Ohio whitetail hunter Davey Stuckey is no stranger to this space. We covered the story of his unusual 229-inch bow kill in the fall of 2018. Well, Stuckey shot another giant Ohio buck last season, and if that wasn’t enough, his son topped it with another even bigger. Here’s the story of their father-son dream season and the lessons you can take from their success to use this coming fall.
The hunt for devil horns
Old Stuck struck first, darting a buck he had known about for years. “I first got pictures of a buck I called Devil Horns in 2016. He had tumors on him and I never thought he would survive,” Stuckey tells F&S. “He showed up again the following year, although he looked healthy, with no tumors. He was always a deer that only showed up a few times during the summer, but then he would be all over the farm that I hunted during the rut. It would come out at the end of October every year, like clockwork.”
During the 2020-2021 season, Devil Horns were the most predictable buck Stuckey had in his cameras, but he had placed heavily on another big buck and ended up eating his tag. “When the 2021-22 season started, I turned my attention to the Devil Horns. He was massive and a bully of sorts; he kept everything pushed off the farm that I hunted,” he says.
As usual, Devil Horns appeared in late October, and Stuckey began hunting him every day starting on the 30th. “I had a few dates with him, but I could never close the deal. He recognized me in my tree stand even after I had moved him several times.” Although Stucky had had most of his encounters at the edges of cover, he decided he needed to move closer to a doe bedding area in the wood as the routine progressed. On November 16, he went out at noon and hung a new stand.
“The next morning I headed out to that group at first light and was able to slide by without hitting a single deer. Soon, mushrooms began to gather in the bed area, and sure enough, Devil Horns came in, chasing them. When he got to 12 yards, I drew my bow, shot and wheeled him. He went about 40 yards and piled up. I knew he was an old, massive deer and, of course, I had a lot of history with him. But I didn’t realize he would hit a gross 180 on the Buckmasters Score. More than anything, I was excited to shoot a deer I’ve known and followed for 7 years – no matter what it marked.”
While Stuckey was focused on Devil Horns, his son Gaige was busy with school and sports, which left precious little time for hunting. “As soon as I was tagged, they got busy looking for a buck for Gaige to hunt. While I had most of my mobile cameras on two other farms, I had conventional cameras at another location and when I checked them there was a giant in the picture,” says Stuckey. “We had no history with this buck. He just showed up. on November 4 and stayed.”
With the ruins closed, Stuckey pulled out a pile of corn (legal in Ohio) in hopes that the big deer would follow a doe into the country, looking for one last chance to breed. Finally, on November 26, Gaige was able to go out for an evening hunt. “The buck came at us at 34 yards, and Gaige pulled the trigger on his bow, but it only clipped the hair off the bottom of the buck’s chest. I thought for sure that deer wasn’t coming back, but the next evening, he showed up on camera again just after dark.”
Gaige wouldn’t be able to hunt again until his Christmas break, so Stuckey kept popping corn and bucks kept showing up regularly. During that period, the dollar was lit several times, but Gaige was always at practice or at the game. Finally, on December 22, he was able to go out again. “Surprisingly, the buck not only showed up, it came in almost exactly the same place as the first time,” says Stuckey. “This time, Gaige made a great shot from 34 yards. We had never been able to name the deer before, but when we recovered the money, Gaige nicknamed him ‘Redemption’. Cam photos and video, the deer had broken a 4 inch antler. “Not only did Redemption give Gaige an incredible second chance, but it was also a good Christmas present for a 15-year-old.”
Lessons from a father-son duo
There are two important takeaways from Stuckey’s hunting for Devil Horns, and the first is to look for annual patterns. As bowhunters, we all try to pattern deer during the season. We look for daily or weekly routines that help us set up an ambush at the right time, in exactly the right place. But increasingly, savvy hunters like Stuckey also study camera photos and journal entries to discover annual patterns. And what they’ve learned is that it’s not unusual for a mature buck to show up on a farm at the same time year after year, often in the same place — and Devil Horns was one such buck. He would come out at the end of October, “like clockwork,” and stay in the pit, and because Stuckey knew that, he also knew when and where to find him.
The second lesson is about turning your attention to tidying up areas of the bed as the routine progresses. Stuckey was actually seeing his buck on the edges, along tree lines and ditches, he told me. And yet he moved into the timber near a deer bedding area – because he knew that’s where he had to be to shoot the deer. No one needs to be told that money will spend more time in the vicinity as the pit heats up. But the deer’s bedding area offers more than just potential mates; provides cover, and it’s the combination of these things that makes your chances of a daylight encounter with a grown buck skyrocket. Stuckey’s statement bears this out.
Gaige’s statement also has two main lessons. The first is not to give up a dollar just because you missed it with an arrow or a bow bolt. When it comes to late-season mature whitetails, it’s easy to assume that anything that spooks a deer will send it to the next county. But if the money moved every time something got into trouble, they would never rest. An arrow or lightning bolt moving forward—or even a haircut—will probably put a buck off, but if he hasn’t smelled or seen you, there’s a good chance he won’t have a clue what happened. and will return to a normal routine. . This is especially true if the place in question has everything a buck wants at the end of the season. Gaige’s budget also had decent, light food available. Stuckey was smart enough not to give up on the spot, and it paid off.
The second lesson is simple, and that is to believe in second chances.