From DDH: This is the first 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.
“For some people, hunting deer is a hobby. For others, the activity is closer to a passion. When you do something all your life with intense eagerness, it becomes more than simply what you do. It becomes who you are.” – Gene Wensel
I follow the Wensel Brothers’ stories as closely as anyone. What Barry and Gene can do on paper is just as impressive as what they’ve accomplished as bow hunters in the Iowa deer woods. So most of the time when I begin to write an article I look to their work for inspiration. This piece was no different. Maybe it was the intense writer’s block I had trying to begin this chronicle, or maybe it was just that Gene hit the nail on the head with those words. Maybe it was both. Regardless, this quote from “A Buck Named Woody” was a perfect way to begin this story of my journey towards Hightower.
Hightower is the name I gave a buck I first laid eyes on back in August of 2015. The buck first appeared on one of our trail cameras overlooking a mineral lick on Aug. 26. He was still in his summer bachelor group with several other impressive bucks, all in full velvet. Boy was he impressive. Despite being the smallest of the three he stood out to me the most. The largest was a 4-year-old with a 20-plus-inch spread, the second-largest a 4-year-old with a thick frame but shorter points. Hightower hosted the smallest frame of the bunch, but I could tell he had the most potential to become something within the next year.
Hightower had tall tines for a 3-year-old, especially his G3’s, decent brow tines, and was almost a 12-point. The G5’s he was trying to sprout on both sides looked to be just shy of the 1-inch minimum requirement to be scored. He had everything for a buck of that age that shows potential of being a shooter the following fall.
Obviously my definition of a shooter buck is going to be different than everyone else’s. What I call a shooter is anything of at least four years old, or more than 140 inches of antler. If I see a buck meeting those minimum requirements within bow range during the Ohio archery season, you know an arrow is flying granted an ethical shot opportunity.
As time passed, I continued to closely monitor Hightower along with his two running buddies. Our black bear guide, Shawn Sullivan of Pontiac Lodge, was fortunate enough to come down and kill the largest of the bachelor group. It was a respectable 8-point with the huge spread that he hauled back to the pines of Quebec. On Oct. 6, I was fortunate to kill a 145-inch 10-point in the neighboring county on a friend’s property while he filmed for me. It was the first day I was able to get out and hunt. He was just too good of a buck to pass up.
Fast forward three months to January 2016, and Hightower was still alive and well. He had been staying on our property all season, bedding a few hundred yards in a thicket from crop fields. He’d make his same short journey nearly every evening from the thick cover, passing by my trail camera headed towards food. Even during the rut in November he hardly left the area. From what I captured on our trail cameras he was mainly intercepting does in between the same thick bedding area, and the same CRP and crop fields. He even made it through all the gun seasons Ohio hosts, which was my biggest fear. He felt extremely comfortable staying put and that was good.
Sometime in mid-January I was hunting a stand for does with my recurve close to Hightower’s traveling route. During the last half hour I made out his rack peaking around the ridge as he made his same evening walk. He cruised right through my shooting lane at 15 yards. Even though it was a short 30 seconds or so, it was the highlight of the evening. Not because the rest of the hunt was unsuccessful, but because it was such a spectacle to see him for the first time on the hoof as opposed to just on a trail camera picture.
As winter pushed on, I continued to watch Hightower via trail cam pictures. He kept his routine through the end of archery season and into shed season. I was eager to venture out in search of his antlers. Apparently he had been traveling farther than I had first hypothesized as I found his left side, but failed to find his right after hours of searching our property.
I found many others, but I never could find his matching side. Regardless, I was happy to find one. Having a part of him that he used for protection, dominance, and hierarchy only brought more anticipation for the 2016 archery season.
Luke Fabian is a bowhunter, filmmaker and education coordinator at Deerassic Park in Ohio.