The central Missouri rut was winding down on the afternoon of Nov. 18 when Chris Ruggles, 39, used a climbing treestand to get up above some well-used game trails on a private 80-acre farm he was hunting with a buddy. Around 3 p.m. he spotted a nice buck behind him cruising through a still-standing corn field.
“I grunted at him, but he ignored it and started going away,” says Ruggles. “I got out my rattling horns, set one between my legs, and clacked the horns together a few times. I thought he kept going, but my horns got his attention. He turned around and stepped into the open at 20 yards, but was looking right at me, so I froze without moving.”
The buck soon came closer and Ruggles started to draw his bow, but his movements caused a shadow to cross the ground near where the buck was and the deer spooked.
“I mouth grunted to him and he stopped at 20 yards with his head behind a tree so I could draw my bow, anchor, aim and make a good shot,” Ruggles recalls.
The carbon shaft passed completely through the 8-point, 135-inch, 200-pound buck. The deer traveled 150 yards before falling dead. Ruggles texted his buddy Josh Thomas who was bowhunting a different stand nearby, and the pair dragged Ruggles’ buck out and headed for home.
Thomas is paralyzed in one arm, and is severely disabled in his other. He uses his teeth to draw a 50-pound PSE bow using a homemade tab-like device that attaches to his bowstring loop.
“I’ve taken four deer in four Missouri seasons with my bow using a mouth tab,” he said. “But my 8-pointer this year is my best deer so far.”
Ruggles is a former Navy Search and Rescue (SAR) swimmer who was severely injured in a motorcycle accident while stationed at Pearl Harbor in 2003. He’s a stay-at-home dad now with four sons ages 6 to 12.
“I’ve always hunted, but got interested in bowhunting a few years ago, and through some friends learned about Chuck Lear, a member of the U.S. Paralympics Archery National Team. Lear draws his bow with his teeth, and is from Missouri. So I went to an archery tournament and spoke with him and he showed me his mouth tab bowstring set-up.”
Ruggles’ wife made a similar mouth tab that he uses to draw his bow. The tab is made with paracord, and Ruggles uses a bow peep sight and sight pins as you normally would. He practices several times a week, and actively participates in archery tournaments. But now he’s most interested in taking his sons hunting.
“I took the two youngest boys hunting earlier this year, and my 12-year-old is anxious to get a deer soon,” says Ruggles. “That means the most to me these days, getting those boys hunting.”
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