Two times last fall, T. Logan Russell had his bow drawn on the same trophy 10-point buck, and both times he had to let it walk off into the fading light knowing his shooting opportunity was less than optimal.
It led to a realization of a shortcoming, which led to a change in strategy, which led to an investment in new weaponry.
All of that paid off for Russell last Tuesday (Oct. 14) when he took the 160-inch Holmes County monster in the exact same low-light conditions with his new crossbow.
“This buck was smart and never came out until late and both times last year I had him within bow range, and we’re talking once at 42 yards and another closer, I could not see him with my pins,” said Russell, 53, of Jackson. “Honestly, I couldn’t put a pin on him and as much respect as we have for mature bucks, and how hard we work to produce them, I was not about to take a chance on a less than perfect shot.
“Both times I had to let off on the bow and let him walk off into darkness.”
That’s when the hunter made a decision.
“I was 52 then, and was going to be 53 the next year and my eyesight, which isn’t bad — I use readers but not prescription glasses — and wasn’t going to get any better, so I decided to buy a crossbow with a scope,” Russell said. “That was the whole key to my killing this buck.
“This time, when it walked out 25 yards from my stand, with my naked eye I couldn’t tell for sure what it was; I just knew it was a big buck, and one of the three I wanted to kill.”
It was only when he picked up the crossbow and got his eye in the scope that he knew.
“I could see him plain as day,” Russell said. “That’s the difference the scope made. I could see him. I could see the reticles. I could have seen his antlers had I looked at them.
“I could see what I needed to see to know I could make a good shot.”
Which, he did, putting a bolt through a lung and the heart of the 250-pound buck.
Russell was hunting in a lock-on ladder stand, on a tree in what he called a perfect situation for that Tuesday afternoon.
“I was 20-feet up in a tree, about 10 yards off the food plot,” he said. “The food plot is 10 yards wide and 50 yards long, and I was about halfway up it on the east side. The wind was out of the west so it was perfect.
“The food plot was between me and cutover (bedding area), which is about a 10- to 15-year hardwood regeneration, and to the north was a hardwood bottom and a creek. I had a perfect view of anything coming out of the cutover to the food plot.”
Several deer had arrived early, he said, and there were three bucks and several does and yearlings in the field. Right before dark, they all looked back toward the cutover, looking right at a cedar tree on the edge of the tree line. Russell knew a buck was approaching.
“When they all looked back, I knew what that meant so I looked over at the cedar tree, which is where they usually enter,” he said. “There are three bucks using that area that I would shoot, the big 10, a smaller 10 and a big 8, all three mature deer that would go at least 140 inches.
“When he appeared, I wasn’t sure which he was. Then he walked out and I could tell he was one of the 10s so I knew it was one of the shooters. I never really looked at the antlers again. I put the scope on his vitals, and followed him as he was walking. At 25 yards, I whistled at him but he didn’t stop. So I whistled a second time and he stopped that time and I had a perfect shot. I hit the trigger.”
He felt good about the shot, and he got his confirmation about 20 minutes later when he located the bolt sticking up in the food plot, covered in blood.
“I knew I had gotten a good pass through,” he said, “but I still decided to wait and let him have time. I didn’t have my (ATV) or any help so I went back to camp.”
Russell called some friends, but got no response — “they’re single bachelors and had something better to do, I guess.”
So, alone, he returned to search for the buck. There was no blood where the buck had been hit, but there was a gracious plenty on the trail at the edge of the food plot. A 50-yard walk on the blood trail took Russell to where the buck had died.
“Honestly, even though I had a clear look at the buck, I still wasn’t sure if it was the big 10 or the small 10 until I put my hands on him,” he said. “It was the big 10.”
Entered into the Big Buck Bounty, the antlers grossed 160 3/8 inches. The main beams were 23 1/8 and 22 5/8 inches long and had an inside spread of 17 5/8 inches. The G3s were both over 11 inches. Both bases measured 5½ inches and of the eight allowed mass measurements only one was under 4 inches.
“He’s a great buck, we all know that, but he’s also an example that there’s a whole ’nother level of great for a deer to make it to (Boone & Crockett) level,” Russell said. “If he had developed fuller G2s, and longer brows, then he would have been in that class.
“But looking at what he was last year and what he is this year, I don’t think another year would have made any difference. If anything, he’d have been smaller. He did not add any mass or length from last year. He was mature and it was time.”
Russell said he learned an important lesson, too.
“It quickly came to my attention that caping, gutting, skinning and hauling a 250-pound animal is not a solo job for a 50-something guy,” he said laughing. “I won’t do that again, I promise. I will find somebody, anybody, I can pay if I have to. That was tough.”
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Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.