Persistence Pays Off
By Bobby Edwards
I know a man that consistently scores on mature bucks every year. Although luck always figures in the mix, itÕs persistence, passion, respect, dedication, and details are what it really takes to score on mature whitetails year after year.
IÕve hunted long enough and been around many hunters that are really good at consistently taking nice bucks on a regular basis. Tim Campbell: ÒMy brother from another Mother,Ó is one of those hunters. HeÕs a manÕs man that will literally work and hunt circles around you and yet, not make you feel like youÕre less of a worker or hunter. He will pick out details that the common hunter typically misses. Those details create opportunities when matching wits with mature whitetails.
His uber-success began when Tim began really focusing on managing the habitat and whitetails on his hunting lease. He and I would talk hours about managing for a quality deer herd. We volunteered together with our local branch of Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), weÕve studied, we went to the southeastern deer study annual meeting and have continued to do our own experimenting. We have been managing our deer herd intensely and the results are paying off.
Tim and I started getting more serious with trail cameras in 2004 to help our managing efforts. We both used to simply put out a camera or two just prior to hunting to hunting season to help us key in on deer. We then starting running the cameras year round and learning more about the quality, density and habits of the deer on our hunting grounds.
Tim now has three Pope & Young bucks certified with bow. He has more than a dozen over 130 class been that have never been officially scored harvested with the muzzleloader and gun. I had the great pleasure of being able to take part in the last three years of Tim targeting a specific buck and thought you might like to see our documentation and hunting process.
Back in 2009 Tim was monitoring a young buck with an impressive rack. Tim nicknamed him High & Tight (see picture). We were guessing his age at two-and-a-half years. Tim was convinced this buck had potential and needed time and nutrition. Tim passed on the buck three times during the 2009 fall archery season. The following winter after the season he looked for his sheds with no success. However he was able to keep tabs on him using scouting cameras. The buck dropped his rack early that spring and stayed in the area. Bucks three-and-a-half years old and younger have a tendency to relocate. However this buck had obviously already located to our area or did not have momma doe in the area anymore. This buck had determined that he had great food, security and water. so why leave?
When H &T started growing his 2010 rack we caught him occasionally on the scouting cameras. Tim watched the buck grow until September when he started shedding his velvet. We were guessing he was three-and-a-half years old and sported a P&Y rack in the high 130Õs. Tim decided it was time to hunt him. The last picture of him that he got was on the opposite side of the hunting property in early September. Tim didnÕt see hide or hair of him the first part of bow season. He would scout in the middle of the day and hunt most every day.
A few days later he knew the wind was right for a spot he thought the buck was using. Taking in his climber to the newest spot that morning, he had several deer coming his way that would pass by his stand. H & T was the lead buck following a doe.
Tim drew his Hoyt, stopped the buck, and shot. The shot looked true as the buck took off.
A short while later Tim climbed down and followed the blood trail, which led to an open field. At this point Tim wasnÕt feeling good about the shot and let me throw this in. Tim shot professional archery and ran his own bow shop and 3-D range and practices daily. HeÕs an awesome shot and not used to having a bad hit. Most serious hunters I know hate wounding an animal more than anything else.
Tim took to the field in search of the buck and jumped him in a little lone thicket in the middle of the field along with two other bucks. The bucks were all running strong but Tim got a good enough look before they hit the rise in the field to confirm it was he.
My buddy quickly ran to the rise to see where they would enter the woods and didnÕt get there in time. He walked all edges of the field and creek bottoms around it for the rest of the day trying to find sign of where they entered the woods. With no luck and not wanting to go deeper into the woods taking a chance of jumping him again and decided to let them lay for the night.
He proceeded to look for that buck the rest of hunting season with no sign of him. He couldnÕt even sit in a stand for an hour without thinking about it, and he would get down and go look some more. The scouting cameras were burning too but no pictures. Tim was absolutely sick thinking he had killed this animal and it had gone to waste.
Tim had moved all the cameras in January of 2011 to see what bucks had made it through hunting season. Several weeks later he checked the cameras and called me immediately and said, ÒHe is still alive and well.Ó(see Feb. 06 picture). He got his picture several more times, and he and I analyzed them for wound spots. We could see what appeared to be a wound on his side that was just a mere tuff of hair that was different. We also contemplated over and over where exactly where had he been hiding from the time he was shot until now.
As the bucks started growing their racks again in April, Tim had cameras out and watching for him. He showed up and Tim got regular pictures all summer, and then just like last year in early September he vanished after getting only one picture. Tim scouted regularly and was obsessed with getting H & T.
Again he hunted and scouted with caution most every day during early bow. The acorn crop was good on part of the hunting property. One evening during the first week Tim, Rhonda his wife and I were bow hunting and Rhonda called on the radio that she had shot at a buck. So Tim went over to look for him and I joined them after the sun fell.
We found her crossbow arrow and it had a smidgen of blood and one hair on it, and we trailed him by the tracks in the leaves for about 50 yards but no sign of a fatal hit. Ronda was looking through the scope on the Parker Cross bow and didnÕt realize that the arrow was going to hit the bottom window of the ground blind which drove her arrow very low. We went back again that Sunday and scoured the area but no sign of the buck. She had just grazed him. We have a rule when shooting bucks on our property. He has to be a trophy to you and you have to mount it. She said it was a nice buck but no one knew what buck it was.
Tim continued hunt for H&T hard that season. He found a spot while scouting that had just started dropping red oak acorns and was littered with rubs and deer sign. On October 17 Tim took in his climber to the new spot and picked the best tree that provided cover, an ideal wind and good shot opportunities.
That evening 17 deer came under the stand and through the oaks feeding on acorns. Seven of them were bucks. As they passed under the stand he could see the next to the last buck had a huge rack and he drew his Hoyt bow as they were moving quickly. He wasnÕt certain that it was H&T but he knew he was a P&Y buck easily.
He stopped the buck and shot.
The buck took off up the mountain and stopped and didnÕt move anymore. Tim climbed down expecting to make a short trip up there after seeing good blood. He walked up to about 30 yards from the buck and it was laying there next to a log. His father was hunting with him that evening and was coming up there to help.
Tim radioed to his Dad to stop by the stand and get his bow that he left lying under the tree. When Tim cut his light back on, H&T was gone. They picked the blood trail back up and it led to a pond but the deer didnÕt go around the pond and the water didnÕt appear to be disturbed.
His dad circled around the pond one direction and Tim went in the other. Finally Tim spotted a small brown spot in the pond where there were a lot of fallen trees. They got at a different angle to get a better look and thatÕs when my phone rang.
My wife answered and Tim Said ÒI got him and heÕs in the pond! WhereÕs Bobby?Ó
I flew a bit out of control through the house gathering up the kids , rope, wife, flashlights and life jackets. We were out of the house within a couple of minutes. By the time I get there none of that was needed, Mr. Campbell had already jumped in the water and pulled him out.
We had a great night reminiscing and more trucks and buddies showed up to share in the excitement with Tim and show respect for High & Tight. It turns out that the buck Rhonda grazed was H & T. Tim also found the scar when capping out H & T from the previous yearÕs shot.
Melvin Mitchell tanned the hide, mounted, aged and scored H&T (see picture of the previous year broad head shot). Melvin aged the buck at 3 ½ to 4 ½ by his teeth. His VA Score was 197 4/8Ó, Pope & Young Score non-typical was 161 6/8Ó and the P&Y score typical was 147 4/8Ó.
Persistence, passion, commitment, management and woodsmen ship can pay nice dividends. We stock plenty of venison in the form of canned, jerky, frozen, sausage, bologna and burger and consistently get wonderful art work from our taxidermist to hang on our walls.