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The Pine Ghost... North West editon

PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 5:19 pm
by Gino Bruno
while nothing will ever compare to TC's quest for the pine ghost, i had nicknamed the buck that i have been chasing for 3 years "the pine ghost" due to how nocturnal and nomadic this deer was.

As yohon had mentioned, I have known about this deer since about 2012ish. At the time I thought he was a 3 year old with some really good potential. During the next few years I hunted some really good bucks at my house. 2015 marked the year that yohon and TC were to come out for an elk/deer hunt with me. That year we had one of the worst fire seasons on record and we kind of decided to put that hunt on hold. That also was the year that TC passed (it still kills me that we didn’t get together that year).

That same year I had a really good 5 year old at my house that I wanted to try to get yohon on so I decided that since he would be coming back in 2016, I would leave the buck at my house be hoping that he would make it through another season. I decided to check the big farm to see if I could get a bead on the buck that I recognized from 2012. This also marked the year that I had broken my hand at the motocross track bad enough that I needed to have it fixed surgically. This meant that I was hunting with my compound that year since I could not draw with my fingers. I missed early season that year due to a plate and screws being put in August, 2 weeks prior to the season. I ended up having to have the plate and screws removed because one screws was too long and was rubbing on a tendon. I told the surgeon that it had to be in late October or the plate would have to wait to come out after December 15th (the last day of late bow season). 10/30 was the day of surgery and I was able to comfortably shoot my wheels with a release a week or so later. Gun season came and went and I set out to locate the big guy. I hunted that buck every day of the late season… I had 4 pics of him during daylight and had 3 close encounters. The first 2 were more of sightings as he was slightly out of range both times. The third was on the very last day of the season. I had a very large 4X4 at about 25 yards on a trail. When suddenly he stopped, looked back up hill and laid his ears back. From about 100ish yards up in the timber I heard a snort wheeze. The big 8 puffed up and started walking in that direction and the big 10 I was after came charging down. Those two bucks did not bluff or hesitate…. The charged each other and had a knock down drag out that lasted 8-10 minutes. It ended with the big 10 running off the big 8 in one of the most violent fights I had ever seen…. at which time I had them within range no less than 5 minutes …. I just couldn’t get a good shot due to all the moving. It was an amazing evening and I walked away from that season eating tag soup, licking my wounds but having one of the best nights in a stand that I had had in a very long time. It made my season that year.

2016 started with yohon telling me that he couldn’t make it out. I decided that instead of hunting a virtual ghost, I’d hunt yohons buck that was now pushing 160 inches (the one in my avatar) and was very killable. He was a very daylight active buck and I had him killed not too awful long into the early season using my trusty recurve from the long winded build along in the bowyers gallery.
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This hunting season my focus turned to my nephew. He has become quite a big buck killer and at 13, this would mark his first season with a bow. A big change this year was that my sis and her family moved from Pullman (think WSU) up to Spokane. Now Jason was 13 minutes from my driveway to his. He had always been an hour and a half away and I always did most of the scouting and setting up for his rifle hunts. Since he was now so close and was also going to be bowhunting, i figured it was time for him to start learning how to put the pieces of the puzzle together (and it would give me a lot of time with him). I gave him a few pointers but all of the decisions were left up to him. He put trail cams in places he thought were good spots, glassed with me up on the big hill several times per week all summer and ultimately hung all of our stands for his hunts. The first night out, I knew we were not even in a remotely good spot but didn’t say a word… just enjoyed the first night with my nephew who was now a bowhunter. As the season progressed, so did he. He fine tuned sets and within a few weeks I was now thinking we were getting close. He killed his buck on 9/26 and hunted 21 of the 26 days of his season. On the night prior to killing his buck, we were in a good spot. He spotted his deer at about 80 yards. As he walked passed his uncle dropped the ball….. I could not get that deer to stop. He passed us at 8 yards. That kid fell apart…. He was vibrating for 20+ minutes violently. Every time I looked at him I had to fight laughing as he would see me looking at him and he’d try to calm it….. which only made it worse (boy do I remember those days). As we were passing the big shop on our hike back to the house he said “uncle Gino, I have never had buck fever like that before.” With a big chit eating grin I said “welcome to bowhunting nephew.” The following night found us in the same stand and this time the buck stopped on his own quartering away at 14 yards and Jason executed a perfect shot. The little 46lb bear compound sent a carbon tipped with a 100gr stinger 4 blade clear through the buck. The 5 year old 8pt piled up just out of sight (150 yards).
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During the summer and the entire early season, I was thinking about what I was starting to refer to as the “northwest edition pine ghost.” I had cams out at the big farm and had taken Jason out there to glass on several occasions. As luck would have it, we saw him on our first outing right before dark about 1000 yards from us. We never saw him again and I got one single trail cam pic of him in august over a cattle salt.
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Rifle season came and went. The day after the season, I started the pursuit. There is a 5 day break between late gun and late bow. I set up 4 “buck inventory” cams at various points on the farm. They consist of a cam over a bale of alfalfa and a little corn placed on the edges of the Ag fields. Typically I can locate most bucks that way and it gives me an idea where to start looking to hunt on this massive farm. The break came and went and no buck. I had an idea where to hunt him so I had 6 stands hung. Several days into the season I got my first pic of him…. Not on a buck inventory cam but on a cam that I have on a deer highway at a pinchpoint very close to one of my stands. This stand is about 1000 vertical feet above and a mile and a half away from the valley floor and all of the winter wheat. I sent Cote and Yohon the pic with the caption “game on.”

I hunted every single day, every evening and almost every morning. The one night I couldn’t hunt due to celebrating my neighbor’s 80th birthday he came past that cam (and my stand) with about 20 min of light left. I had literally told JoAnn that I didn’t even want to check the cams the next day as it had rained very hard all day then cleared out an hour before dark…. I knew he would have been there.

I know I’m a bit anal but I keep notes/journal on the deer that I have hunted. It lets me get an idea of their personality and more importantly, their habits. What I had learned from 2015 and especially this year was that this buck was visible every third day… maybe not during daylight but he would hit the same area every third day then would be a ghost for a few days.

This past Friday I was in my “high mountain” stand when I had 2 3 year old 10pts come right down the trail and proceed to spar directly under my stand. They showed no real aggression so I knew the rut had really wound down. They proceeded to hop off the trail and head straight down the mountain. Several minutes went by and then I saw it…. A tine. I knew it wasn’t a spike, there was too much mass. It disappeared into the 6’ tall buck brush and several minutes he just all at once popped out. I felt the huge rush of adrenaline and went through my ritual of calming myself down. At about 60 yards he stopped on the trail and looked directly down hill. He started to head that way and I very quickly gave a soft grunt. He bristled up and looked in my direction. Again his head snapped down hill and he started to head that way. I again quickly gave a very soft grunt and again he blew up. Suddenly, I heard the clicking of antlers and knew it was the 2 bucks that had sparred under my stand. He again puffed up and literally ran down to them.

The next night was my neighbors birthday and he broke protocol and actually showed up 2 nights in a row. The next 2 nights were a ghost town but the temps dropped hard… while we had snow up at my high stand, the valley was clear of snow. I had been hoping for a lot of snow to push him down earlier but I knew the arctic front we are now in would at least help in getting him to stop thinking about his willy and start thinking with his gut. It was Tuesday and day 3 of his cycle was here. I had hiked into that stand at 2am hoping to beat him up the mountain and I did…. But he still passed my stand with 45min of darkness remaining. After completely freezing my arse off, I headed home. That afternoon yohon had text me something to the effect of “that buck doesn’t know who he is messing with” in which I responded “he kicked my arse in 2015 only to show up during daylight within range to “flip me the bird” on the only night I couldn’t hunt.”

I got out to the farm and found that my one buck inventory cam where I was getting most of his pics near the winter wheat was malfunctioning. I quickly headed to the farm house to park so I could run out to one of the other cams that wasn’t getting much of him and use it in place of the bad cam. The owner’s son came out and I told him I didn’t have time to talk as I was late. He said lets hop on the wheeler and I’ll run out out to the cam. What would have taken me a sweaty 20min jog was done in 5 minutes and I was back setting the new cam. By this point I was late but smiling as I have had this uncanny ability to kill deer on days where I was late to the stand. On top of that I had seen him in the morning, he was on sighting day of his 3 day cycle and it was clear and VERY cold.

I barely got into the stand when I had the first doe pass me. This was a very good sign as the deer at the big farm have always been amongst the most nocturnal of any deer that I have hunted…. and I had an hour and a half of light left. A minute later, 2 more does, then 6 does then a spike. After that there was about a 20 minute lull when I spotted him. The sun had just now set on me but he was 100 yards above me looking straight into the sun. again, I thought he was going to hear my jugular vein pounding on my jacket. At first I told myself to look away from him to start calming down…. Then I thought no way…. I had been through this rodeo before, I knew how to calm down and that I just needed to enjoy it. He looked SOOOOO BIG on the hoof. For 7-8 minutes he browsed on the tender stems of the buck brush slowly working toward me. 60 yards out the brush ended and the timber started and now I knew it was on. He slowly worked down the trail and at the last second took a trail that would lead him 20 yards from me but at eye level. I remember thinking to let him pass me before I drew and just before I was going to draw he stopped and slowly did a 180…. I thought nope, not this time. There was some hair right on his heart area that had been scuffed up from a fight. It gave me the best case scenario of being able to pick a spot. I did, hit anchor gave it a 3 count to really burn a hole and let it rip. The arrow disappeared into the grey spot and I knew I had just heart shot him. He nearly wheeled over heading back down hill in an all out sprint. At 70ish yards out he died at 35mph flipping completely over. He never twitched after that.

It was at this time I realized my iphone was taking a poop on me. And I had sent out one text to Cote and Yohon “Got him… heart shot.” My phone had completely taken a poop on me and I couldn’t even get a single pic of where he was laying with so much daylight left. This prompted me to get upset and I made sure my phone was no longer working properly (I’m such an idiot). I ended up hiking down to the farm house and calling JoAnn to come meet me since I no longer carry a camera, just my phone. As I was waiting I drug him clear down the mountain and about 1/3 of a mile down the dry creek bed. I got him up out of the creek bed on the side hill but I now had nothing left. I headed back to the truck and got there just as JoAnn was pulling in. we headed back down snapped pics, dressed him and got him packed out of the gorge we were in and back to the truck. It took me about 4 hours to get him off the mountain.

Ironically I shot one of the most nocturnal bucks ive ever hunted with about an hour of daylight left.

Got him hung and headed back out at 2am to a blind where the elk have been feeding at night. Unfortunately the elk were already there so i just got to watch them under a big moon. I had to set up near a pinch point hoping they would come past me at first light…. They had other plans and went the wrong way. Has been a great season so far.

Hunting rig is the recurve I built in the long winded build along in the bowyers gallery. 54lbs. 510gr carbon tech rhino with a 100gr magnus stinger 4 blade. I’ll have to go up and dig out the broadhead out of the base of the tree it hit…. I had to unscrew the arrow for fear of breaking the arrow trying to wiggle it out.

I haven’t put a tape on him but he should go high 160s... maybe a tic more
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Re: The Pine Ghost... North West editon

PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 5:53 pm
by Yohon
Burgess would be proud of ya buddy.....WELL done!!!!!!

Re: The Pine Ghost... North West editon

PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 6:09 pm
by Stykshooter
Absolutely awesome, and well deserved. Thanks for sharing the photos and story

Re: The Pine Ghost... North West editon

PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 5:49 am
by Jim Casto Jr
Thanks Gino and congratulations--again. It's great that you're mentoring your nephew and congratulations to him too.

Re: The Pine Ghost... North West editon

PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 3:56 pm
by Yohon
I hope that nephew realizes how good he's got it with Gino for an Uncle/mentor!!!!

Re: The Pine Ghost... North West editon

PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 5:16 pm
by lostaro
Great show sir!

Re: The Pine Ghost... North West editon

PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2017 6:36 pm
by superkodiak38
Congrats ! Heck of a buck ;)

Re: The Pine Ghost... North West editon

PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 4:06 pm
by Gino Bruno
thanks a ton guys! he was one of the most challenging bucks i have ever hunted.

turns out i underestimated his score a little bit. grosses 171 2/8. he was shy on the G2s but really made up for it in his mass and incredibly long main beams. i really didn't care too much about the score but i had enough friends that kept on me about what he scores so i finally broke down and put a tape on him. i had figured mid to high 160s but was really surprised when i the tally came up over the 170 mark.

Re: The Pine Ghost... North West editon

PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2017 5:25 am
by Yohon
Topping that magical 170 mark is cool but the age of the buck and the story of the hunt makes this one a "booner" in my book!!

Re: The Pine Ghost... North West editon

PostPosted: Wed Dec 13, 2017 11:51 am
Beautiful!!!! And thanks for the story.. Congrats man!!!