Just after dark last Wednesday night, a text message on my phone read: "I hit this buck tonight!" Attached was this photo from Scott Stevens' Reconyx scouting camera.
I was so stunned by the size of the 8-point frame that I didn't notice the time and date on the photo-it was taken only 1.5 hours prior. The phone vibrated again. No words... just another photo from the 1-second trigger delay on the Reconyx, then a third photo with the buck running away. What had spooked the buck?, I wondered. Then the phone rang. It was Scott.
"You won't believe this", he said. "I heard a big buck had been seen crossing the road. I went in with my new Z7 [Mathews bow], Lone Wolf [treestand] and my trail cam, and found a nice looking area nearby that was so thick I thought he could be bedded in there. I was walking down the bridle path looking for rubs and major trails, and right there in the middle of the path was a massive track. It had to be him, I thought, so I put the Reconyx on a tree right there and set up 30 yards from it. I had used the ScentCone WindMap on ScoutLook before I went out, and knew the wind would shift in my favor before the witching hour. I sat for several hours and didn't see a thing. But as it got towards dusk, I looked up and there he was, coming right down the path. He passed by the camera, and then into the opening. I ranged him at 30 yards with the Nikon Archer's Choice you gave me, but it was a bad angle. He kept picking up his nose, and I thought he had my scent from when I came down the path-but then he came right in."
"Did you find him?" I asked. "No, it was a steep angle close shot, quartering away", he said. "I don't think the arrow passed through; maybe it hit his brisket on the way out, or opposite leg. I put it right behind the shoulder, and did not hit his spine or back-strap. I found a lot of blood at the hit site, but after 20 yards it got very thin, and I was losing daylight so I pulled out."
I lost a beautiful buck a few seasons ago with the same shot. The arrow hit the brisket and there was no exit wound, so there was no blood. I surmised with Scott that this was likely the case, but that the buck was probably dead within a few hundred yards of the stand.
"What broadhead did you use", I asked. "Rage 2 blade," he said. "I think that may be why there was a lot of blood upon impact-it cut a big hole going in and it sprayed out of the entry hole when he turned and ran-but then most of it just stayed inside without an exit wound."
Scott and his friends combed the area the next morning for 3 or 4 hours. Nothing. They moved in concentric circles through the thickets where the buck had disappeared. No Blood. Scott had to leave for a funeral and called me, crestfallen; to tell me it was looking bleak. "Keep the faith", I said. "He has to be there." He agreed.
By 2 p.m., my afternoon business conference call had reached a pinnacle of boredom. My cell phone rang. Scott was on the caller ID, but I couldn't answer. It rang again, and I knew why. I hit ignore. It rang again, and then went to voicemail. Then an e-mail came in. No words ... just one photo that said it all.
I checked my voice message from Scott as soon as I hung up from the conference call. He had called me the moment he found the buck.
I marveled at his level of excitement as I listened to the message, astonished that someone who had won three Stanley Cups and lived through 2 decades in the limelight could have such passion for this moment. I called him immediately and said, "Scott, I just listened to your voicemail, and think maybe you are more excited than when you won the Cup."
"Yes," he said. "This is unbelievable!" Scott had come back after his funeral, and crawling through the greenbrier with his friend, Allen, found a massive track in the dirt. He went the direction it pointed and crawled headlong into his buck.
Just as we guessed (just like the buck I had lost a few years back), because of the steep angle at which he had hit the buck, the Rage broadhead broke three ribs going in, took out a lung, passed through the heart, and was stopped by the mass of bone and thick tissue in the brisket. I never found my buck because the fixed-blade head I used cut a smaller hole than Scotty's Rage, and not a drop came out. Then, despite knowing I had delivered a solid chest wound, I let my search area get too far and too wide, rather than combing every square inch of the ground within 200 yards of my tree like Scotty did.
Perhaps shaped by his past wars on the ice, Scott has consistently chosen to find his success in the whitetail woods through hard-fought battles. He refuses offers every year to travel to legendary whitetail states-though he can afford it-instead choosing to hunt in his home state of New Jersey. He disdains fenced hunts like the plague, because he loves the aspects of the wild whitetail game and managing a wild herd. He spends much of his spare time scouting with his cameras, and in the woods taking all the right steps to build a successful season. He does the little stuff, the hard way. He is the ultimate do-it-yourself, do-it-the-right-way hunter. He harvests all the does he can to help balance the herd. He is patient beyond belief, constantly waiting for the right wind, the right weather, and the right shot. If none of those materialize, then he still goes home with utter satisfaction from having been out in the woods, each time learning new lessons that take him to moments like this.
This time, Scott learned a very important lesson: One single hoof print-not a scrape, rub line, or beaten down trail-can be the last piece of the jigsaw needed to complete the picture.
"I plan for the outdoors with the same intensity I used on the ice. Weather is key to my success in the field. ScoutLook is custom made for outdoorsmen and helps me plan for peak performance."View Full Bio