January 17, 2023
Most bowhunters don’t tote traditional archery equipment, but Andy Kelly does. And he’s effective with it, too. He’s bagged five bucks most hunters would salivate over, and he’s done it with some of the most basic archery gear available to modern deer hunters.
On Oct. 24, 2018, he arrowed a buck he called “King.” He used a recurve to harvest that deer. It gross scores 169 2/8 inches.
The next season, on Dec. 31, 2019, he used a longbow to shoot a deer nicknamed “Massy.” He says it’s the hardest deer he’s ever hunted and aged the animal at 10 1/2 years old. He has five sheds from that deer that he picked up throughout the years. The buck scored 172 the year it was harvested, and the trophy was even bigger the season before.
On Dec. 5, 2020, he tagged a buck he referred to as “Rocky.” Rocky was an old warrior that liked to fight, but he was no match for Kelly’s recurve bow. The deer aged out at 6 1/2 years old and scores 157 inches.
Last season, on Nov. 11, 2021, he shot a deer called “Barbwire.” That behemoth scores 214 6/8 inches as a 5 1/2-year-old buck.
This season, he shot another booner. The story started in 2020, though. Andy has a shed from that season, which he found next to a beaver hut. During the 2021 season, his father missed the buck during the gun season. So, they started calling the deer, “Matrix.”
“Dad and I watched him come all the way in from 120 yards and had him dead to rights at 60 yards,” Andy remembers. “Somehow, Matrix walked away completely untouched after Dad took a shot.”
Leading up to the 2022 season, Andy decided to focus on this big deer. He set up multiple mock scrapes for the deer, and around Oct. 9 he received photos of the deer. Andy scouted many days and hunted the deer several times but had no luck. One encounter put the buck at 40 yards, but that wasn’t close enough for a longbow.
On Nov. 6, 2022, things changed. He settled in for the afternoon hunt and hoped for a positive outcome. The weather was warm and sunny, which wasn’t ideal, but early November is a great time to be in the Ohio deer woods. Plus, Andy knew the buck was close. He had a perfect wind to hunt the deer, too.
Andy’s stand location was in a river bottom with big, open woods and pockets of thick cover. A thick bedding area stretched out to the front and right of his location. A nearby river snaked through a patch of timber, too. His position was next to where deer frequently crossed the river between two bedding areas.
As the hunt progressed, he heard some grunting and chasing in the distance. The rut was on, a front was coming, and the deer were behaving as you’d expect in November. He watched as a 6-pointer and an 8-pointer chased does around in the timber.
After a while, a lone doe stepped into view 75 yards away. Ten seconds later, Matrix was standing right behind her lip curling. After a brief pause, they walked right to left in front of Andy’s position. About that time, the young 8-pointer ran toward the duo. The doe reacted and sprinted toward Andy. Meanwhile, Matrix charged the smaller buck and chased it off.
Seconds later, Matrix realized the doe was getting away, and grunted seven or eight times as he caught up to her. “At this point, I knew I was going to have my opportunity at Matrix,” Andy says. “As he approached from my left, he was getting ready to walk into my shooting lane by my mock scrape. Just when I was getting ready to stop him, he slowed down and stopped perfectly in my lane.”
Andy drew back, anchored, settled the 20-yard pin and let it fly. “Matrix dropped in his tracks,” Andy recalls. “He was down but still kicking his back feet in circles. So, I quickly knocked another arrow and finished him off.”
“This deer is very special for me because of the hunt my dad and I had for him in 2021,” Andy claims. “I will never forget that hunt, we sat next to each other and really enjoyed watching a buck of that caliber in the wild. My dad got me into hunting, and just with the history of this buck, it is more like our buck than mine. Everyone was very happy for me and was amazed how big the deer was.”
He believes this buck to be 8 1/2 years old. Still, he’s sending off the teeth for aging just to be sure. The deer scores 180 2/8 inches.
“I love the chase of finding a specific mature buck every year and dedicating that year to hunting that one buck,” Andy says. “I have done it for many years now, I and can’t ever get enough of it.”