JEFF KNAPP: Buck hunt becomes special occasion
West Virginia’s Roger Maynard is a skilled, accomplished bowhunter. He lives in Mingo County, one of four bowhunting-only counties in the state.
Bowhunting, for Maynard, is a 12-month deal. When he’s not actively bowhunting, he’s doing something — scouting, studying online imagery, monitoring trail cameras — directly related to it. So it’s not surprising that last year he arrowed a tremendous buck, the state’s top typical/bowkill in fact, one that net scored 170 1/8. On a statewide basis the 12-pointer stands seventh all-time.
What is surprising, however, is that the taking of such a buck — an animal he had been aware of and had been pursing for three years — wasn’t the highlight of his year. That joy occurred when he helped his 8-year-old grandson Brennan Salmon successfully harvest his first deer, a fine 8-pointer.
To put things in perspective, here’s a quick rundown of what it took for Maynard to collect his Boone & Crockett caliber buck: Three years passed from the time he first saw the buck to when he downed it. During that time he saw the buck once during the season the first year. He recorded several images of it with trail cameras, but mostly at night. He repositioned tree stands. During one summer he reopened — with the use of a chain saw — an old tote road so he could better move to and from a stand location without disrupting the area. And on the day he downed his deer, the rugged mountains of Mingo County ensured that its recovery was a grueling task of several hours.
So it would be tough to top an experience like that, right? Not for Maynard; not when it comes to sharing a cherished moment with a grandson.
It was the Dec. 2. Less than a month had passed since the taking of Maynard’s big buck. Both he and his grandson were at a family birthday party, when Roger suggested they join forces later that afternoon for a last-hour bowhunt. Brennan was all for it.
It was after 4:30 p.m. when Roger picked up Brennan. The two live only a couple houses apart. Their chosen spot was what Roger called a backyard “honey hole,” only a few minutes away. Maynard had a ground blind erected at the spot.
It was approaching 5 o’clock by the time they had settled into the blind. Roger quietly coached Brennan, telling him they could likely see deer soon, since the way things lay they were able to get to the blind without spooking anything.
“Brennan was on a stool next to me, scrolling through some pictures on my phone that I’d taken at the party that afternoon,” Maynard recalled. “I was kind of looking over his shoulder when a sound alerted me. But we didn’t see anything.”
Maynard looked away for a moment, and when he looked up, as so often happens in bowhunting, a nice buck had suddenly (and quietly) appeared.
“I nudged Brennan, whispering to him to get ready,” Maynard said. “The buck comes in perfect, stopping at about 18 yards, standing broadside. Now, Brennan had done a lot of shooting, and I knew he could do it. But I also knew that drawing back on a live buck was a whole different deal.”
After a couple last-second details — including turning on the sight pin light — Brennan drew back on the buck. He loosed the arrow and drilled the buck square in the heart.
Though he was confident in the shot, Maynard insisted they wait a half-hour before beginning their search. In that time he explained to Brennan the realities of hunting, that try as we might, we don’t always get every deer we shoot at. And while the advice was good, it wasn’t applicable in this instance.
“We put on our headlamps and slowly began our search,” Roger recalled. “I was pretty sure I’d heard the deer go down. But this was Brennan’s first tracking job, and I wanted him to learn things the right way. Right away we found a tuff of hair, and then we picked up the blood trail. Shortly we found his arrow. I stuck the arrow in the ground to mark that spot and explained to him that the next step is to find another spot of blood.
“Now I’m looking for that spot, but he’s scanning all around. And he located the deer, 10 yards away, down for good. That’s when we went into a little dance.”
Looking back on his 2012 season, Maynard said nothing can compare to the feeling he had, being with his grandson when he shot his first buck.