Editor’s Note: Finding and taking a big deer is a process of connecting the dots with the knowledge you’ve learned from people who consistently take big bucks. Sure, some of the hunters who bag big deer just got lucky. But others have put together tactics that regularly produce trophy bucks.
By John E. Phillips
USA -(AmmoLand.com)- In less than three heartbeats, Jason Langenhorst of Germantown, Illinois, had the opportunity to take a monster buck. But after the report of his 20 gauge shotgun, he was afraid he’d missed the buck of a lifetime.
After 480 volts of electricity went through Jason Langenhorst’s left arm some years ago, he felt he no longer could shoot a 12 gauge shotgun during shotgun season for deer. So, he purchased a 320 Savage/Stevens bolt-action 20 gauge shotgun.
“At 100 yards, using my Bushnell (http://bushnell.com) 4-12X shotgun scope, I could put three slugs in the same hole on the target,” Langenhorst reports.
Langenhorst hunts with a bow as well as a shotgun. After his accident, he still could hunt with his Bowtech (http://bowtecharchery.com/) bow and on October 30, 2014, harvested a 130-inch 8-point buck, only five steps from his tree stand. This deer was his second-choice buck. He’d seen a nice 10-pointer he was hoping to harvest, but that buck hadn’t come within bow range. Later, Langenhorst climbed into his lock-on tree stand to hunt from his favorite place for 9 years – a pinch point between two large blocks of timber on 200 acres of family-owned property. A 20-acre soybean field was on one end of the pinch point and a large block of woods on the other end. He’d taken 3-4 year old bucks there, with one buck scoring 150 on Boone & Crockett.
But on this day of November 21, 2014, he spotted the biggest buck he ever had seen in his life. The deer in that area had established a well-worn trail about 50 yards from the tree line where Langenhorst had placed his stand. Langenhorst felt sure he knew every tree, blade of grass, thick cover area and opening on the family land. Consistently, this one trail had produced the most big bucks.
“I was running late that morning to hunt and didn’t get into my tree stand until there was just enough light to see,” Langenhorst explains. “About 1/2-hour later, I heard shots off to the north. Within 30 seconds, I spotted six deer running about 200 yards away from me. Since everything happened so quickly, I didn’t have an opportunity to range the deer. Not until later, when my dad paced off the distance from my tree to the spot where I shot the deer, did I realize that the buck was at 200 yards. The first deer I saw was a doe, and the second deer was a monster buck. Quickly, I brought my shotgun to my shoulder, aimed a little below the white patch of hair on the front of the deer’s chest, moved the reticules about a foot in front of his chest and squeezed the trigger. After I shot, the buck kept running, didn’t act like he was hit, walked over to a tree line and disappeared.”
Four other smaller bucks were following this big buck. Langenhorst climbed down out of his tree stand and went to look for blood. Not finding any, he went over to the line of trees where he’d last spotted the big buck.
“Just as I stepped into the tree line, I heard a heavy thud that I believed was my buck falling,” Langenhorst remembers. “I took a few more steps in the direction where I’d heard the thud and saw the buck down in a ditch, trying to climb out of it with his front feet. I’d already bolted my shotgun, and I got off a second shot, hitting the deer in the shoulder and putting him down.”
When Langenhorst got down in the ditch and lifted the buck’s head up, he couldn’t believe how thick the deer’s rack was.
“I knew that a nice 10-point had been coming down this trail, because I’d spotted him before, However, I hadn’t been able to take a shot at him. When I looked at this buck’s antlers, I instantly knew he was a bigger buck than the 10-pointer I was hunting.”
On closer examination of this huge buck, Langenhorst saw that his first slug had broken both hind legs of the deer. Knowing he couldn’t pull the monster buck out of the ditch by himself, he used his cell phone to call his dad, who was hunting the other end of the property.
“I was so excited and shaking so badly that my dad hardly could understand what I was saying,” Langenhorst recalls.
When Langenhorst’s dad arrived at the ditch where the buck lay, he said, “Well, son, if anyone deserves to take a nice buck like this, it’s you. You’ve hunted hard. You’ve put in your time scouting. Although you’ve earned this buck, I can’t believe how big he is.”
Langenhorst and his dad used a 4-wheeler and some chains to pull the buck out of the ditch. Later, Langenhorst started understanding the magnitude of taking a buck at 200 yards with a 20 gauge shotgun shooting a slug.
“I’d never seen a buck this big, so I guessed he’d score about 160 or 170 on Boone & Crockett. After we field dressed the buck, we went to town to get something to eat and had the buck in the back of the truck. Several hunters came by, looked at the buck, and one hunter announced, ‘That buck will score about 190 on B&C.’ But, I didn’t believe him. When the buck was finally scored, I couldn’t believe that the hunter had guessed the buck’s rack within 3 inches.”
Another interesting element of this hunt story is that Langenhorst had checked his trail cameras the Sunday before the opening of shotgun season. He didn’t have any pictures then of the big buck he eventually took. Because he’d had a doe tag left, he returned to the same 200 acres where he’d taken the big buck that morning.
Before he climbed into his tree stand, he checked his trail cameras and discovered, “We had one trail-camera picture of this buck that was taken the evening before I bagged him.”
- * BTR Score – Buckmasters’ Composite Score – Number of Inches: 199-6/8
- * Official Buckmasters’ Score: 184-1/8 (doesn’t include inside spread of main beams)
John’s newest deer-hunting book, “Whitetail Deer and the Hunters Who Take Big Bucks” is available at http://amzn.to/2bySF4T.
About the Author:
For the past 40+ years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a fulltime outdoor writer, traveling the world interviewing hunters, guides, outfitters and other outdoorsmen about how they hunt and fish. An award-winning author, John has been hunting and fishing since his kindergarten days.