Updated: Nov 10, 2020
The story with this buck started back in May 2020. We had been feeding the NXT Level pellets and mineral since March but I generally don't put trail cameras up on the sites until mid-May. When I pulled cards for the first time at the end of May while we were at the ranch starting on my new design for the bullpen plot, a new buck we had no history with in previous years was on cam on the bullpen site almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day. By the time mid-June rolled around I already had hundreds of pictures of this buck gorging himself on the supplements. I had been giving our good friends and owners of NXT Level Deer Supplements Scott Christensen and Nate Clark crap about C2 being the NXT Level poster boy of 2020, which is how he ended up getting his name after the masterminds behind the best product out there (Clark + Christensen = C2).
By mid July I had seen him in person in the plot multiple times which was at the time a divided mix of soybeans and bare dirt waiting to be planted in Wildlife Perfect Antler Builder in August with an Egyptian Wheat border all the way along the East and Southern edge of the plot which would end up allowing us to sneak into the stands and blinds undetected by the deer in the plot, as well as providing some security cover for the deer while feeding. The West end with the feeder is a lush plot of Wildlife Perfect Clover blend.
"C2" and his buddy "Beams" standing in the plot while I drove by at dark one evening.
The feeder in the WP Clover plot at the West end of The Bullpen Plot.
Left of the yellow line is tall weeds and sand. Between the yellow and blue lines is soybeans. To the right of the white line is where the Egyptian Wheat border is. By the cedar on the fence line is where the bale blind ended up.
In late July I decided to sneak in one night to try and film and photograph C2 for content. Thinking he was going to come out on the far West end where the feeder was, like he almost always did, I sat on the very Southeast corner to keep a safe distance. Shortly after I got set up I see a nice set of antlers 40 yards away entering the plot behind a cedar. It was C2. This was just the beginning of what would end up being a half season long of him doing the opposite of what he typically did, but only if I was there to encounter it. I ended up getting a ton of good video and several pictures of him that night, all of which will debut when we drop the episode down the road. This next picture was at only 20 yards.
That evening is when I really fell in love with this buck. From that day until the day after I finally killed him, the picture above was my home screen on my phone, only to finally be replaced by a picture of me sitting behind him. With all of the plot work finally done by early August it was time to put the final steps in place to get a chance at him come season. I hung up a stand over the clover plot in a tree that I set up and hunted a few times in 2018 and 2019. Andy and I also set up a blind platform that he and Neil had built, just to the east side of the Bullpen entrance in the middle of the plot. We tucked it up to a thick tree to the west and just south of the Egyptian Wheat border, leaving us a perfect hidden entry/exit.
With everything finally ready, it was just a waiting game until season. I spent the first week of season on an annual trip with my buddy Brandon Kelly chasing Mule Deer in Western Nebraska. Once we got back from that trip I headed straight to the ranch for my first sit for whitetails of the year on September 8th. That night I sat in the platform blind waiting for C2, but another big 8 point ended up coming out and almost came in to range but circled around just after I came to full draw. The next night I sat in the stand over the clover where C2 had been coming in frequently, but typically after dark for the 2 weeks prior. That same big 8 point came out at 70 yards and worked his way towards me closing in to 45 yards before turning and walking a little towards me and then back East towards the other end of the plot. I ranged him at 40 and came to full draw just seconds before he stepped behind a cedar. I let down and ranged him as he stepped out on the other side. 48 yards. I came to full draw again, settled my pin aligned on his opposite front leg aiming at heart level anticipating him ducking a bit. I pulled the trigger and the shot felt great, but he ducked me several inches which led to me hitting above the spine in nothing but meat. I searched for him the next day without finding even a drop of blood. Thankfully a hit like that is rarely fatal. Loss #1 for me.
Screenshot from a video of the big 8 the night before I hit him.
After that low blow, I headed to Western Nebraska again for a week with buddies Jacob Nelson and Kyle Metzger to film Jake's once in a lifetime Nebraska bull Elk hunt which he came home from with a real trophy.
378" Nebraska Giant!
After Jake killed his giant bull I headed back to the ranch to hunt C2 again. This is when the real cat and mouse game started. My first encounter with C2 while hunting was on September 29th. He came out on the West end of the plot while I was in the middle in the blind on the platform. The closest he got was 65 yards before dark. Within a couple days I had another encounter with him that was almost the same except it was almost dark. The problem here was that he was coming into the plot too far East of the stand above the clover for a shot, but also too far West of the platform blind to get a shot. For some reason the deer really liked feeding in the middle of the West half. With no options for trees to hang a stand from to shoot that area of the plot, I decided to set up a Hay Bale blind between 2 cedars in the Eqyptian Wheat which would put me right in the money to shoot that section.
I sat the bale blind for the next 2 nights in a row and had a ton of different deer come within 5 yards, but no C2. Finally on my third sit in the blind, at last light I looked to my left and he was standing at 35 yards feeding my way. He ended up coming in to 14 yards with about 5 minutes of legal shooting light left, but being inside the dark blind, I couldnt even see my pins so I didn't attempt a shot. I was stuck in the blind for just over an hour after dark while he fed his way to the East side. Win #3 for C2. On my next sit from the bale he decided to come out on the far East side of the plot where he hadn't been coming out at all for weeks based off my sightings and trail camera pictures. To add insult to injury, he came well within bow range of the platform blind. Win #4 for C2. The next sit from the bale, same thing. This time he started working his way towards my side of the plot, coming in to 45 yards but just after dark. Worried about getting stuck in the blind for hours or spooking him on my exit, I played a loud coyote howl on my phone and they trotted back to the East side of the plot which allowed me to leave without them catching onto me sitting in the bale. Win #5 C2. Thinking it would be best to stick to one spot rather than bouncing back and forth, I sat the bale blind again the next 2 nights that I could. Who steps out on the East end again both nights? Of course C2. Wins #6&7 for C2. With winds switching to mostly South for the next week or so I wasn't able to hunt C2. One day on my way back from getting gas and groceries in town I decided to stop and ask permission to bow hunt a property I had seen several shooter bucks on while cruising around over the last couple years. Surprisingly I got a yes to bowhunt until a local outfitter came to sign the lease on the property. Huge score. That night I sat the edge of the field to observe where the deer were coming out. A bunch of deer poured out during the last half hour in one corner of the field next to the creek including a mature 10 point. Him and several other deer ended up going down into the creek in the same spot to get a drink. The next day I scouted the entire piece and marked every scrape, rub, bedding area, and major trail on my OnX Hunt app. Bumping several deer including a few shooters, I knew the area I needed to be. The next night I went in for a hang and hunt on the opposite side of the creek from where all those deer came down to drink, but within shooting distance of it. The only tree I had the option to sit in was a tiny tree with no leaves, but I made it work. The base of my stand was right at 7ft above the ground but it gave me the perfect vantage to shoot over the creek bank and watch the field on the other side. With plenty of light left, a big bodied, mature 8 point with a weak rack stepped out and fed in the alfalfa at about 115 yards. Shortly after, I caught a glimpse of a big frame in the CRP on the edge of the field over 1/4 mile away. Big 10 point, awesome! I watched him make a couple scrapes before working out into the field. As soon as he got out there another good buck stepped out by him. I threw up the binos and could tell right away he had a split G2 and at least one droptine on his left side.
Big 10 and the Double Drop
With as far as they were, I didn't expect to do anything but just watch them. A little while later the 8 point closer to me and both of the other bucks started posturing and walking towards eachother. They sparred in the field for about 10 minutes several hundred yards from me. I started watching a deer to my North, then I look back East and see the droptine buck making a B line straight for me with the big 10 following close behind. Knowing they were coming to water and closing the distance quickly without much light left, I started getting ready. They split up and the droptine buck came down Northeast of me while the big 10 came down straight East of me. With them both being between 40 and 45 yards, I set my sights on the big 10 since he looked like he was going to give me the first broadside opportunity at 40. As I'm moving the camera to where he's headed, the droptine buck makes a break straight to me. I scramble to move the camera with one hand and bow in the other to point it at the scrape at 10 yards just as he comes up the creek bank. As he's at 10 yards checking out the scrape I'm attempting to swing my bow up over the camera to get ready to draw. Being so close, so low to the ground, and in a tiny tree with no cover I knew it wouldn't take him long to pick me out. I decided it was either try and shoot the double drop while the 10 was now walking across the water or get busted by the double drop and have him spook the 10 before getting a shot at either. Just as I made that decision, the double drop spotted me and trotted out to 15 yards as I drew. I settled my pin on the opposite leg and center of the lungs and let it go. The shot looked and felt great. He ran off south while the 10 who was in the water at 30 yards trotted back up to the other side with no idea what happened. I watched the video over and over, the shot looked great on there too. I headed back to the cabin while waiting for Brandon and Kyle to come up and help look/photograph. Everyone concluded that he was smoked. We went back to look and took a while to find blood but once we did it was easy to follow until we got to the ditch of the road and he started going down hill and across to the neighbors. Knowing it was a good shot and good blood we knew he'd be just across the road in the neighbor's trees. The next moring I went and got permission to search. I ended up covering 5.4 miles on foot and flying the drone over all the open areas from 8 A.M to 5 P.M without finding the deer or any sign. Major loss #2 for me. Knowing almost certainly that he's dead and not finding him is the sickest feeling I have ever had as a hunter.
Double drop at 10 yards just before he spooked to 15.
Impact of the shot. Looks perfect, right? After the second huge loss of the season, my lack of bucks to target on the ranch, and all the cat and mouse games with C2, I was feeling pretty damn discouraged about hunting. Thanks to hunting being my burning passion and now part of my career, and all my great friends giving words of encouragement, it was time to go back after C2 now that my week on that new property was up. At some point during my week of hunting the other property, the blind on the platform had broken and collapsed in the wind. Finally I got another North wind to sit the Bullpen so with no replacement for the platform blind, I went back to the bale. I got in late and the deer were out super early. As soon as I got into the bale I checked the plot for deer. To my surprise there was a new tank of an 8 point in the East side. I got all my gear set up and ready while occasionally checking to see where he was. With over an hour of light left, he walks 10 yards from the collapsed platform blind and out into the big alfalfa field. Just my luck at this point. I NEED a blind on that platform. Thankfully the next day I was able to find a turkey blind in the barn. It was small, the windows weren't set up for bow hunting, and definitely not ideal for filming out of, but it was a blind and it was getting put on the platform.
The new big 8, just 10 yards from the blind platform that's just out of frame to the left. Now that I had a blind on the platform again and with this new buck and C2 both being on the East side of the plot regularly, I decided I was done with the cat and mouse game. I'm sitting on the platform, and I'm getting a shot at something. October 19, 2020, I made sure I was in the blind and set up early. About an hour and a half before dark deer started pouring out of the bedding to the East and into the plot. With perfect weather conditions I was just waiting to see C2 step out into the plot. Right after I got setup in the blind, I posted this picture on my Instagram story.
With about 45 minutes of light left and 15 ish deer in my side of the plot, I looked west to check that side of the plot for deer and...
THE CAT AND MOUSE GAME CONTINUES! I literally had to cover my mouth so the deer in my side wouldn't hear me laughing at what was happening. At this point of the game with C2, laughing was all I could really do. With my Instagram messages blowing up with buddies also laughing at my luck, C2 casually fed broadside of the bale for almost 15 minutes. In my head I just knew there's no way tonight is the night. Light is fading fast, but he's making his way to the East, very very slowly. He holds up again at 60 yards for another 10 minutes or so. Now I have maybe 10 minutes of light left. I had pretty much given up at this point. Then to my surprise he picks his head up and starts walkig straight to the fence that divides the two sides of the plot. It might happen! I move the camera to where he's looking like he's going to cross, get my range finder ready, and grab my bow. He crosses the fence at 35 and takes a couple steps quartering away. I range him at either 37 or 39 yards. Set the range finder down, and draw back slowly. Having flashbacks to the last 2 shot opportunities I was given, I made extra sure I had my 40 pin locked on where I needed to hit. I touched the shot off, it hit him back and he went dow instantly. Panicking that I hit him in the spine, I nocked another arrow and shot him in the heart. Very shortly after, he was dead. Checkmate, C2! Let me tell you, I have NEVER been this excited or felt so good about finally taking down a buck. This video should show it.
After walking up to him and inspecting the shots, the first one did in fact hit him in the spine just in front of the back right hip but it also got the main artery and absolutely poured blood. This shot alone would have done him in within minutes, but I wasn't taking any chances. After getting him taken care of and back to the cabin, I watched the video over. I'll never take another shot at a feeding deer past 25 or 30 again. At the last second he jerked his head up and dropped his body to take off. He dropped 8 to 10 inches and lunged forward 4 to 5 inches before the arrow got to him, which is how I hit the spine. I have heard people say they'd rather shoot a deer that's head up than head down because jerking their head up gives them the leverage to drop their body much quicker vs. head up when their body can only drop as fast as gravity allows. I have now seen this first hand enough to believe it whole heartedly. I definitely got lucky, but this time I feel like I deserved it. It feels so good when the grind finally pays off and to say this season has been a grind is an understatement. I also can't explain how good it feels to finally kill a buck you have so much history with as this is the first buck like that that I've actually won against in all my years of hunting. I want to give a huge thanks to all of my friends, family, and social media friends and strangers who have reached out with words of encouragement throughout the season and all the congratulations I recieved after finally making it happen. You guys definitely kept me going, and you know who you are. I can't believe how many of you have followed along so closely this season and on this journey with C2. It means a lot!
Now enjoy some success pictures after reading that novel.