By Ernie Calandrelli with John E. Phillips
Day 1: PSE’s Ernie Calandrelli Takes the Biggest Buck of His Life in Kansas
Editor’s Note: When we asked Ernie Calandrelli, public relations director for Quaker Boy Calls in Orchard Park, New York, how long he had been shooting PSE, he answered, “Years and years and years.” Calandrelli can’t remember when he didn’t shoot PSE. Although he doesn’t remember the models of PSE bows he’s shot over the years, he does remember some of the better deer he’s taken with his PSE bows. As Calandrelli has gotten older, he has had medical problems that would cause most bowhunters to give-up the sport. With both shoulders completely replaced, he is still taking deer each season with his PSE bow. Ernie Calandrelli is the bionic bowhunter.
The best buck I ever took with my PSE bow was a buck I killed in Kansas that scored 176-1/2-points on Pope & Young that I took at 17 steps. I had put a climbing stand in a tree on the edge of a river bank where I had hunted the year before. I climbed into my tree stand before daylight that first morning. As the light brightened-up the sky, I did a series of grunt calls. I just had put down my call when this buck came up over the edge of the river bank. At first light, I had seen a rub and ranged it at 17 yards. When the buck came over the river bank, he walked right beside that tree, before moving to within 12 steps of me. I thought he was at least a 130-inch buck. I made the decision to take the shot, but the way he was coming, I knew he would smell me. While he moved through a thicket, I came to full draw. When the buck hit my scent line, he whirled and ran back into the thicket. I thought the hunt was over, but luckily, he stopped by the tree I had ranged and looked back at me. I put the pin right behind his shoulder and released the arrow.
I realized immediately I had the buck. I knew I had a clean release, and that my pin sight was behind the shoulder, where I needed it to be. When I touched the trigger on my mechanical release, there was no question in my mind that the buck was mine. One of the big advantages of shooting a PSE bow is if you practice with it, you have confidence and know your bow is flat-shooting and fast. You know when you touch that trigger that you’ll have your buck. I often am asked why I shoot PSE bows, and my answer always is, “They’re dependable, they fit me, and they do what they’re designed to do. They take deer and other big game.”
Day 2: PSE’s Ernie Calandrelli Takes the Same Kansas Stand and Makes the Same Shot with the Same Bow to Equal a 160 Inch Buck
One of the things I like about PSE is I have years of history with the company. I believe if something’s not broken, don’t fix it. I’m the same way about deer hunting. After I took the biggest buck of my life in Kansas, I returned to Kansas the next year. The first morning of the hunt, I went back to the same stand where I had taken the 176-1/2-inch buck the previous year. I knew when I walked into the woods I’d start perspiring. So, I carried my outer clothes with me to the stand and put them on there. On this morning, I wore a hooded sweatshirt with a Quaker Boy Ridge Runner Grunt Call in the front pocket. Before I could take my outer clothing out of my daypack, I heard something walking and cracking limbs. To be honest, I thought it was another hunter. Then I spotted a deer at about 40 or 50 yards in my peripheral vision.
I took out my grunt call. Because I was looking at the deer and trying to take out my grunt call out at the same time, somehow the plastic tube on the front of the call got hung-up in my pocket. So, when I pulled it out, I had just the call in my hand. In the early days of deer calling, grunt calls were just short calls with no hoses. So, I knew how to put my hand over the end of the call to muffle and deepen the sound. The deer turned and started coming to me. That buck walked right up under my stand. I couldn’t see exactly how big the buck was. However, I knew he was over 130 inches, so I took the shot. I waited about an hour in my tree stand, before I decided to track the deer. Instead of following the blood trail and going straight to the deer, I opted to go over the bank and walk the edge of the river.
Before I came out of the tree, I identified a tree that I could recognize from the river bank. That tree was important, because it was the last place I had seen the buck. My plan was to stay out of sight and hearing of the buck I had arrowed and walk down the edge of the river. When I got to the tree where I had last seen the buck, I started looking for my deer. I took my time and walked as quietly as possible. When I was even with the tree, I sneaked over the edge of the bank. Just as I topped the river bank, I saw a huge buck with long antlers. I said to myself, “Oh my gosh, is that the buck I just shot?” I went over the bank and put my hands on the deer’s antlers. I couldn’t believe it. This buck scored 160 on Pope & Young. When I went back to the tree and stepped-off the distance, I found the buck only had been standing 6-yards from me when I took the shot. I had used my 10-yard pin, and that PSE bow shot so flat and fast that my arrow only hit a few inches below where I was aiming.
Day 3: PSE’s Ernie Calandrelli Lets His Bow Down and Turns Around in the Tree to Get the Shot at a Missouri Buck
A week before I took the biggest buck of my life in Kansas, I had been hunting in Missouri. I had set-up a ladder stand in a creek bottom, where two or three ridges came together. This bottom was right on the edge of some Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land. During this afternoon hunt, the sun was going down over the hill behind me. I knew I didn’t have many-more minutes before dark. As the sun went down, it lit-up the CRP field behind me. Every blade of grass and every bush glowed like neon lights. In the distance, I could see something moving across the field. I picked-up my binoculars and saw it was a monster buck, and he was coming toward me but wouldn’t pass by me. I pulled my Ridge Runner grunt call out of my pocket and grunted to the deer. I hoped to get him to turn and walk to me. As soon as that buck heard that grunt call, he spun and started running straight to me.
This hunt had to be one of the most-exciting ones I ever had in my life. I never had seen a buck run as fast or as hard straight to me as this buck did. For a minute, I was dazed and couldn’t think of what I needed to do. Finally, I grabbed my PSE bow and clicked on my release. The buck stopped about 80-yards away and stood in a little draw. As I listened and watched, that buck used his antlers like a wrecking ball. He tore-up trees, bushes and everything in sight with those antlers. After the buck had done battle with all the foliage, he stopped, looked in my direction and then looked away. When the buck looked away from me, I gave him a soft grunt call. He whipped his head around and took-off running again. Leaves and dirt were flying in the air as he dug his hooves into the ground and ran full out toward me. When he got within 12 steps of my stand, he locked-up and froze like a statue.
From the position of the deer’s body, I thought he was going to walk to my right side, so I was positioned to take the shot on that side. Instead, the buck went to my left side. I had to let the bow down to turn to the other side of my stand without him seeing me. When I got around the tree and came to full draw again, the buck was 12-yards from me and walking away. I started grunting, whistling and all the things I normally would do to stop a buck. Finally, I yelled at the deer. Once he stopped, I had my pin sight right where I wanted the arrow to go. I touched my release and fired. The buck took the arrow and only ran a few yards before he piled up. When I found him, I couldn’t believe the size of his antlers. This buck scored 166 on Pope & Young.
Day 4: PSE’s Ernie Calandrelli Says All He Could See Was Antlers Coming Toward Him in Iowa
I was hunting in Iowa during early November. The temperature was 2-degrees below zero, and I was really cold. Icicles hung off all the limbs. The first time I moved in that stand, the icicles fell off and sounded like glass shattering as they hit the ground. I didn’t know what to do. I knew if a buck came in I wouldn’t be able to move without spooking him. Early in the morning, I had a 2-1/2-year-old 8-point buck walk right under my tree. I had a little trail in front of me that came out of some Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land, and there were scrapes and rubs on that trail. This 8-point was a nice deer, but I was really hoping to take a better one. As I watched the 8-pointer move down the trail, all of a sudden he stopped. Every muscle in his body seemed to lock-up. There was a ditch off the side of the trail, and this buck backed-up and went down in the ditch. Because I had the wind in my face, and I hadn’t moved a muscle, I knew the buck hadn’t seen, heard or smelled me. After the buck got down in the ditch, he took off running like a scared dog.
I looked in the other direction, and I could see horns coming towards me – big horns. This buck was monstrous. When he came to a scrape, he began to work the scrape. Finally, he was at 17 yards. Once he turned broadside to me, I thought, “Oh my gosh, he’s as big as an elk.” I put my sight right behind his shoulder and released the arrow, hoping I could put this monster down. When the buck took the arrow, he only went 50-yards before he piled-up. The buck scored 148 inches, but he weighed over 300 pounds. Because I’d taken elk with my PSE bow before, I felt certain if I could place the arrow where I knew it should be that the speed and the power of my bow could drive that arrow all the way through this big buck, which it did. That buck might be one of the biggest-bodied bucks I’d ever taken.
Day 5: PSE’s Ernie Calandrelli Downs an Iowa Buck at 20 Yards
I was hunting in Iowa, and one afternoon, I went into the woods to hang my tree stand. I had spotted a really-nice buck, but after several days of hunting, I hadn’t seen him again. I’d learned before in Iowa that those big bucks only might show-up in the same area every three or four days. Often I might go several days and never even see a deer. At about 9:30 or 10:00 am, I spotted that buck coming down a little draw. I grunted to him. He was on a hill, and I was on a bottom. After he heard me grunt, he came down the hill and went down in a little ditch. He was still coming to me. I was a little concerned I wouldn’t be able to take him. When I get in my tree stand, I wiggle around in it a little bit to see if it squeaks. Sure enough, this morning I had heard my stand squeak. I knew if I stood to take the shot, or if I had to move around on the stand to get into position, the stand would squeak and spook the deer. So, I put some cotton gloves under my stand to prevent it from squeaking. When the buck got to the bottom of the ditch, he was about 20-yards from me. I had to stand to shoot. I was hoping I had solved the squeaky-stand problem. I was able to stand-up, come to full draw and arrow the deer at 20 yards with my PSE bow. The buck scored about 140.
I don’t remember which PSE bow I was using then, and it doesn’t really matter. Over the years I’ve found one PSE bow is just as good as another. They’ve been everything I’ve ever wanted in my bows. Many years ago my friend Bill Epeards introduced me to PSE bows, and I became friends with Pete Shepley, founder of PSe. When I started having shoulder problems, Pete Shepley advised me on which bows I should use, and what poundage I should shoot. I had a complete shoulder replacement in my left shoulder 6-years ago. About 8-weeks ago I had another complete replacement in my right shoulder. Because I’ve had so many shoulder problems over the years, all the deer I’ve mentioned have been shot with a 55-pound PSE bow. I’ve learned that if you shoot a deer with a 70-pound bow and get a clean pass-through, the arrow just sticks deeper in the dirt after it passes through the deer. So, I don’t think shooting the heavier-weight bows is really necessary.
Today, you can shoot a slower arrow and still produce enough kinetic energy to take any big-game species in North America. We don’t have to shoot those heavier bows. The cams on PSE bows roll-over smoothly, and I don’t have to jerk the string back to get it to full draw. These bows are much smoother and the let-off allows you to hold less weight at full draw. I come to a solid back wall. These PSE bows are just beautiful to shoot, especially as you grow older and have medical problems. Years ago, when I had my first shoulder replacement, I thought my bowhunting would be over, but it wasn’t. I learned I still could shoot a 50- to a 55-pound bow effectively. Now that I’ve had my second shoulder replacement, I still can shoot accurately with a 45- to 50-pound bow. Because of the new innovations PSE has designed into their bows, even though I have had both shoulders preplaced, I still can shoot a compound bow, which would have been totally impossible 10-or 20-years ago.
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