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Mark Ledford's 216-Inch Ohio Booner Buck

Mark Ledford's 216-Inch Ohio Booner Buck

It was November 10, 2013, and I had just spotted a mature doe and her fawn over my shoulder and was waiting for them to pass to my left. I had been hunting hard for seven of the past 10 days, and I had yet to see a mature buck.

Perhaps I should just go ahead and harvest the mature doe, fill my freezer, and satisfy my desire to draw back and release an arrow, I thought.

On the other side of the coin it was, after all, November 10, the peak of the Ohio rut. I knew there were several big bucks in the area based on my trail camera photos of them from the previous January.

I was hoping they had survived the early part of the hunting season and had not been hit by a car, especially one buck in particular that I had dubbed "The One That I Want."

I decided not to compromise, and instead chose to hold out and let the doe and her young one pass by. I would wait and tough it out, in hopes that one of the big bucks from my trail camera photos would come within range.

ledford_2I first saw The One That I Want in the summer of 2012. My buddy Dave called and told me he had seen a whopper buck about a half-mile north of my hunting spot. It was almost dark, and I decided I didn't have enough daylight left to go see the big boy that evening.

I am a Pastor with a busy schedule, and I also have four children who are involved in a lot of evening activities and sports. I was waiting for the opportunity for my first free evening to take a quick drive and see if I could spot any big bucks.

Sure enough, when I arrived at the area that Dave had described to me, I saw several deer, including one very large buck. The bucks were still in velvet, and I estimated the biggest one to be in the 180-class.

I called Dave and my buddy Jeff to tell them I had seen the big buck. The three of us drove by the area every chance we could over the next several weeks. One evening, Jeff and his wife saw four large bucks, including the 180.

Jeff sent me pictures, which I downloaded onto my computer. I labeled the picture of the four big bucks together "The Big Four," and I titled the photo of the 180 "The One That I Want."

In my wildest dreams I could never imagine that I would even see The One That I Want. Why would he travel a half-mile to my hunting area when I had never even seen him there before? Only one thing might draw him to my hunting spot — an estrous doe.

Success came very early for me in 2012 when I killed a 150-class buck on the first day of the Ohio archery season. I was hunting a funnel on a different property that had both soybeans and corn. I had killed a 145-inch buck in that same funnel in November 2011.


It was September, so it was still quite hot. As sweat poured down my face and burned my eyes, I began texting my cousin Chris in North Carolina, telling him how bored I was and how I hadn't seen a single deer.

Thirty minutes after I sent that text, the dandy 11-pointer crossed the soybean field and closed to within 10 yards of my stand. My season ended quickly and joyfully, and I'd shot my biggest buck ever.

Since a hunter can only kill one buck in Ohio, I would not even have the opportunity to hunt any of The Big Four that year. I did hunt does on the property close to where The Big Four lived, and I also took my youngest son, Camden, to the property.

ledford_3I was able to capture one of The Big Four on a trail camera in October, and later that same buck came within shooting range while I was in my treestand. On that same property, I shot several does and watched Camden shoot his first deer.

Other than that, I never saw any of the other Big Four or The One That I Want during the remainder of the 2012 season. Were the other three still alive? I wondered. Had any of them survived the hunting season? Would I ever really know?

Now it was 2013, and the August drive-bys had become a regular part of my late-summer evenings. Every chance I got, I headed up the road to where Dave, Jeff, and I had seen The Big Four and The One That I Want.

I hoped to just catch a glimpse of any of the four bucks, so that I would know they were still alive and in the area. The reality is that never again would I see The Big Four together, but that didn't matter because I saw him. I saw The One That I Want.

He didn't stay out in the field for long when I pulled my truck off the road to stare at him, but he was unmistakable. He was still alive, and hunting season was right around the corner!

The doe and her young one passed by to my left and continued into the thick brush and briars in front of me. As they were moving out of sight, I heard another deer coming. Would it be a big buck?

It was a buck all right — a button buck! He sniffed around, passed to my left, and then came out in front of my stand at about 35 yards.

ledford_4I only had about 25 minutes of daylight left and was beginning to regret not shooting the mature doe. I pulled out my grunt call and began grunting at the button buck to see if he would react.

Something caught my eye beyond the woods, out in the grass about 120 yards away. A buck with a good-sized rack had his nose to the ground like a beagle. He was running back and forth, sniffing the ground in search of a hot doe. I began praying the buck would be a shooter.

It all happened so fast! Deer were everywhere. The button buck was still hanging around. The doe and her young one were coming back and heading right toward my stand.

All of this movement (and probably the smell of a doe in heat) caught the attention of the buck and he started heading my way too. I couldn't believe it. The doe I had almost decided to shoot was the doe that was bringing in the buck!

As I continued to pray that the buck would be a shooter, I did not realize that he was the deer I had pictures of, the big buck I had seen in the summers of 2012 and 2013. All I knew was that he had a lot of mass, and that he was coming my way very fast and grunting as he came.

I stood up and prepared to shoot. When the buck was at 25 yards, his head went behind a small tree, so I took that opportunity to come to full draw. This movement caught the attention of the other three deer, and they were now all staring up at me in my stand.

The buck was now at 18 yards, and he was looking up at me, too. He was also facing me, and I knew I could not take that shot. But then he turned his head and body slightly and exposed his left front shoulder.

With all four deer ready to bolt, I knew it was now or never. I let the arrow fly, heard it hit him, and saw my red lighted nock sticking out of the deer's side. I had hit him right where I was aiming and began to pray a different prayer: "Help him to go down, Lord. Help him to go down!"

I saw him stumbling around about 40 yards out in front of me in the thick stuff where the does had originally traveled. Then I saw the red lighted nock moving out of sight. With only 10 minutes of shooting light left, and neighboring properties very close by, I chose to get down and try to find him. The blood trail was excellent, and I quickly saw my lighted nock ahead. It wasn't moving, and neither was the buck! He had piled up less than 85 yards from my treestand.

At this point I still had no idea that it was the deer that two summers earlier I had dubbed The One That I Want. As I approached the buck, he was much bigger than what I had originally thought. It was then that I realized that this buck was THE buck! "The One That I Want" became "The One That I Got!"

I raised my hands in praise to God and began to thank Him over and over again as I walked to my truck to get my flashlight. On my way, I met up with the landowner and told him I had killed a big buck. I said he probably had about 16 points, but I was wrong — he had 26 points!

After calling my family, my hunting partner, and my father-in-law, Ed, I celebrated that evening by taking the deer to show each of my hunting buddies. After the 60-day drying period, the buck measured 222 gross nontypical and netted 216.

He was my first Buckeye Big Buck Club and first Boone and Crockett buck. I had learned a valuable lesson about passing up does and waiting for the big buck to arrive. I also learned a lot about true friends and the importance of rejoicing with those who rejoice.

I was reminded once again about how I serve a great God who even gave me The One That I Want!

Eric Barrett

It was the October archery season, and much like in every deer circle there were reports of giant bucks coming from all over. One in particular came from a joining farm that Barrett hunted. The landowner had several trail cam photos, and even a video of the buck in velvet. Rumors of the buck's 30-inch spread fermented in Barrett's mind. Read the full story here.

Nick Brown

The 13-pointer's full-velvet rack exhibits an impressive combination of height, width and mass. The exceptional main beams exceed 29 inches, and the outside spread is 24 1/8. Tine length is also outstanding, with G-2s that tape 10 2/8 and 9 2/8 inches, followed by 13-inch G-3s. The circumferences average nearly 5 inches. Put it all together, and the deer's 5×5 typical frame grosses a remarkable 186 7/8. Asymmetry deductions, plus three abnormal points totaling 10 inches, drop the final typical Pope & Young score to 171 0/8. But as strong as that net score is, this whitetail clearly has the appearance of being even larger — especially with his rack in full velvet. Read the full story here.

Ben Cockell

Ben Cockell had one chance to recover from his accident and reclaim his life, and he had one chance to make the shot on the buck of a lifetime. He made good on both counts. Read the full story here.

Bobby Davidson

Some hunters will go to great lengths in hopes of killing a dream buck. Their journey may take them all over the country from big buck state to big buck state. But sometimes the buck of a lifetime is hiding right in your own backyard; in a state that is slowly building it's big buck reputation. Read the full story here.

Rick DiBene

This Long Island buck is really impressive, whether categorized as a typical 10-pointer or a non-typical 13-pointer. Total gross score, including 5 6/8 inches of abnormal growth in the three extra points, is 175 2/8. Typical gross score is 169 4/8. The rack is really wide, with a 21 3/8-inch inside spread, and the main beams are good, at 24 4/8 and 25 5/8. Tine length is extremely good, with three over 10 inches: the longest being the right G-2, at 12 1/8. Each base circumference measures 4 4/8. Read the full story here.

Mikell Fries

At 16 yards, Mikell took aim at the giant and released his arrow. In an instant, the shaft had passed through him. The deer instantly whirled and ran out of sight . . . but then, within seconds the archer heard him crash to the ground. 'I remained in the stand for several minutes to gather my thoughts and calm down, ' Mikell says. 'I'm sure the entire encounter only took a few minutes, but it seemed an eternity. ' Read the full story here.

Brett Gibson

As any deer hunter knows, a chance at the buck of your dreams sometimes involves a great deal of luck. Blow that shot and it typically becomes a story about 'the one that got away. ' But if we amend that last statement slightly into 'the big one that got away, once, ' that changes everything. Read the full story here.

Keith Grubbs

'My buck turned out to be a basic 9-point typical with three abnormal points. His sweeping typical frame totals a gross Pope & Young score of 162 1/8, with a non-typical gross score of 170 6/8. The main beams, which nearly touch in front, match each other at 26 7/8 inches, and each long G-2 is 12 2/8. "The great deer's three non-typical points total 8 5/8 inches. Of these, the longest is the 5 7/8-inch fork protruding off the back of his right G-2 tine. The antler trait that had made him so identifiable even at age 2 1/2 was still there when I got him, and more prominent than ever. There's zero doubt this was the same buck I'd been after for several frustrating seasons. ' Read the full story here.

Andy Hall

For three years Andy Hall watched this buck on trail cameras, but much like many giants in the whitetail woods, this buck remained hidden from the eye. That lasted until the second day of firearms season in Garfield County, Oklahoma. Sneaking into his stand with bow in hand on November 23, Hall setup on a creek bank where he believed the buck would be about an hour before sunrise. It was a near perfect setup, and almost identically matched a similar setup Stan Potts employed during an episode of NAW TV. The shape of the creek cut into the landscape and gave the hunter an advantage with the prevailing winds. Read the full story here.

Rick Halverson

Three years is a long time to wait for the opportunity at a dream buck. But as any whitetail hunter will tell you, it's all worth it when there's success at the end. Avid Iowa bowhunter Rick Halverson finally connected on a giant 205-inch Iowa buck he named 'Droppy ' last season after years of passing buck after buck, holding out for this particular droptine giant since first seeing it in 2010. Read the full story.

Kyle Heuerman

Any serious whitetail hunter knows that it's not often that we get a second chance on the buck of a lifetime, or even a first chance for that matter. But luck was on the side of Kyle Heuerman and his girlfriend Jennifer Weaver when they put an arrow through this 196-inch Illinois brute. Read the full story here.

Scott Hove

'As quickly as he came to the trail, he started moving away. I thought to myself, 'I'm not going to get a shot at him!' Instead of leaving, he moved to the 35-yard trail my son had talked about. Knowing he was on that trail, I put my 35-yard pin on him and let the arrow fly. I made a good hit, and I killed the 'lucky draw' buck. ' The 7 1/2-year-old monster's rack is indeed unique. It ended up with a great net score of 212 5/8 non-typical, thanks to 40 inches of mass, 27 6/8-inch main beams, split brow tines and that 12 6/8-inch 'unicorn ' point. Read the full story here.

Adam Hupf

The 2014 hunting season was a busy one for Wisconsin bowhunter Adam Hupf. He hunted elk in Colorado, black bear in Wisconsin and put an arrow through a Wisconsin typical archery state record whitetail. Read the full story here.

Corey Klein

'Other hunters keep asking me how I remained so calm and kept my composure to make the shot on this deer. The truth is, from the moment I spotted him until he had an arrow in him was a span of maybe only 40 seconds; there wasn't much of a chance to think about it before shooting. That's one of the great things about hunting: You just never know what will happen on any given day. ' Read the full story here.

Jon Massie

Jon's no stranger to free-ranging whitetails across the central plains, having guided a number of clients to trophies and harvesting many big ones himself. In fact, going into 2013 he'd shot two net Boone & Crocketts: one a non-typical scoring over 200, the other a typical from public land. With such success behind him, Jon felt all of his hunting dreams already had come true. At least, he did until a buck he'd never seen showed up on one of his trail cameras. Read the full story here.

Dean Partridge

Even an old dog gets lucky sometimes. For Dean Partridge, host of Canadian Whitetail TV, it wasn't just luck that allowed him to tag out on opening day for the first time since he was 12 years old, going 27 years between first day harvests. Read the full story here.

Bryon Raper

Bryon Raper's dream was to someday own the old family homestead that had been sold many years ago. As a boy, he vowed to buy back the farm if he ever had the chance. He had no way of knowing it back then, but his dream would come true 40 years later. And to make it even sweeter, he'd end up shooting the buck of a lifetime after reacquiring that property. Read the full story here.

Steve Richardson

'Through the brush, I saw the head of a big buck low to the ground, smelling the doe's bed. I turned the camera on and hit 'record. ' The buck paused, then started walking toward my shooting lane. I pointed the camera at it and hoped the wide-angle view would catch the action. As I drew, he paused for about five seconds. When he started walking again, I picked my 40-yard pin . . . and as his shoulder passed it, I let the arrow go. ' Read the full story here.

Danny Thompson

As an avid bowhunter of 16 years, Danny Thompson's only bow-killed buck prior to this season was a small basket rack. However, since moving to southeast Minnesota — considered by some as the state's Mecca for monster whitetails — Thompson has passed on many quality bucks in hopes of tagging his dream buck. After four years of waiting he was finally rewarded just an hour and a half into this season. Read the full story here.

Wayne Waldo

Five hundred yards from Wayne's tree stand was a buck — and even by the lofty standards of Fulton County, he was a giant. But nothing else about the situation was favorable, from the hunter's point of view. For starters, Wayne was bowhunting; the buck was out of range many times over. Granted, it was Nov. 12, so the monster no doubt was looking for love — but he already had a wad of does around him. Oh, and then there was the wind, which was anything but light. Put it all together, and the scenario was hardly a recipe for big-buck success. Read the full story here.

Curt Wells

On the first day of the hunt, my NO CAM HTR was pressed into action. It was 10 degrees below zero (real temperature) and dead calm. A good buck stood 15 yards from my ground blind, staring at me. If there was ever a time when I needed to draw quietly, smoothly, and without commotion, that was it. The arrow flew true, and my new bow saved me from five more days of subzero hunting conditions! Read the full story here.

Ryan Sullivan

Ryan Sullivan was only 19 when, during the 2013 season, he arrowed an Arkansas buck of gigantic proportions. Like many of his fellow Arkansans, Ryan is a deer and duck fanatic. For several years, however, he gave up most of his duck season to lock horns with the world-class buck. Read the full story here.

Bill Robinson

Three double-digit tines of 10 2/8 to 13 5/8 inches, plus 7 1/8- and 9 3/8-inch brows and a 21 3/8-inch inside spread, add plenty to this regal crown. Put everything together and you have a gross 9-point frame score of 193 6/8. That's as big as it sounds. Typical asymmetry and 11 6/8 inches of abnormal points total 25 1/8 inches of deductions, so as a typical, the deer nets 'only ' 168 5/8. But the 8×5 rack's total gross score of 205 4/8 is much more reflective of its stunning size. Regardless of score, the Robinson buck is clearly a marvel of nature. Read the full story here.

Bo Russell

Bo is a dedicated hunter who spends a lot of time getting ready for deer season. He's been known to pick out a certain buck and focus strictly on him — for better or for worse. This time it was definitely the right choice. The 231-inch buck he named Southpaw evaded Russell time and time again. But his persistence paid off when he finally bagged the buck of his dreams. The giant had a gross score of 246 4/8 inches and a net of 231 4/8. Read the full story here.

Drew Baier

Sometimes you are in the right place, at the right time. That was the case for Drew Baier as he bagged this once-in-a-lifetime buck. After capturing photos of the buck from July until mid-October on his cousins' trail camera, the photos of the buck suddenly stopped. But that didn't stop Baier. After an uneventful November morning hunt, the giant made his presence known. And so did Baier, who dropped the buck later that day. Read the full story here.

Jason Erb

With daylight quickly fading on a mid-November evening, Jason Erb closed the deal on his 193-inch 'buck of a lifetime. ' From his treestand on a friend's serene plot of land in northeast Ohio, Erb nabbed this Buckeye monster buck from 18 yards. Read the full story here.

Jim Cogar

Despite one of the worst droughts in history, in July 2012 Jim Cogar's expectations for deer season in central Ohio were as high as ever. Trail cameras were set, mineral sites were established, and other attractants were strategically placed throughout the farm. But after monitoring trail cameras for two months, he realized the inventory of big bucks was depressingly low. However, Cogar was still able to harvest this Buckeye state megabuck. Read the full story here.

Mike Miller

After beating leukemia, this 215-inch bruiser buck stood no chance when pitted up against Mike Miller. Miller didn't know it that fateful October afternoon, but as he drove onto the property and unloaded his ATV, the buck was making his first-ever daytime appearance in front of his camera. Shortly after, the buck was within shooting range. With the buck distracted by a truck in the distance, Miller took aim and downed his dream buck. Read the full story here.

Robert Taylor

If you enjoy a good story about a kid and his very first buck, you're sure to love the true tale behind the 254-inch bruiser whitetail Texas archer Robert Taylor brought down in Grayson County during the waning days of the state's 2012-13 deer season. Read the full story here.

Ty Schaefer

Ty Schaefer overtook Pennsylvania's No. 4 archery typical of all-time spot with this impressive 172-inch buck. It was the first deer he had ever taken with a bow, and what a beauty. He set up in a staging area between a grass field and a nearly impenetrable thicket, it appeared to be in a prime location. At just 20 yards the buck didn't stand a chance. Read the full story here.

Brett Carman

Brett Carman nabbed this astounding 194-inch non-typical on his 154-acre 'whitetail paradise ' in Adams County, Ohio. Read the full story here.

Author's Note: My equipment on this hunt included a Darton Maverick Express bow, Carbon Express arrows, and 125-grain NAP Thunderhead broadheads.

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