John's Journal...


The One That Got Away with Ray Eye

Click to enlarge Editor’s Note: Ray Eye has hunted deer for more than 30 years and has been a member of Hunter's Specialties Pro Staff since 1985. This week Eye will tell us about weird places where he's found big bucks. To take a trophy buck, you need to locate a big buck in a region where nobody else is looking for him. Many times these little overlooked spots can and will produce that dream buck you've searched for your life. After reading about where Eye has discovered big bucks, start searching for overlooked honey holes this season to take the buck of your dreams.

This buck is one I hope to take this season. I found him last season on a piece of property that contains about 3000 acres. Most of the sportsmen who hunt this land hunt from really nice tower stands, and very few of these hunters bow hunt. There have been some really nice bucks taken from this property because it has quite a bit of agriculture on it. It's an ideal place to grow big bucks in central Missouri. But one piece of their property, approximately 50 acres that contains a couple of little buildings and a pasture, is right next to a state road and a major highway. This 50 acres also homes a creek bottom with a soybean field and a cornfield across from it. The space from the open pasture to the agricultural fields is only about 75-yards wide, and this creek runs through that timbered corridor. To the north is someone else's property that contains big timber. The little corridor is only about 100 yards from the road, and several houses are close to the road. If you're sitting in a stand in this corridor, you can hear people talking at the houses, radios playing and watch traffic move up and down the road. Because this location is so highly exposed and small, the members of the hunting lease never hunt this region.

One day I asked if I could hunt this property, and the land owner said, "Sure. But, you're not going to see any deer because no one ever hunts that property." When I scouted the area, I found some good deer signs - trails, scrapes and rubs - so I hung three tree stands. In late October, I saw a really big buck going through the corridor, but all I could see was his rack. I never was able to take the buck during bow season, although I'd seen several other nice bucks. So, three days before Missouri's gun season, I took a ground blind down to a spot where I thought the big buck was traveling and set up the ground blind. I used the Hunter's Specialties pop-up ground blind.

Click to enlargeThe day I put up the blind, I decided to take my bow with me, put out a decoy and just see what happened. I had to hide the blind so that none of the people in the houses or on the road could see exactly where I was hunting. I could hear dogs barking, people talking and traffic moving on the highway, and I told myself, "This is probably a dumb idea and a bad place to hunt. However, no one else is hunting here. A good buck can move through this corridor without being seen, and he would have easy access to this bean field and corn field without being harassed by hunters."

On the property behind where I set up the blind was also a large field of Mossy Oak BioLogic. I had my bow with me, and I also had my video camera. So, I started taping some of the does and small bucks that using this little corridor. I photographed how they were reacting to my decoy. I had my camera sitting on a tripod inside the blind. When I finished photographing a doe late in the evening, I turned the camera off and started using my binoculars to look for other deer. After I had glassed for about a minute, I started to take the binoculars down from my eyes, and as I looked out the window of the blind to my right, I saw a huge rack not 4 feet from my blind.

I'd walked in along the edge of the creek to leave as little scent as possible. I'd also sprayed down with Scent A-Way, and I'd set my blind up only a few feet from the edge of the creek. The last place I ever expected to see a deer was coming from behind me where I had walked in and set up the blind, which was the direction from which the buck had come. When I spotted that rack, I reached for my bow. I knew I could easily get off a shot and take this monster buck. But, because I was watching the buck and not looking at my bow, as I picked up the bow, it hit the tripod where my camera was sitting. That small noise spooked the buck, and he jumped and ran out into the field, out of bow range, but well within camera range.

I powered up the camera. The buck was about 40-yards away from the blind when the camera powered up, and although I couldn't get a shot at him with my bow, I was able to video him with my camera. Using my Tru Talker, I'd grunt to the buck every time he'd turn to walk away. He'd turn back to look at me, stomp his feet, bristle-up and lay his ears back as though he were going to come in to where I was. Although he couldn't see me in that blind, neither could he see the deer that he thought was grunting to him. Finally he seemed to just melt into the woods about 60 yards from me.

Click to enlargeI hunted him four more days and didn't see him. Then I hunted him during the entire Missouri gun season. I finally moved a portable tree stand into the area where I'd last seen the buck. I passed up a buck that would score 130 points on Boone and Crockett and a second buck that would have scored 140 points, hoping to take this huge Missouri monster. Finally one morning during gun season, I spotted a nervous doe walking the edge of the field behind me. I looked behind her and spotted this tremendous-sized buck following her. I slowly moved my gun around to get it into a position where I could take the shot. However, just before the buck reached a spot where I could take the shot, he crossed the creek and got into some thick cover. Although I didn't put a tape measure on this buck's rack, I was confident he would measure somewhere between 185 and 195 points B&C - one of the biggest bucks I'd ever seen in my life. This buck had to weigh well over 200 pounds.

If I'm persistent in hunting that buck again this year, and if nobody finds out that this buck is in this really-open public area, I should be able to take him this season. I already have three portable tree stands hidden in trees that I can find, but no one else will probably see. I've already scouted this region this year and have found plenty of deer sign. This area is a small bottleneck between thick-cover places, croplands, BioLogic fields, a state road and three houses. This section of land has so much civilization around it that no one has ever hunted it because most people believe that deer won't ever move through a spot this close to civilization. But that's the very reason that the big buck lives there. I've also seen several other good bucks in there. When you're looking for a place to take a big buck, search for the areas where no one in his right mind will hunt, which is usually where you'll locate him.

Big bucks have learned to live extremely close to people, and I believe they can tell the difference between people and hunters. Oftentimes, some of the most-public areas, next to roads, highways, houses, buildings and even camp houses are where you'll encounter the bigger bucks. Remember that a trophy buck has to live where no one wants to hunt if he's going to survive. And, if you'll hunt in those places where no one wants to hunt, you'll see and oftentimes take the bucks that no other hunter even knows exist.

Click to enlargeI've had some of the hunters who hunt this property ask me, "Why are you hunting down there in that little neck?" I'll answer, "Well, I've seen a few deer there." These hunters generally laugh and tell me, "Yeah, but there aren't any big bucks." I'll just smile and say, "Well, maybe one day y'all will spook one that will run by me." Last year I went up to one of the property owners' houses in this area to admire a couple of bucks he'd taken. I was thinking, "Neither of those bucks is half as big as the two bucks I've already passed on right here at this fellow's house, but he's 15 miles to hunt."

I spotted this big buck three times last season, and the last time I saw him was right at the end of January. So, I know the buck survived hunting season. This year I'll be in that little bottleneck again, and hopefully this year I'll be able to take that monster buck. Little places like the one I've described often hold really-big bucks like the one I'm trying to take this season.


Check back each day this week for more about WEIRD PLACES I'VE FOUND BIG BUCKS WITH RAY EYE...

Day 1 - The Camp House Buck
Day 2 - More Weird Places to Find Big Bucks with Ray Eye
Day 3 - The One That Got Away with Ray Eye
Day 4 - The Backward Buck with Ray Eye
Day 5 - Trolling for Bucks with Ray Eye


Entry 269, Day 3