No. 1 on dad's hit list falls to daughter's arrow

Ellie and Kevin Miller pose with the 10-point buck that the Hiland High School sophomore shot in late October in Licking County with a crossbow. The buck, nicknamed Captain Hook, had a storied life and grew to 184 1/2 inches as scored by Buckmasters.
Ellie and Kevin Miller pose with the 10-point buck that the Hiland High School sophomore shot in late October in Licking County with a crossbow. The buck, nicknamed Captain Hook, had a storied life and grew to 184 1/2 inches as scored by Buckmasters.

For the past three years, Kevin Miller has been waiting for the day he could harvest Captain Hook, a special deer he had been watching on his trail camera. He gave the bruiser buck the name because of a hook on his G2, and the buck gave him the slip many a times, including one fateful day last year when Miller actually arrowed the deer, but unfortunately didn't kill it.

While that could have been a sad ending for Captain Hook, the deer miraculously survived and came back even stronger this year. And while the cat-and-mouse game between Miller and Captain Hook continued this fall, it was his daughter who finally killed the storied buck on a rainy late October evening.

"I love a buck with a story," said Miller.

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Art Holden
Art Holden

And this is the story of Captain Hook

Miller and his family live outside of Berlin, where his daughter, Ellie, is a sophomore at Hiland High School. The Millers own a farm in Licking County, where the emphasis is more on raising deer in the wild than soybeans and corn. Along with the next farm over, food plots, trail cameras and feeders are all part of the preparation leading up to deer season.

"My buddy Johnny Mullet passed him up as a 3-year-old. He was a 140 then, and that's why he got so big," said Miller.

That was the beginning of Miller's pursuit of Captain Hook. Then last year, in the middle of October, Miller finally got his chance to arrow his buck of a lifetime.

"I only had a little time to hunt that night," remembered Miller. " I got out late, so it was more of an observation sit. Then all of a sudden, he comes in. I was scrambling and the deer smelled me. I got off a quick shot, but I hit him low."

Captain Hook took off running, and didn't stop until a year later.

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Miller brought in two of his friends and their dog to help track the deer, but with no luck. He feared the worst, but then in November, he spotted Captain Hook on one of his trail cameras, thin and sickly, but still kicking.

"I started filling the feeders with not only corn, but HD 200, a mineral supplement," said Miller. "I kept the feeders filled. He went from the water, to the food, to cover."

And miraculously, Captain Hook not only healed, but got bigger.

Miller scoured his property and found last year's sheds and scored them at 173, hook and all.

"It doesn't usually happen when a deer is injured, but he actually got better," said Miller. "His rack cleaned up, and all the reasons why we called him Captain Hook went away."

Miller started this fall with Captain Hook at No. 1 on his hit list, and put in the hours to get the job done, but after last year's incident, he wasn't about to take a hurried shot and just never had the chance to close the deal this year. That's when the story took a major twist.

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Daughter Ellie closes the deal

His daughter Ellie said she wanted to shoot a buck this year, and on Oct. 29, her and Kevin went to the woods with the intentions to do just that, but certainly not to take Captain Hook.

"It was a Friday night, we had an East wind and so we only had one option of where to hunt," said Kevin. "It was pouring rain, and before we left, I thought about taking my bow in case Captain Hook showed up, but I left it at the cabin."

As fate would have it, Captain Hook did indeed show up, but dad never let on to Ellie that it was his deer of a lifetime that was walking their way.

"I said, 'That's a pretty big deer, we should probably take him,'" said Kevin.

In this 2020 trail camera photo shared by Kevin Miller, Earl is pictured on the left and Captain Hook on the right. Miller’s daughter Ellie killed Captain Hook, a 10-pointer that scored 184 ½, with a crossbow on Oct. 29, and Kevin shot Earl (156, 12-pointer) during Ohio’s recent deer-gun season.
In this 2020 trail camera photo shared by Kevin Miller, Earl is pictured on the left and Captain Hook on the right. Miller’s daughter Ellie killed Captain Hook, a 10-pointer that scored 184 ½, with a crossbow on Oct. 29, and Kevin shot Earl (156, 12-pointer) during Ohio’s recent deer-gun season.

The buck chased a doe right past the blind, however, it never stopped to offer a shot, but then the doe reversed her course and came back past the blind again.

"He was standing there and I asked Ellie 'are you center-body, behind the front leg, do you have your pin on 40 yards,'" said Kevin.

But as Captain Hook has done so many times before, he started walking, but for some reason, stopped again, this time offering the perfect 40-yard broadside shot.

"We went through the check list again and I said, 'OK, take the shot.'"

Ellie's arrow from her Raven crossbow was on target, and the emotions started flowing from Kevin.

"I started falling apart and she said, 'what's going on?'" said Kevin. "I said, 'you just shot Captain Hook,' and she said, 'why, that's your deer.'"

Ellie knew the story of Captain Hook well, and not the one involving Peter Pan.

“I heard tons and tons of stories about that deer,” said Ellie. “That was the deer dad was hunting. That’s dad’s deer, and I kinda felt bad.”

Buckmaster scorer Ed Waite taped the bruiser, a main-frame 10 with stickers, at 184 1/2.

'I could give Ellie the best I had to share'

"It was the best thing ever," said Kevin of how the story played out. "It was way better than me shooting that deer. That was how it was meant to be.

"It was special to me that I could give Ellie the best I had to share. And she'll realize that in the future."

“Right now,” said Ellie, “it’s a blessing this happened. … The whole time after we got back and people started coming over, dad kept telling me ‘you don’t understand how big a deal this is.’

“And, I don’t,” she continued, “because I’m not a deer hunter. Well, I guess I am now, but I’ll always look back and know I shared that hunt with my dad, and that’s cool.”

Don’t feel sorry for Kevin, though, because there was another big buck on his farm, and he dropped “Earl” during the gun season. While Earl had two more points than Captain Hook, it scored a bit less at 156.

Outdoor correspondent Art Holden can be reached at letsplabal@yahoo.com.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: There's a hook and a bonding moment to this deer story