Thirty-one-year-old Jonathon Zell, of Dry Prong, lives within the Kisatchie National Forest in Grant Parish, a 604,000 acre chunk of real estate that has been kind to him when it comes to producing big bucks.
In 2014, Zell arrowed a 148 inch 10 point buck. In 2017, he downed a 168 inch 12 point, a buck we wrote about in Louisiana Sportsman. Last season, he shot 138-inch buck. All three of these bucks fell to Zell’s bow. Could he keep his successful streak alive this season? Indeed he could when on Nov. 18, he downed a 145-inch 8-point buck.
“I’m a bow hunter and those first three were all taken with my bow,” Zell said. “I hadn’t picked up a gun in three years but I had the chance to make a quick mid-day hunt last Monday so I decided to take my Remington 30.06 bolt action.”
Window of opportunity
Working for Union Pacific railroad, Zell got off work that day at 10:30. He knew he had to be back in time to pick up his children from school at 3:00 so he decided to use that four hour span of time to head for an area he had located a few days earlier when he was helping his brother track a buck he had shot.
“While I was trailing my brother’s deer, I walked up on an area on a ridge with red oaks that were dropping acorns,” he said. “I also noticed that next to the ridge was a thicket I figured was a bedding area so I hiked three-quarters of a mile into the area with my Summit Viper climbing stand and secured it to a tall pine. It was pretty windy and I felt like I needed to get high above the ridge so my scent wouldn’t be detected and I climbed probably 50 feet high.”
He was in his stand by 11:15 and around 12:40, Zell picked up his artificial rattling horns and crashed them together, followed by hitting his grunt call a couple of times.
“Within two minutes, I could hear a deer walking from the bedding area headed my way,” Zell said. “He popped out of the thicket at 30 yards and I knew this one was a ‘shooter’ so I put the crosshairs on him and hit the trigger. The buck dropped in his tracks. When I got down from the tree and walked over to him, he really impressed me; I didn’t know he was actually that big.”
Public land success
The big 8-point buck that was between 5 and 6 years old carried a rack that measured 20 inches inside with main beams 24 and 25 inches. Bases were 5 inches each and the buck weighed 190 pounds. His rack was measured at 145 1/8 inches.
With the phenomenal success Zell has had hunting public land without using trail cameras to pinpoint bucks, he has proven that when you find the right habitat as in this case, oaks producing acorns next to a thick bedding area, you stand a good chance to have a crack at a good buck.
“The bucks I have shot here, I had never seen any of them before. I just knew” he said, “that when the rut is taking place, when you get away from the crowds, find acorn-producing oaks with a bedding area nearby and use a rattle and grunt call, something to make him think a fight is going on, you stand a good chance of pulling a good one to your stand, even in the middle of the day.”