LOGAN - Ethan McCallister is living proof that patience and persistence pay off.
The trophy buck he killed during the height of last year's West Virginia archery season came after four long, long years of observation, guesswork and careful preparation.
"This was the kind of buck you think you'll never get," said the 24-year-old. "I knew I was going to have to play it smart or I'd never have a chance at him."
McCallister first saw the buck on a trail-camera picture early in the fall of 2009. It was an eight-pointer at the time, with antlers that might or might not have met the Division of Natural Resources' standards for official trophy recognition.
"The next year, in 2010, I got a lot of pictures of him, but at the time he wasn't the buck I was after," McCallister said. "He was a 10-pointer, and he probably would have scored in the 130-140 range [using the Pope & Young Club's scoring system]."
Trophy bucks aren't exactly rare in Logan County, so McCallister focused his efforts on hunting other whitetails, hoping all the while that no other hunter killed the one he'd been watching.
The young hunter believed his patience would pay off in 2012, when the buck's rack finally grew to drool-worthy dimensions.
"He was moving around a lot, and ended up not getting very many pictures of him," McCallister recalled. "He left the area early in the season, and I ended up killing another buck instead. Afterward, I started jumping around, looking here and there, and found the big one again."
With his tag filled already, McCallister could only wait and hope the buck would survive the remainder of the 2012 season and then grow another set of bragging-sized antlers the following fall.
By early fall, the buck, sporting an eye-popping 10-point rack, again started showing up on McCallister's trail cameras.
"I started seeing him a lot," McCallister said. "I put up a lot of stands, and I put them up a month ahead of when I planned to hunt. I wanted to give the deer in the area time to settle back down well before I slipped back in there to hunt."
That day finally came on Nov. 13, at the height of the deer mating season. McCallister knew the buck would have its mind on breeding and wouldn't be as wary as it otherwise might.
"I slipped in there when it was first breaking daylight," he said. "By 8 a.m., I started seeing some little bucks, and they were all chasing does. From my stand, I could hear a lot of grunting going on."
So, a little later when McCallister heard another grunt, he assumed it was another small buck.
"I stood up in the stand, trying to warm up a little bit," he said. "While I was standing up, I heard a doe coming around the point. I heard a grunt come from somewhere behind her, and when I looked that direction, I saw a big buck. He went to the edge of the point and looked down the hollow.