Buckeye State bowhunter ends her quest for an 8 1/2-year-old buck named "The Freak"
Rack Report Details
190 2/8 inches (green gross score)
Time of Year:
Oct. 10, 2020
In most parts of the country, it’s rare for a buck to reach 8 1/2 years of age, but this season, Ohio bowhunter Emily Schaad hunted such a monarch.
“I got in contact with a neighboring landowner, and we discussed all the photos and years of history we both had with ‘The Freak,’” Schaad says. “After looking through files of trail-camera photos, I have four years of photos of the buck, possibly five. I photographed him in August of 2019. And I found a shed in February that scored 81 6/8 inches.”
That’s the buck of most hunters’ dreams, and Schaad has hoped for such an opportunity for 16 years. Her father and grandfather got her into the sport. She loves bowhunting and has packed a Mathews for the past decade and a half.
“Deer hunting is my life,” Schaad says. “I live and breathe bowhunting. The work, management, and challenges never end. I push myself every year to be better, learn more, and accomplish bigger goals.”
Years of preparation led up to the 2020 deer season. She’s hunted this area since 2014. Hunting several chunks of private lands within a few miles of each other, she’s gathered a lot of information about deer that live in these parts — including The Freak.
Interestingly, this year he showed back up on the same exact day as in 2019 — Oct. 4. Schaad captured trail-camera images along the same field-edge scrape line, and she had daytime images in another location.
“I knew there was no way that I would ever kill that buck along that field edge,” Schaad says. “I had a trail camera on the crossing where I found his shed in February. He started using that trail every day, including three days in the daylight.”
On Oct. 10, fate had a meeting scheduled between her and the huge whitetail. That day, the weather was cloudy with a slight breeze out of the southwest. The forecast showed heavy rain the next day, and she expected solid movement just prior to that front.
The Freak’s core area centered on a property with a good mix of crop fields, oak-filled woods, and cattle pastures. Her destination: an oak ridge that wrapped around several bedding areas. The challenge? Finding a tree to hang a stand in. There was only one that she could use that wouldn’t require cutting shooting lanes. Of course, it was a large, shaggy bark hickory.
Running late, Schaad didn’t think she’d have enough time to get to the farm, hang the stand, and get settled before deer began moving. But she did, finishing the job around 4:30 p.m.
Once settled in the tree, Schaad began scanning for movement. An open field stretched out to her left. The acorn-rich oak ridge stood in front of her. To her right towered a steep hill that dropped off into a bottom. And to her rear were several mast-bearing oak trees with an open, unmanaged field beyond.
A short time later, drizzling rain set in. This didn’t discourage her one bit. She knew light to moderate rainfall can actually spur deer movement, especially if it slacks off an hour or two before dark.
It was a quiet sit. The wet ground made it difficult to hear movement, but the smell of fresh rain and fall leaves kept her hopes alive. She didn’t have to wait long, though. It had been raining steadily for about 30 minutes when the buck showed up. Around 6:20 p.m., she saw antlers moving through the timber. It was The Freak.
“I immediately knew it was him,” Schaad says. “The buck’s rack stuck out on both sides of a group of trees. No other deer in the woods had a rack that wide.”
She slowly stood up and got ready, and the monster buck walked toward her. As he closed within range, the deer veered right toward the oaks. The buck stopped, turned broadside, and looked in the opposite direction. Schaad took that opportunity to draw her bow and settle the pin. She calmed her nerves, slowly squeezed the release trigger, and made a perfect 18-yard shot.
Her arrow center-punched the heart, and the buck didn’t even know what hit him. The deer ran about 60 yards and crashed. Schaad heard the commotion from her stand and knew the buck was down.
“I was in tears and couldn’t keep my composure after I shot,” Schaad says. “I immediately called everyone I was close to and let them know what had just happened.”
Just to be safe, she gave the buck two hours before taking up the blood trail. She didn’t want to risk pushing him onto a neighboring property. Her husband, father, and some close friends assembled for the recovery. Everyone was in disbelief. Massive main beams, giant split brow tines, and a 23-inch inside spread made him look like a dadgum elk. More than 190 inches of antler didn’t hurt, either.
“He was extremely old, smart, unpredictable, and always stayed in my mind,” Schaad says. “I just never thought I would have a chance at him — my biggest and oldest buck. Everyone dreams of having a success story like this one, and I finally made it happen.”