For as long as I can remember it seems I get the same question over and over when people find out that I hunt. Of course these are people who don’t know me or they would already know the answer. The question is “You’re a hunter? Why do you want to kill Bambi?” My answer is always the same “I have no intentions of killing Bambi…I am hunting his Grandpaw!” The look is always the same; a little amazed that I really said it then they usually smile and say “Oh, as long as it’s not Bambi”. So here is the story of Grandpaw.
Once upon a time in a land not to far away, Kentucky, there was an enchanted forest where huge bucks lived. Jim and I have hunted in Kentucky for a number of years in different areas, but we always seem to wind up in what Jim refers to as the golden triangle, where Southern Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky come together. Jim and I have hunted North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kansas, West Virginia, Virginia, Colorado, Texas, Missouri, and Kentucky. The great thing about Kentucky is that it is a lot closer than Texas for us and there are some great bucks harvested from this state. Jim and I have both been witness to them but they seem to know when we are coming and stay just far enough out of range to where we can’t get a shot. Yet, they come in close enough to make us drool over them and keep returning to hunt them.
We had spoken with a friend of ours, Kim Smith, who is a marketing and sales rep for Kentucky Antler Company. She gave us Kevin Reece’s phone number and told us to give him a call. Kevin’s brother, Jonathan Reece, owns Kentucky Antler Company which is comprised of both Bear Creek Lodge and Canoe Creek Lodge. Kevin is the Operations Manager of Bear Creek Lodge in Rush Kentucky. Canoe Creek Lodge is in Lancaster Kentucky. This is where we met Kim several years ago. We hunted with Canoe Creek for upland birds. They have amazing bird hunting. We took our daughter and our Black Lab Nighty along on the hunt which made it even better. Not only does Kentucky Antler Company offer upland bird hunts, they also have offer free range and estate hunts for elk and whitetail deer and exotic hunts.
Another reason that we wanted to hunt with Kevin and his family is they are very involved with youth in their area, which as you know is very dear to our hearts. They do youth hunts for both turkey and whitetail and they also do mini camps in the summer for shooting sports.
I called Kevin in the spring and it seemed we had known him forever. What was ironic was that Kevin and his family are from Hickory, North Carolina, which is about an hour and a half from us, which was even better. Jonathan has owned Kentucky Antler Company for three years, so they are still a young company and learning. They love to hunt and want their hunters to be successful. They offer an amazing time in camp with beautiful lodging, food, and making lasting friendships. The Bear Creek Lodge location was previously a 4-H camp for kids. Jonathan and Kevin remodeled it and now it’s their main hunting camp and they still have the facilities to do camps and youth hunts.
When we arrived on Wednesday for a three day hunt we were met by Maegan who is the hostess at Bear Creek Lodge. Kevin and one of his guides Wayne came in not long after we arrived. They had taken some of their hunters out in the field early. Kevin showed us around the amazing lodge and then took us to our room which was very spacious, clean and had a fireplace.
Kevin told us since we had arrived early that we were more than welcome to hunt that first afternoon. It didn’t take Jim or myself long to get our gear ready to go. Kevin had told me on the phone that if we didn’t mind he would sit with me to film for one of his upcoming DVD’s and Wayne would go with Jim to do the same. So we all loaded up and headed off to the property where we would be hunting. Kentucky Antler Company owns and leases several different properties in different counties so they don’t over hunt any of their areas.
Kevin and I arrived at the area that we were going to hunt and it was a beautiful piece of property. Rolling hills, deep ravine’s, plenty of hard woods and spacious food plots. They have really done their homework. Kevin settled into the buddy stand while I hauled up my equipment.
Kevin and I had a great time on stand and saw some does and a couple of nice bucks but nothing came within range for a shot. So as darkness fell we headed back to the lodge for a delicious supper and some great fellowship with the other hunters that were in camp. Jim and Wayne had about the same luck as Kevin and I. I guess you could say we were merely window shopping today.
Thursday morning dawned clear and cold and Jim and I were up and ready for the day. The plan for the day was for Kevin and me to hunt the bottom of a ravine in some thick hardwoods. Jim and Wayne were going to hunt the top of a ridge line. There had been some good bucks spotted in both locations. Jim and I learned a very long time ago to trust your guide. They know the area and want you to be successful so we roll with the game plan that is offered.
Kevin and I walked as quietly to our stand as possible. The leaves were dry which makes it hard to be quiet and we were walking down a very steep ravine. The walk in was not bad at all but like here in my part of North Carolina it’s the walk out that gets you.
We were in the stand well before daylight and were ready for what the day had to offer. As the sun slowly showed itself above the horizon the thermals began to blow which made it seem a little colder than what it really was. The temps were in the low 30’s but thanks to the windproof C4 Real Tree AP camo SHE Safari suit I had on I was warm and well concealed.
As the morning wore on Kevin spotted a great buck about a hundred yards away headed toward us. I looked at the deer through my Leupold bino’s and was very impressed with what I was seeing. He walked slowly and was alert to every sound as he made his way to our location. He walked within about 80 yards of us and then turned and headed straight up the ravine. We hoped he would circle around but he walked out of sight and we did not see him again. An hour later we heard something behind us up at the top of the ravine. Kevin could turn to where he could see the deer. I was on the wrong side of the tree so I remained still. Kevin said it was a different buck and this one was bigger than the first one we had saw earlier. He came down the trail the other buck had used that was 80 yards from us and walked away from us. No shot opportunity this morning but I sure could not complain about not seeing any deer. Kevin and I made our way back up the ravine. I could tell by the time I climbed to the top, I needed to be in better shape, lol.
None of the hunters had any luck during the morning hunt and two of them had decided to stay out all day to see if they could catch some early afternoon activity. Jim and I decided quickly that it was a good thing that Kevin and Wayne were filming us. With the amazing meals they feed you we had to have someone with us to keep us awake in the tree stand.
Thursday afternoon looked a little ominous but the rain was supposed to hold off until late in the day. You can’t hunt off of the couch and the C4 suit is waterproof as well as wind proof so I don’t’ mind hunting in the rain. Kevin and I headed to a tree stand that sat just below a ridge line with a food plot in front of us surrounded by woods. As the front got closer the wind began to swirl a little but I had used my Wildlife Research Center Scent Killer products and knew that I would be well hidden from the nose of Mr. Whitetail.
It started to drizzle rain about two hours before dark, which was prime time. We had started seeing several does, which I did have a tag for but I was going to wait until the last day to harvest a doe if I did not have a shot at a buck. Kevin poked me and pointed to his left, there was a nice buck coming up out of the woods to the food plot. His ears were working hard as was his nose; he topped the ridge about 70 yards from us and went over the other side. He never gave me a shot.
Around 6:30 it was raining a little harder but the wind had died down. I saw two does coming up from my right just below the ridge line 50 yards from us. They worked slowly and were feeding up toward the food plot. I gave Kevin the elbow so he would see them and I had decided that I might just take the one in the back. She was a very mature doe. As I sat there and watched them feed within range something caught my eye farther to my left. Oh my gosh!! It was a HUGE buck!!! I poked Kevin and pointed at the deer and just smiled. The camera had been rolling on the does so he only had to move it slightly to get the buck in the view finder. Not only was this the biggest buck I had ever seen, he was coming on the same trail the does had come in on. If everything went right the buck would walk within 40 yards of the stand.
The does made their way to the top of the rise and the buck was following the same path. If I moved he would see me and the gig would be up, so I waited…..he decided to feed for a few moments. I had my Mathews Z-7 Magnum standing on my leg, I was still seated and hiding behind the quiver. The buck fed along and then threw up his head and looked at us. Neither Kevin nor I moved, the buck watched intently and began to feed again. He picked up his head again and looked at the does.
The bucks were just beginning to rut so the does were more important and he decided to follow them, which is exactly what I needed. As he turned slightly to go up the rise this was the moment I needed to stand up. I eased up from a sitting position with my bow still in front of my face. The buck never looked back. He was making his way up to where the does were. He was twenty five yards from me.
If he took the same path he would turn broadside at about thirty yards and give me a shot. I drew my bow to its anchor and waited. The buck turned at thirty five yards and offered me the shot I was hoping for. I squeezed the Tru-Ball release and let my Carbon Express fly. THWACK! The buck dropped in its tracks! I watched in disbelief, I have never had one drop.
Where the deer had been standing I was afraid to hold on the heart since it was an uphill shot, so I held a little higher to get a good double lung shot. The arrow hit in the bottom of the spine, the Muzzy cut it and he dropped.
I looked at Kevin and he was smiling from ear to ear. We both exploded at the same time. Grandpaw was on the ground! How we kept from shaking the treestand down I will never know, but it held tight. I was shaking so hard that I could not even talk and all Kevin could do was laugh. He had talked to us about hunting with people that do not get excited or have the passion for hunting. Well he found out real quick that if you hunt with me I have enough passion and excitement for about 30 hunters.
The rain was getting harder but who cared, it could have come a monsoon and it would not have mattered. I was in no shape to get down because my legs were shaking so hard I had no control over them. We sat there for about 15 minutes to give me time to regain my composure. We lowered our gear and then carefully climbed down the ladder.
We made our way up the rise, the closer I got the more the buck grew and grew and GREW! It really was Grandpaw and he was beautiful! He was a main frame 8 with a few kickers. His eye guards curled back and you could tell he was an old deer.
Kevin had called Wayne and he and Jim were on the way to help us get Grandpaw loaded. I am not sure who was the happiest, Kevin, Jim, Wayne or I. We were all living the dream at that moment!
What I didn’t know until after I made the shot was that Jim and Wayne were up on the ridge about 300 yards from us. Where they were sitting they could see us and saw the hunt unfold though their bino’s. Wayne said he thought Jim was going to jump out of the stand when he saw the buck fall. He told Jim they would have to wait till Kevin called before they got down. Jim is an excellent patient hunter until it comes to me, then as he puts it he is like a proud Pappa and can’t wait to get to me.
We loaded up the buck and drove back to Kevin’s house where he has a huge walk in freezer and unloaded the deer. We would have to take pictures in the morning due to the dark and the rain. After we put him in the freezer Kevin pulled out the measuring tape and smiled. “Want to know what he scores”. Kevin is an official scorer for SCI . So they went about the task and Wayne wrote the numbers on the paper.
Up to this the biggest whitetail I had ever harvested was a 127” buck. They pulled the tape and laughed and looked at me and laughed some more. I was just standing there in shock, what a deer. After they were through measuring they got the paper and began adding up the numbers. Finally Jim turned said “Boy that is one nice buck. Let’s make knife handles out of those antlers, what do you say”. “No, maybe next time” was my reply. This deer scored 160 and some change.
I can’t thank Kevin enough for all the scouting and hard work he and his staff put in to make your hunt successful and your dreams come true. If you want to hunt with an outfitter and guides that truly have a deep rooted passion for hunting and give every hunter their best chance of success you have to hunt with Kevin Reece and Kentucky Antler Company at Bear Creek Lodge. I can promise you that you will be part of the family when you leave and will make friendships that will last a life time.