30-06 Mineral Key to Shooting a 180-Inch 9-Point

By Adam Hayes, Ohio

 This story begins two seasons ago, when a giant whitetail showed up at one of my 30-06 mineral sites during late summer. I had no idea the buck even existed before that September day, but by the looks of his enormous cage, I knew he was an animal worth concentrating my efforts on. His typical 9- point frame looked to be world class, and with a couple of sticker points and triple brows on both sides, I guessed the buck to be in the 180-inch range. I saw him one time that season, but it was too dark to video him.

 Fortunately, I found out the buck survived that season after I saw him in late February. That was my first look at him during good light, and he was still carrying both sides, but what really caught my attention was the lack of white hair on his head, and that is how he got nicknamed “Dark Horse.” Just like a lot of hunters, I don’t own my own land, so I have to get permission or fork out money for leased ground. This makes it difficult when it comes to having any room for establishing food plots, but it’s perfect for providing nutrition by establishing 30-06 mineral sites. I’ve been using strategically placed mineral sites for years, using them to provide nutrition but also to monitor the giant bucks I have hunted almost year round. I get started in March and will monitor these sites right up to the day that the bucks in my area shed their antlers. 30-06 Minerals have been a critical ingredient in my success in learning how to kill some world-class animals. One of the coolest parts of using mineral sites is watching a buck grow throughout summer, and the Dark Horse was no exception. As he grew throughout summer, I began to notice the buck's rack had oddly grown cleaner that year, losing his stickers and his triple brows. One thing didn’t change though: He was still a world-class animal, and it looked like he might even grow a Boone & Crockett 8-point frame. I was out of state for the first few weeks of September, but one week before the Ohio opener, I was back and anxious to check my trail cameras in hopes Dark Horse was still in the area. In the three weeks I was gone, my cameras were full of pictures, but none of Dark Horse since he had shed his velvet.

Uh oh. That was concerning to me, because I know how a mature buck can vanish when he sheds his velvet. So my plan was to hope for a good wind, slip into an observation stand on the edge of the property and get a look at him before season opened up. When I finally got the wind I needed, three days before season, I slid into my stand and hoped for the best. Right before dark that evening, I saw him rise from the beans. Fortunately, he fed off in the opposite direction which allowed me to leave the area undetected. For the next couple of days I watched him get up in nearly the same spot almost every night. Unfortunately, on opening day the wind was wrong for that stand and there was no way I was going to risk a morning hunt right in the middle of his food source or chance getting to my original stand in the afternoon again with him bedded within 30 yards of it. Well, if I couldn’t get close to where he was coming from, I was going to have to concentrate on where he was going to. That’s when I took advantage of a mid-afternoon rainstorm to hang a stand in the area where he was exiting the field. Late in the afternoon on my first sit in the new stand, Dark Horse followed a small 6-pointer into the field. It was getting dark fast, and at that pace, the pair wouldn’t cover the 200 yards in time for a shot. When I had just about given up hope, the bucks quit feeding and began moving a little quicker, closing the distance to my position. When they reached the point in the field where they had normally turned and cut into the creek bed, they continued right down the middle of the field, leaving 60 yards between me and my trophy. When Dark Horse came as close as he was going to get, I hit him with the range-finder: 62 yards. Fortunately, he stopped again to feed. I came to full draw, rested my 60-yard pin on his chest and released. When my arrow disappeared in the giant buck, my two-year quest for Dark Horse — and his luck — finally came to an end.