Taking a Boone and Crockett-caliber whitetail with a bow is one of hunting’s toughest challenges. Due to their elusiveness, big, heavy-horned bucks are in a class of their own. Most hunters will never see a Booner in their lifetime; in fact, record-class bucks aren’t found just anywhere, but certain areas seem to have a knack for producing high-scoring whitetails.
And to up that ante, when it comes to arrowing a buck scoring more than 200 B&C points, very few hunters can lay claim to that feat. Below is the story of one of those hunters.
Adam Hays III got his first bow when he was 5 years old and started bow hunting under his father’s tutelage when he was 14. He took his first buck in his early 20s and instantly became consumed with deer hunting. Hays read every hunting magazine he could get his hands on and decided he would never shoot another buck-scoring less than 140 B&C points.
Hays met a hunter who introduced him to a method of hunting for a specific buck. Employing this new method, Hays began finding and shooting some newsworthy whitetails. Since the late ’80s, he has hunted almost exclusively by targeting specific bucks, and has become very successful bagging them.
Hays, like many die-hard bow-hunters, is dedicated to shooting only the biggest bucks around, even if it means going home empt-yhanded. This soft-spoken Ohioan has a knack for tipping over magnum-sized white-tailed bucks with outrageous headgear.
His prowess as a bow-hunter has landed him eight Booners—with three bucks scoring more than 200 B&C points, and bucks scoring 196, 182, 178, 173 and 172 inches respectively. All of Hays’ B&C bucks were taken in Ohio except two, which were taken in Kansas and Saskatchewan. In addition, the archery expert has taken 36 Pope and Young-class bucks.
Hays lives in central Ohio near Columbus and readily admits the area is home to some jaw-dropping bucks. “I’ve been fortunate to hunt all over the country,” he said, “but I believe the bucks in my home state are some of the biggest.”
Each fall Hays embarks on a quest of harvesting giant bucks and has garnered quite a reputation doing so. He’s been featured on hunting videos and outdoor television shows. Thanks to his talents as a videographer, he has also worked extensively with many other industry pros.
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THE HAYS SYSTEM
Perhaps most interesting, Adam Hays doesn’t own any land on which to grow monster bucks. Instead, he finds a potential record-class buck and then attempts to obtain permission to hunt the spot where the deer roams. And so he doesn’t disturb the property, Hays observes a buck from a distance, using a high-powered spotting scope. His honey-holes are usually small parcels of land close to his home.
Hays’ system hinges on finding one specific buck, and scouting that buck from summer until fall without disturbing the animal. During his first summer of using his system, Hays found a large bachelor group of bucks feeding in a soybean field near his house. One of the bucks stood out above the rest—wearing velvet-clad antlers that were wide and massive, all atop a mature, heavy body.
After patterning the buck, Hays decided to hang a tree-stand in a travel corridor between the buck’s feeding and bedding areas. “My goal is always to get as close as I can to a buck without disturbing him,” Hays explained. “When I go in to hunt him, he never knows I’m there.
“Big bucks like sanctuaries where they can escape gun hunters and feel safe,” he continued. “Old, mature whitetails are a completely different species— they don’t like to be seen by anyone. They actually move less than other deer and prefer a smaller core area.”
Eighteen years ago, Hays bought a copy of “Moon Guide” by Jeff Murray and admits the book changed the way he hunts. He now relies on solunar tables and hunts the “red” evenings on the chart. “The chart is pretty accurate,” he said. “The only differences occur during the rut, when whitetails are totally unpredictable.”
Hays has scored on most of his big bucks before November 1 because big bucks change their routines during the pre-rut period and are hard to pattern. Instead, he relies on getting close to the buck he wants to shoot, and hunting it from mid-October until the end of the month. He says bucks are on a strict feeding pattern then, and usually repeat their daily routines.
HAYS’ FIRST GIANT BUCK
Hays arrowed his first 200-incher in 1999 after watching the bruiser all summer. The buck was hanging out in a small woodlot on the outskirts of town. Knowing he would get only one chance at the giant, Hays waited until the conditions were right.
On October 19 the wind was perfect, so Hays hunted that afternoon near a scrape line within 100 yards of where the buck bedded. His plan was to rattle just before dark, hoping to get the buck up from his bed earlier than normal.
As the sun began to set, Hays began rattling and a small buck charged in. Thirty seconds later, the giant Hays was after appeared a short distance away. The top-heavy buck walked to within 10 yards of Hays’ tree-stand before a well-placed arrow took out its vitals. Fifty yards away, Hays watched the 201-inch giant tip over. The buck carried a typical 10-point frame with six sticker points.
“I can’t even put my feelings into words,” Hays said. “It was like catching a winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.”
GOING BACK FOR SECONDS
In August 2001 Hays watched a buck he’d estimate to score 180 B&C points in a bean field. His dog had previously found a shed antler in that area that scored 83 points, and Hays believed this was the same buck. He received permission to hunt the area, but never laid eyes on the brute again until after the season in January 2002.
During the fall of 2002, Hays hunted the elusive buck again but was never afforded a glimpse of the old deer that he believed would now score near 200 points. Disappointed by the buck’s elusiveness, Hays was frustrated—but he refused to give up.
During the summer of 2003, Hays spotted the buck in a nearby soybean field. The buck’s antlers were huge, and Hays was confident that he was looking at his potential second 200-inch whitetail. The buck was extremely cautious, so Hays strategically set up eight tree-stands in the area.
On October 26, Hays climbed into a tree-stand for an evening hunt and began making some soft grunts on his deer call as last light approached. Like a vapor, the elusive giant appeared 20 yards away. Coming to full draw, Hays placed a broad-head in the buck’s boiler room, and the giant tipped over a short distance away.
The 203-inch giant was magnificent, carrying a typical 10-point frame with five sticker points. With two great deer to his credit, Hays hatched plans for number three.
THE 200-INCH TRIFECTA
In 2006 Hays learned about another great buck in his area, when he invited a friend to hunt on a piece of property he had access to. Hays had already filled his tag, so he took his friend to a farm that he’d hunted since high school. Hays videoed the hunt and his friend missed a shot at a giant buck at 15 yards. The hunt was now on for Hays’ third 200-inch trophy.
Hays watched for the buck during the summer of 2007, but he never caught a glimpse. On October 13, Hays climbed into an observation stand and was elated when he spotted the bruiser. On October 22, Hays saw the buck again in a corn field and formulated a plan to arrow the great buck.
On October 24, Hays carried in a tree-stand as he carefully entered the thick woodlot. His plan was to hang the stand in a strip of trees between a corn field and CRP field, hoping to intercept the buck. Satisfied his stand was in a good location, Hays climbed into the elevated perch and began his vigil.
Two hours later, the huge buck got up from his bedding area 80 yards away and headed toward Hays’ stand. The buck stopped at 10 yards and Hays made a perfect shot.
A short distance away rested Hays’ third 200-inch buck, carrying a 6x6 frame with three sticker points and scoring an amazing 208 inches.
Adam grabbed the antlers of his third behemoth buck and began the arduous task of dragging the beast to his truck. On the way he pondered where he might take his fourth 200-incher.