During one hunt this past week Justin etched his name into the 200 hundred inch club when he arrowed Sticker. But it was more than one hunt that led to him joining the club. It was a journey that included patience and hard work.
I was able to talk to Justin after he killed his buck and he unfolded a story that he says started three years ago, but after listening to him I knew the story went back even farther.
For a 200-inch buck to even exist it needs three things, genetics, nutrition, and luck. A hunter cannot do a lot about genetics, but the state of Ohio took care of that. It does not take much research to see that Ohio has great deer, the genetics are strong here. But the other two the hunter has some say in.
Justin has been managing his property for years. He put in the hard work to make his farm a deer paradise. Hinge cutting, food plots, sanctuary areas, supplemental feeding, and herd management have all lead to a place where bucks can reach their full potential.
Ernest Hemingway is quoted as saying, “You make your own luck.” And I agree, and I think Justin does too. He created a place where the deer do not have to leave. This helped keep Stickers on the property instead of wandering off to be hit by a car or shot by a neighbor.
Stickers was a trophy buck for a few years before Justin was able to take him. He would have been on a large majority of hunters hit lists as a 3 1/2-year-old and on everyone’s hit list for the next two years. But it was not until he was 5 1/2 years old that Justin gave the green light to shoot him
Back in 2016, Stickers made his first appearance on trail cam. He was hanging out with another buck and at this point did not show what he would become.
The next year however he grew. At 3 1/2 years old he exploded into a monster. All of Justin’s hunting buddies wanted to add him to the list. They were convinced he was at least 195 inches, but Justin ignored the antlers and said this buck was still too young. He only looked that big because of his small body size. Justin labeled the Stickers off-limits.
It is a good thing he did. Both Justin and one of his buddies had Stickers within 15 yards that year. In fact, Stickers even made a scrape on the tree Justin’s buddy was sitting in. At the end of the season, Justin was proved right. He found the Stickers sheds and the measured out to 165.
The next year 2018, Stickers grew more. He was around 185 inches, but still Justin kept him off limits. This was a big risk, but Justin felt that if he could survived last year as a 165 inch 3 1/2 year old, He could do it again.
That year they only saw Stickers once from the stand but he made his usual appearance on trail cameras. After the season they found his sheds and confirmed his size at 185 inches.
Now comes the summer of 2019, Mid June Stickers makes his appearance on trail camera and he is looking nice, but it is too early to tell what he is going to turn into.
Justin runs a fishing camp up in Canada during the summer so he is not around to check his trail cameras as regularly as most hunters. So when he returned near the end of July and looked at his pictures, Justin almost had a heart attack. Stickers is now a 200-inch plus giant. Justin had to go back to Canada were stickers would haunt his dreams until opening day.
Stickers turned hard horned in mid-August and was coming into food every evening like clock work. Justin set up a plan for opening weekend, but then his heart sank. A week before season Stickers disappeared. He had been on camera every day for at least a month, but now was gone.
Stickers reappeared on camera two days later, but his routine had changed. Before he was coming in during the day, now he was showing up only at night. Justin thinks it was due to the hot weather we had opening weekend, so he held off hunting him. When the temperatures started to settle down, stickers went back to his routine of showing up just before dark but only every other day instead of every day. The important thing was he was back and it was game on.
It was not long before does started filtering in. About 100 yards out a mature doe must of caught wind of him, because she started stomping. She eventually spooked and took the rest of the deer with her. It was still early so Justin sat tight.
Justin waited until the wind was right for an evening sit. He had his son drive him out to the stand just like if he was checking his camera and restocking the feeder. He did everything just as he had been doing it the last few weeks, except that he got into the stand and his son drove off.
An hour later the does came back into the field and were joined by a few small bucks. Again he was winded a doe started stomping and jumped the deer back behind Justin’s stand. He could still hear her stomping but could tell she was unsure what was going on.
It is now getting to the time where Stickers usually makes his appearance. A few minutes later a doe comes out from the left. A little while later Justin sees another deer following her. he does not get a good look at the
He was wrong. When he looks over again Sticker is standing 5 steps from the feeder. Justin gets ready and prepares for the shot. He draws back and gets ready to shoot. At this point Justin told me that he panicked, his sight was all over, so he took a deep breath and settled his nerves. He placed the pin on the
He saw stickers run 50 yards and disappear. Justin called his son who was hunting on the other side of the farm. By the time his son showed up it was dark and all the had was the light from their iPhones to track with.
So off they go, They start finding blood, but it was not good blood. Justin was hoping to see the spray you get when you get double lung, but it was just drops and no spray. They tracked to where he last say Stickers and followed the trail a little farther when Justin’s son saw an eyeball glare up in front of them.
Justin’s heart sank. He had gut shot the biggest buck of his life and now jumped into the next county. He was sick to his stomach. They decided to back out, but as the panned their phones down to the ground there lay Sticker, 5 yards from where they stood.
I talked to Justin a few days after he got his buck and he said he is still in a state of disbelief. He rough scored the buck himself and came up with a conservative score of 210 inches, but will get a more official score next week.
Justin said he has been thinking about stickers every night before bed. Thinking about the strategy he would use to hunt him, but now he when he sits down at night. He starts to think about Stickers but realizes it’s over. Stickers has been occupying his thoughts for three years and in a way he is sad that it is over. He had a great history with that buck, but that chapter is now over.
“I learned a lot and it’s been a fun journey,” Justin told me. “Just have to grow another one.”
I had a great time talking with Justin. He is a great guy and a great hunter and no one deserves this more than him. He put in the hard work of making his property the best it can be and it got results.
Justin told me he wants to start doing property consulting for improving whitetail habitat. He has already started advising a buddy about his property and it is already showing remarkable improvements. If you are interested in talking to Justin about this kind of work you can contact him on his Facebook page of Ray’s Camp or at firstname.lastname@example.org