From DDH: This is the second of four parts to Ohio bowhunter Luke Fabian’s pursuit of a buck he named Hightower. Follow along with his story and photos this week.
Read Part One: The Bowhunting Journey Begins
Months would pass before I’d see Hightower again. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about how I could arrow him.
Spring came and as a hunting group, myself, my father, my uncle and our friend from West Virginia decided to plant field corn in 12 acres just a few hundred yards from Hightower’s bedding area. We’d talked for several years about this idea, but with Hightower and several other up-and-coming bucks surviving the 2015 season we thought this was the perfect time to give it a shot.
Spring turned to summer and with seed in the ground we began to watch for new antler growth. I believe I have a trail cam picture of Hightower as early as May. But I couldn’t say for certain it was him until seeing the pictures I captured in late July. He was still alive and his antlers were growing quickly. I continued to check cameras every few weeks to find he had started back on his old routine.
WATCH: How to Create Mock Scrapes Deer Will Use Year-Round
Things were looking up as the 2016 archery season closed in. As I counted the days he continued to put on more bone. By mid to late August he had pretty much put on as much as he was going to for the year. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Hightower had grown at least 30 inches from last season. He grew giant brows with a split on the right, his tines had put on several inches each and his G5 on his right had grown beyond an inch. But the left had disappeared, and he sprouted a sticker off his left base that was easily more than an inch.
He was a sight to see. Just a freak of nature that was now without a doubt beyond my minimal requirements for a shooter buck. He was a stud.
September rolled around and the bucks started to shed their velvet uncovering their hard horns underneath. I believe Hightower lost his sometime Sept. 6-7 since he showed himself on Sept. 8 completely hard-antlered. Just three days earlier I have a picture of him on the same camera still in full velvet, if that tells you anything about how consistent his routine was.
Antlers weren’t the only things that had been growing either. By this time our corn had grown to heights of 10-12 feet with cobs on every stalk. In addition, in August we had planted three Big Tine food plots tucked into several corners of the corn. It was a recipe for success.
The season came in Sept. 24. My plan started off simple. Set up in the same stand I seen him from last winter. This was the main trail where he traveled to and from his bedding area into the now, lush field of corn, and food plots. It seemed bulletproof as long as I waited for a favorable wind before climbing into the stand. However, one thing I did not account for was … acorns, and lots of them.
I could not believe the acorn crop our farm received in 2016. I had figured in June it would be down due to the 17-year cicadas. They had killed a lot of smaller branches on trees during the summer. So, my thought process was;, fewer branches, fewer acorns, easier way to pattern deer.
I was dead wrong.
Opening weekend I filmed for the same friend who filmed me last year (he killed a 152-inch buck) and didn’t hunt. A few days later, acorns began to fall on our farm. Both sides and the top of the ridge Hightower was living on was littered with acorns. It was like walking on marbles if you ventured anywhere into the timber. It was time to throw Plan A out the window.
Hightower’s consistency was gone. He now had no pattern. There was barely any change to his daily routine and he was happily munching on acorns in his core area for most of the daylight hours . Why go anywhere else? This is where Plan B would kick in. It would have to continue to be a group effort, and I would need to be an even more patient bow hunter.
I tried several times to push closer to Hightower’s bedding area without spooking him, but I didn’t want to push too hard. I came up empty handed after several tries. I needed to try a different approach. My mind went to trying to hunt one of the food plots we had planted within the standing corn, but I needed something to entice him besides food for he had what seemed like an endless supply of acorns.
While reading one of Gene Wensel’s articles I stumbled upon a new style of mock scrape lures. The brand Gene used in his experiment titled, “Wicked Wicks” was Smokey’s Deer Lures. Smokey, a good ole boy from West Virginia, made his own lures. He bottled them in glass, not plastic, used oil based lures, non-synthetic, and extracted specific glands. He had the pre-orbital gland of a buck, the tarsal glands, and the inter-digital glands. Also, a doe-in-heat lure for mock scrapes.
After talking with Smokey about my situation and finding out more about his lures I decided to give them a try. On Oct. 13, I placed the pre-orbital gland lure on an already existing licking branch, and dispensed the inter-digital gland lure within the existing scrape. The scrape sat on the top side of a half-acre food plot on the opposing side of the field from Hightower’s bedding area. I set a Cuddeback camera overlooking the scrape and food plot, and left the area alone for a week. I returned a week later to find all sorts of spoils on the camera.
The following evening after dispersing the scent, Hightower had come to mark his territory. Only an hour later another new shooter buck appeared at the scrape making his mark as well. He was probably 150″ 11 with a split brow on the same side as Hightower.
The following day, with the assistance of my father, we set a stand overlooking the food plot along with a ground blind which we tucked into an old barn. The barn was now merely two sides and a few support beams running across the top. The rest had broken down with time, but it still left a perfect place for a blind and the deer would have no clue it was there.
We sawed a few boards to make a shooting window, and taped up the other blind windows with black duct tape to seal in as much scent as possible. We figured this way I could still hunt the plot with the marginal wind. If the wind was in my favor I’d hop in the stand, but if it was a cross wind that blew up the bank I could slip into the blind and go undetected.
I hunted the plot stand several evenings during late October and the first few days of November with no luck. On Oct. 22 my father killed the other buck from Hightower’s 2015 bachelor group. We nicknamed it Drop. He sprouted a 3-inch drop tine in 2016 as a 5.5-year-old, adding to his 140-inch 8-point frame. The next week I saw Hightower once from the stand, but he was on a doe busting out of the corn a good 300 yards away.
And that was it, because it wouldn’t be until Ohio’s rut wheen things would really start to pick up with Hightower.