Tales from the Timber: Head shot
For four years, Joe Graber had known a monster lurked in the woods he hunted.
“I’ve been seeing him chasing does the past couple years and he’s just got bigger and bigger and bigger,” Graber said.
But the big buck didn’t get bigger and bigger by accident. He didn’t get bigger and bigger by running in front of hunters with bows or guns.
And he almost ran right past Graber on Oct. 26, when the Edwardsville bowhunter drew back to shoot at the big 25-point Madison County monster.
Graber had set up near a spot where he knew the buck would typically work. “I knew during the rut he always comes through this little ravine and area where the does are. It’s just like a funnel,” Graber said. “He’s always chasing does through there come the rut.
“So that was the first time I hunted in his spot this year because I didn’t want to take any chances of wearing it out or anything.”
Graber showed up at 2 p.m. carrying a climber stand. He set up near a creek with a good doe trail right underneath his stand. He also set up in the rain and it never stopped raining that evening.
“It was one of those days it was 65 degrees so I wore a light jacket that wasn’t waterfproof. About 5:30 p.m. came and it started to get get chilly and I kept saying 15 more minutes, 15 more minutes,” Graber said. “Then about 5:45 p.m. he came out of the creek where I didn’t expect him to come out.”
The buck was 40 yards away and then turned broadside—walking out at the exact spot where Graber had walked to his stand. “I knew he was on me, so as soon as a I saw him I reached down to pick up my bow,” Graber said. The bow did not come easily, though, and by the time Graber drew back his shot was not so easy.
“All of the sudden I couldn’t pick him up through my sights,” he said. “I could just barely see his body and antlers so I said, ‘I might as well take a shot.’ I was aiming pretty much in the middle of his body.”
But Graber’s shot was deflected, as the arrow hit a tree or limb.
Instead of hitting the middle of the buck’s body, the arrow hit the buck dead center in the ear.
“He dropped and I guess it pretty much paralyzed him somewhat, though his legs were still kicking,” Graber said. “He flipped over and did some snowplowing and then went off a 20-foot cliff into the water and drowned.
“You couldn’t place an arrow any better. It went right in his ear and the broadhead actually broke off. It’s just unbelievable.”
Graber remains stunned by his good fortune.
“I can shoot 40 yards pretty consistently to keep in a 3-4 inch circle. I do a lot of practicing,” he said. “I don’t know what happened or how it happened. It was luck. It was one of those things of being in the right place at the right time.”
Ironically, Graber didn’t know how big the buck proved to be. “He never looked as big as he was. You couldn’t see all the stickers,” said Graber, who has been bowhunting for most of his 35 years. “It looked like a decent 10-12 pointer, but I had no idea he had 25 points.”