Mark Schlabach didn't sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner.
He was mighty thankful, though.
With his family out of town, the Mount Hope man went hunting Thanksgiving Day, and returned with a northern Coshocton bruiser that's been on the radar of many a hunter west of New Bedford.
"If I didn't see anything, I was going to squirrel hunt," said Schlabach, a salesman for Keim Lumber in Charm. "Then this thing came along at 8 a.m. I was fortunate just to get a shot at him. A lot of things went right for me that morning."
Schlabach, 27, was hunting on property of a Keim Lumber co-worker, and many a deer enthusiast in the area knew of the 22-pointer. It had showed up on trail cameras for years, and by some estimations, was 5 1/2 years old, "maybe 6 1/2."
"We started in the summer hanging stands," said Schlabach, who goes by the nickname, 'Beef.' "But then I started second guessing my choice to hunt the property, because I wasn't seeing deer. The crops on the property are all on the perimeter, so there's no bedding areas to keep the deer. We would only catch deer passing through."
But the more Schlabach hunted, the more deer he started seeing.
"I passed up a couple 130-class bucks," he said. "I'm glad I did."
The fact Schlabach was in the woods on Thanksgiving wasn't unusual, it was just the woods that he was in that was unusual. He had planned to hunt that week in West Virginia as he had done in the past, but the land he had permission to hunt on was sold weeks earlier, and he lost his privileges.
"I had the week off, so I figured I might as well stay home and hunt in Coshocton. I hunted the same stand three days that week," said Schlabach
Even the fact that Schlabach could go hunting is a story, as two years ago he was riding a motorcycle and collided with a van. He broke every limb on his body and was laid up in bed for four months.
"It is a blessing to be alive, walking and hunting," said Schlabach.
As for his Thanksgiving Day hunt, Schlabach was set up close to a pile of corn, figuring that with the rut over, the big bucks would be hungry, and that's exactly what happed. Showing no fear, the bruiser walked right in on Schlabach, eyeing him in the process.
"He knew the stand was there, but he wasn't scared," said Schlabach. "He wanted to get something to eat."
'Beef' was in a predicament, though, as the buck didn't offer a shot, never quartering toward or away from Schlabach.
"He looked at me three different times," said Schlabach, who arrowed the big buck with a PSE crossbow and an arrow tipped with a Rage two-blade broadhead. "I told myself, 'the first shot I get, I'm going to take it.'"
Although Schlabach called the shot risky, it worked out, as he aimed high and tight over the deer's shoulder, and the arrow caught a rib and ricocheted into the buck's lungs.
"I didn't feel confident in the shot," Schlabach said. "(The deer) took off, and I could see the arrow didn't go through. I was a complete wreck. I took my phone out and called my buddies, and they talked me into letting him lay, not to track him and have him run off.
"So we went and had some coffee, and I told them about the shot. They reassured me it was a good shot."
Schlabach and his friends went back a couple hours later to track the deer, and found it some 150 yards from where it was shot.
The buck, which hasn't been officially scored, has 26-inch main beams, an 18-inch inside spread, and its right G2 is almost 12 inches long. It has one drop tine.
"They found last year's sheds from this deer and it had two drop tines," said Schlabach. "Last year it scored 213, but I don't think it's that big this year. I think it was on the downhill side of its life. But, it did pick up nearly an inch in mass at the base of his antlers."
Schlabach's friends put a tape to the buck and it is still in the 200 class.
"I never expected to see him that day," said Schlabach, who estimates he's shot 20 deer over the years. "I've never shot anything bigger than a basket 8 before ... But the way this hunt turned out, this thing must have had my name on it."