John Sullivan works at Hinton Archery in Murray, Kentucky. If that shop sounds familiar, it's because it has been the "unoffical" pro-shop of several Field and Stream bowhunting projects in the past two years. Owner Danny Hinton (The Barrel-Chested Irishman) was one of the panel testers for Scott Bestul's Flagship Shootout bow test this past spring.
Sullivan (Sully for short) had been watching the weather carefully last week. A big cold front was moving through Kentucky on the heels of a full moon, and Sully says morning sits under those conditions are his absolute favorite.
"I've been trying to really pick my days and hunt smart this year," he says. "I had a stand in mind that was only huntable with a northwest wind, and the conditions were finally looking good last week. I decided to give it a try on Tuesday morning, the 22nd."
It was cold – in the 30s – that morning. The stand was overlooking a beanfield, and Sully says there were two bucks locked up and fighting in the field shortly after daybreak, maybe 150 yards out. "They were just tearing it up, but I decided to get my rattle bag out and tickle it, to see what they'd do. They looked my way but didn't come any closer. However, I looked down and a doe had walked right under me, not 15 yards away."
Sully says the doe soon settled in under an oak, scarfing down acorns. He wasn't going to shoot her, but he did want to get some video of her on his cell phone to share with his young daughter at home. "I'd no more than pulled my phone out when I heard acorns crunching behind me. I turned and there was a great buck just 20 yards away, and walking right to me. I was a scrambling mess getting that phone back in my pocket!"
Fortunately, he had plenty of time. The buck stopped at just 8 yards, and Sully double-lunged him. "That arrow zipped through him so fast, he didn't even know he was hit. He walked a ways, and was just pouring blood. Then he flopped right over."
The deer is a fine 10-pointer with thick main beams. Sully rough-scored him at 142 7/8. "My buck tag's filled, but things have really started to pop loose around here within the past few days," he says. "Quite a few guys coming into the shop have talked about seeing bucks chasing does."