud! Congrats again.
    1. DJK Frank 16's Avatar
      DJK Frank 16 -
      Awesome buck!! One of my favorites of the year right there!
    1. 5Cent's Avatar
      5Cent -
      Congrats again Scott, he is an awesome deer! Great story and congrats on being the 1st to make the 1st of the month deadline