Johnny Ferrell killed a 186-inch stud with a little help from his brother and a well-timed cell-cam photo
Buck: 186 4/8 green gross, 172 2/8 green net including a 14-inch G3
Time of Year: Nov. 2, 2020
Place: Clark County, Ohio
Weapon: Diamond bow with Montec broadhead
To kill truly huge bucks, you sometimes have to pass on bucks most of us would consider a trophy. Johnny Ferrell knew he had to make that choice with the 150-inch 10-point that was standing broadside just 12 yards away.
Johnny and his brother Tommy had set out that morning to hunt and film the very buck now in front of them. It was a single photo, sent from one of Tommy’s cell cams as they readied their equipment that morning, that made Johnny hesitate to draw his bow. The buck in the picture was a massive 9-point, dwarfing the buck in front of them.
The big 9 was on one of the properties that Tommy hunted. Since he had filled his tag just a week before, with Johnny filming, Tommy didn’t have a tag left for the big buck. He suggested Johnny go hunt him. With daylight fast approaching, the brothers decided to continue with their current plan on the farm they were already on.
Their game plan worked, and as Johnny stared at the big 10 in front of him, Tommy whispered, “Are you going to shoot that buck?”
Risk and Reward
“I just couldn’t,” Johnny recalled. “I kept thinking about that big buck in the pic earlier that morning. Tommy knew the farm and knew there was a good chance we could get on him.” He made the decision to let the buck walk.
They climbed down and went to grab a quick bite and form a plan to hunt the bigger buck. Picking up a couple of lock-on stands and some climbing sticks from home, they headed for the farm where the buck had been that morning.
The brothers decided to hunt a pinch point in a funnel that had produced in the past. They quickly got the stands positioned and began to settle in for the evening hunt. Tommy had pulled the camera up and was going through the process of getting it mounted on the camera arm. Johnny’s bow still dangled below on the pull rope. That’s when Johnny noticed that three deer were already in the beans. Two does had entered on one side and a buck on the other, just 75 yards away. Johnny knew immediately that it was the buck they were after.
Quiet chaos ensued. Johnny slowly pulled up his bow, while his brother got the camera turned on, only to find out the battery was dead from morning filming.
By this time, the buck was working down a scrape line straight toward Johnny. “I was frantically pleading with my brother to get the battery loaded and the camera on, but I knew I couldn’t pass up a shot at this buck, film or not.”
The buck stopped at 18 yards, giving Ferrell the shot he wanted. “I’ve killed some good bucks, including a 193-inch 16-pointer a couple years ago, but this one had me shook. My right leg was shaking so hard that I had to lift my foot off the stand with just my toe touching for balance,” said Johnny.
Ferrell watched his Lumenok pass through the deer and immediately knew the shot was low. The buck bolted about 60 yards into the bean field, stopped for a minute, then ran another 100 yards before stopping again, this time a bit longer.
Johnny watched helplessly as the deer disappeared into the deep water.
“There was a deep, swift river just beyond the field and I was hoping the buck wouldn’t make it to the water. We reviewed the footage of the shot and decided to back out and give him plenty of time to die before looking,” said Ferrell. After waiting through a restless night and part of the next morning, the brothers took up the trail.
“We found his bed right next to the river just inside the tree line. From there, we followed the trail until Tommy looked up and saw the buck. “We had started to celebrate when I noticed his head was up,” Johnny said. When the buck’s ear moved, there was no doubt the deer was still alive.
Johnny was able to work around to a spot that allowed him to get another arrow into the buck. The deer lurched to his feet and stumbled down the steep bank, snagging on a sapling at the edge of the water.
The brothers celebrated again, only to watch the buck kick one last time and dislodge himself from the small tree. Johnny watched helplessly as the deer disappeared into the deep water. “I immediately ran downstream about 125 yards to a wide spot with less current. After 15 minutes of frantic searching, the buck’s tail bobbed up in front of me,” he said.
The deer snagged on bottom about 20 yards out into the cold water. Both brothers attempted to work their way out to the buck but ended up turning back. They stood on the bank and tried to think of a way to retrieve the deer. After tying a safety harness to a rope Tommy retrieved from his truck, the hunters were able to toss it out and snag the buck. Slowly the hunters eased the buck to the bank, finally getting their hands on the massive deer.
“I just feel really blessed to take a buck like this, but also to do it with my brother in the tree with me,” Johnny said. “We have been really lucky the last few years to get to hunt together and be there to enjoy each other’s success.”
The buck was massive. The typical 8-point frame dwarfed the frame on the big 16-point Johnny had killed just two years prior. With a green gross score of 186 4/8, and a net Boone and Crockett green score of 172 2/8, his buck will rank in the top 50 all-time whitetails killed in Ohio, according to the Pope and Young Club. Factor in all those inches of antler on a typical 8-point frame, and it’s easy to see how the Ferrell buck will go down as one of the largest 8-points ever killed in the state.