John Cooper with his 11-point Ohio buck.
What most hunters would like to accomplish in a lifetime John Cooper did in a single day.
On Halloween, no less.
That morning, he left his home in Fallowfield Township and drove a little more than an hour to hunt a farm in Ohio. He killed an 11-point buck that he estimates will green score about 135.
Later that day, back and hunting close to home, he shot a 12-point that he expects will score in the low to mid-140s.
Oh, and in between, he killed a doe, too.
“So I ended up getting two Pope and Young bucks in two states in about an hour and 45 minutes, combined, in stand. With a doe in between,” Cooper said. “It’s just so unreal.”
The story starts near Bellaire, Ohio.
Cooper left home about 4:30 a.m. and was in his stand there about 10 minutes before daylight. By 7:45 a.m., having already watched a button buck go by, he saw a big buck coming.
“He walked right up on a scrape I’d made earlier, and started pawing the ground and urinating and just working it over,” Cooper said.
He then continued on toward Cooper, who took him when he stood broadside at 23 yards.
That was deer No. 1.
Cooper drove back to Washington County, had lunch, and debated whether to go back out. He has permission to hunt several places in Allegheny County and had hung stands weeks ago, but he figured it was going to be too late in the day to be worthwhile by the time he got there. Instead, he went to another spot just a few minutes from home. It’s a natural funnel, he said, a small strip of trees connecting two larger woodlots.
He got into that stand about 4:30 p.m. Twenty minutes later, he saw and heard the driver of a black pickup truck hit his brakes and horn on Route 43. Cooper suspected deer crossing the highway as the reason, and was soon proven right. Three does came by his stand. He shot the biggest.
That was deer No. 2.
John Cooper with his 12-point Pennsylvania buck.
Cooper hung up his bow after shooting that deer, filled out his tag and climbed down to tag it. As he was doing so, he heard another deer nearby run away. Cooper thought it might have been one of the other does he’d seen.
But the big doe’s tongue had been hanging out when she walked by, making him suspect a buck had been chasing her and likely was forced to turn around by the truck. Perhaps it was still in the neighborhood, he thought.
With two hours of daylight left, he climbed back into his stand to see what might happen.
“I wasn’t in there, I’m telling you, five minutes and I looked down this logging road and here comes a buck. He was bound and determined to find that doe,” Cooper said. “And when I got a good look, I thought, oh my gosh, that’s a nice buck.”
Cooper couldn’t shoot right away. The buck walked right up to his stand — to lick the dead doe and nudge her with his antlers — but was facing directly at him.
Eventually, it turned, and he took it behind the shoulder at 30 yards.
That was deer No. 3.
“It was just awesome,” Cooper said.
His Ohio buck was one he had seen before, at least digitally. He captured images of it, and an even bigger whitetail, on a trail camera.
His Pennsylvania deer was a mystery animal.
He learned later that a friend had — on one occasion only — gotten trail camera photos of it as it snuck through a housing development after dark. But Cooper had never seen those or the deer itself until he got his opportunity to kill it.
“So where that buck came from, I’ll never know,” Cooper said.
Though he’s never gone through with filling out the paperwork to get in the Pope & Young record book officially, he’s had other deer scored. Five of those he’s taken prior to this year would qualify. Now he’s up to seven.
But never had he taken two giant bucks in one day.
“It was the best day I ever had in the woods,” Cooper said. “It’s still unbelievable.”
This story originally appeared at triblive.com/sports/outdoors.