Ohio Crossbow Hunter Rents Helicopter to Find 20-Point Monster Buck

Steve Esker of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, went to extraordinary measures to claim this dandy 20-point buck inside the Columbus city limits on Sept. 29, the fourth day of the Buckeye State’s early whitetail season. The buck’s green-scored rack grossed 213 6/8 and netted 206, non-typical. Click through the slides to learn how Esker got his buck.
The buck was one of two that Esker hunted exclusively last season, when trail cam shots revealed him to be a 13-point 180-class deer. “A friend shot him high in the shoulder last year,” Esker says, “and three weeks later we saw him chasing does. He’s a tough deer. We were calling him Kevlar for a while.”
Despite three encounters with the buck in 2008, Esker never got a shot and ended the year–uncharacteristically–with his tag unfilled. As Ohio’s 2009 opener approached in September, he had more than 200 photos of the buck on his trail cam . . .
… including this shot captured Sept. 25, the eve of opening day. Esker missed the opener, but a quick check of his trail camera got him excited to hunt Sunday. “I had him on camera three days in a row,” Esker says. “I’m thinking, ‘This is good.’ I was pretty pumped.”
During each of his three hunts Esker passed on several good bucks, including this 150-class 10-pointer, which presented good shot opportunities on all three evenings Esker sat on stand.
Patience paid off Sept. 29, when this Buckeye bruiser appeared 130 yards away in front of Esker’s other stand. By the time he turned on his video camera and readied his crossbow, the buck had closed to 40 yards. “I didn’t expect him to be there that fast.”
“He did what all the big bucks do in a bad wind,” Esker says. “He started to go around me.” But the food plot of sugar beets, turnips and clover under Esker’s stand drew him in.
“He came to the edge of the food plot and browsed a little. There were several does and a smaller buck in there, and he was watching them the whole time, like, ‘What are they doing?'”
“Finally he committed and came in,” Esker says. “I had a real small window; it wasn’t the easiest shot to make.” Two minutes after he’d spotted the buck, he took the shot at 20 yards. It was 7:15 pm.
“I went back to look for him a couple hours after the shot, and I found very little blood,” Esker says. Since he’d filmed the hunt, he watched the video again and decided the shot might have been low. He decided to back out and resume tracking in the morning.
That night it rained heavily, and the next day Esker brought in a tracking dog but found no blood. The reason, he later discovered, was they’d started in the wrong spot. Jim Gokenbach and several other friends helped him spend the day crisscrossing the CRP field where the buck disappeared; buzzards circling the field convinced them the buck was dead. They quit at 3:30 so Gokenbach could hunt, and that evening Gokenbach (left) arrowed this 11-point, 155-class typical.
Another look at the video further convinced him the buck was dead: “My mark should have been bullet-proof at that distance,” says Esker, who was shooting a Parker Tornado crossbow with a 3 x 32 Red Hot Illuminated Scope. “After looking at the video again and again I could see it was a great shot at only 20 yards.” Esker, who flew in helicopters often during his service in the Ohio National Guard, hit upon the idea of renting a chopper. An online search turned up local pilot Steve Slater, and by 5:00 he’d landed his helicopter on Esker’s land.
Once in the air it took less than 60 seconds to spot the buck. “He ran only 160 yards from where I shot him,” Esker says. “We had to have been within 10 yards of him several times during the day and didn’t see him lying there.”
The evidence proved him right about the accuracy of his shot: The broadhead collapsed both lungs and passed through the heart.
Steve’s twin brother Scott (right) helped him drag the buck out…
…and then joined in the happy photo-op…
…even bringing his mount of a 23-point, 231 5/8 net buck he took last year, only 800 yards from where Steve shot his 20-pointer. “Good genes here,” says Steve. Noting the similarities in the frame and kickers on these two racks, we assume he’s talking about the deer.
The buck bulked up considerably since Esker first encountered him in 2007 as a 145-inch 9-pointer. He weighed 255 lbs. field dressed, with an estimated live weight of 340.
With 19 scoreable points, the rack tallies 46 4/8 inches of mass and boasts 26-inch main beams.
A final score awaits the 60 day drying period, but the preliminary net of 206 suggests this buck should rank in the top 20 for Ohio crossbow kills.