RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. — When the 2022 archery hunting season opened in West Virginia. D.W. Mahan of Ravenswood knew the very buck he was after. He and the big bruiser had a history.
“Last year, on October 28th, I actually made a shot on him. But my arrow hit a limb, deflected and I ended up making a poor hit on him,” Mahan said in an interview about the buck on West Virginia Outdoors.
He and friends tracked the buck for a couple of days. They followed the blood trail until it ran out after a half mile. But this buck wasn’t going down easy. The buck showed up two days later on Mahan’s trail camera with a scar, but evidently doing well. The buck survived gun season and Mahan was able to keep track of him until he dropped his antlers for the winter.
When the 2022 season rolled around, the big boy had a new set of headgear and was still haunting the same area. But for Mahan, it wasn’t going to be easy.
“I picked him up pretty much as soon as he grew his horns., but he didn’t live on the property I can hunt. The property I hunt is about 50 acres, but he stayed on the neighbor’s place and only came over on a small portion of the land I could hunt,” he explained.
Mahan said he had noticed the buck was very reluctant to even cross the hollow where he had noticed him on camera.
“I guess it was right on the edge of his home range,”
He also worried about competition from other hunters. A big buck doesn’t stay a secret long with cameras in the woods.
“One neighbor has been after him for a couple of years also and had several pictures of him. After I had shot him, he started hanging around where he hunts, but last year he had to work out of town during muzzleloader season and the buck showed up on his camera at 8 o’clock on opening morning of muzzleloader season,” he laughed.
Mahan and his wife have a new baby girl who turned 2 months old October 3rd. He had stayed home that day, babysitting. When the wife made it home from her errands, she encouraged him to hit the woods. She didn’t have to ask twice and he was in the stand by 4 p.m.
“Deer started moving and there was a different kind of wind that doesn’t usually blow that way up there,” he explained.
The wind shift had left the deer skittish and extremely sensitive to movement and noise. He spied two incredibly nervous does near his stand who cautiously fed, but kept looking into an area where he couldn’t see. According to Mahan he knew they were hearing something he could not hear., so he kept his eyes peeled.
“There were three of four scrapes out that road and it’s really thick in there. Finally I could hear a buck working in that area. I tried to mentally prepare myself, in case it was that big buck, I could calm down and make a good shot,” he explained.
Eventually, he saw the legs moving first as the deer slowly, and cautiously moved toward the does in the thick cover. When he emerged into an opening, Mahan had no doubt, this was the buck he had been waiting for.
“I saw he had several points and I knew it was him. He was the only one in there like that. When he stepped toward the does they ran from him and wanted nothing to do with him. That helped me because he was looking at them and trying to figure out what was going on,” he said.
At full draw Mahan watched as the curious buck stepped into an opening at 31 yards while still looking at the departing does. He released the arrow, which found is mark directly behind the shoulder.
“I was able to make a pretty good shot and he probably made it 150 yards. I hit him in the lungs and the heart. He was a big ole buck,” he said.