World-Record Archery Buck Taken Without Camo or Scent Control
Russ Chastain 10.10.19
Most deer hunters will do just about anything to get an edge on their prey. We purchase photo-quality camo patterns, scent-control clothing, soaps, and sprays (or even electronic gadgets designed to kill your human scent), trail cameras, deer lures, decoys, mock scrapes. Well, the list goes on. But is that stuff really necessary?
The late Mel Johnson would’ve probably said, “No.” He’s the guy who arrowed the biggest recorded archery buck ever, back in 1965, wearing faded blue dungarees and a red & black checkered shirt.
The story is recorded at Legendary Whitetails; here are some highlights.
He and hunting buddy Bill Kallister had seen several large deer on a certain farm during the 1964 season, so they obtained permission to hunt there in 1965.
When season arrived, it didn’t take long before they knew a giant buck was around. Mel actually spotted him twice, but each time he was too far away. Knowing what was near, both archers passed up shots on smaller deer early on.
Mel had been using stands that would allow shots well out into the field. Now, however, he decided to change tactics and take a ground stand, from which he could watch the edge of the timber instead of only the field.
He found a brushy spot and settled in. The wind was blowing from the woods across the field — perfect. Sure enough, the bowhunter soon noticed a deer stepping from the timber at the upper corner of the field, about 300 yards away. It was a huge buck, standing motionless, scenting and looking over the open field before taking another step.
Mel’s adrenaline began to pump as the massive animal worked his way across the field and turned toward Mel’s position. Mel realized that if the buck continued on his present course, eventually he’d wind up right in his lap!
“Several times in the past, I had things happen that spooked deer, like a quick change in the wind direction or perhaps a slight movement on my part,” Mel said. “I didn’t want it to happen this time, so I kept hugging the concealment of my blind.”
This time, the wind remained in Mel’s favor, and the buck never changed direction. Soon, the huge deer was within 30 yards. The spread of the antlers was breathtaking. Mel swallowed to avoid coughing and moved his right leg slightly to relieve a cramp.
The buck continued toward the archer, who suddenly realized the brute was now too close. “I was pinned down and couldn’t rise to try a shot. At that close range, he would see me and be off like a flash. I decided to wait, let him get by me and gamble on a shot going away.
“He was about three or four rows into the bean field,” Mel added. “At one time, when he was only about 20 yards away, we stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually, he swung his head to scan the open field and started moving again.”
That’s when Mel went into action. He rose quickly from his stand, drawing his 72-pound recurve in the same motion. The left-handed shooter let an arrow fly; the buck jumped and raced a short distance to the middle of the open field before pausing on a ridge, watching the hunter. The deer seemed curious as to what had happened. Then it turned and again ran from Mel’s sight.
When the bowhunter next spotted the buck, he was lying on the ground, kicking his last. En route, Mel found his arrow intact on the ground. It had passed completely through the deer, which had never made it out of the bean field.
Mel tried to drag the huge buck from the field but couldn’t budge him. Fortunately, the farmer offered a hand, and the deer was soon secured across the top of Mel’s car trunk.
Doing the right thing at the right place at the right time. That’s what it boils down to; not gadgets or high-tech goodies. Mel summed it up like this:
It was just luck. That’s what it amounts to. I guess the whole thing is being able to hold your composure when you get such an opportunity. That’s the difference between getting a big deer and not getting one.
Just a friendly reminder as we head into the 2019-2020 deer season. Play the wind, keep still, and be observant. I’ll try to keep this in mind as I attempt to NOT use my smart phone as a crutch to help pass the time in my stand this year.