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Big Buck Central

Big Buck 411 Blog

Entries for June 2011

The Deer Hole

It was as if the ground opened up and swallowed Kevin Fitch’s buck. One minute, it was on the receiving end of a shotgun slug (he hoped). The next, it was gone.

Not fall-down-dead gone. Not running-with-the-wind-and-leaving-a-blood-trail gone.

Just gone, leaving the hunter from Norwalk, Ohio, with Rodney Dangerfield eyes and a mouth full of bile.

Seconds earlier, Kevin had finally seen antlers atop one of the 20 or so deer zigzagging in the brush ahead of him. He didn’t have much of a window, but he thought the shot was doable.

“I was scanning heads, and, suddenly, I saw antlers. When they passed through an opening, followed by the head and neck of their wearer -- other than that, all I could see was the top of its back -- I slipped off the safety and squeezed the trigger,” he said. “After the shot, the buck simply vanished. It didn’t run off, and I didn’t actually see it fall.

“It just disappeared,” he added.

Turns out, the buck slipped into a big ice-filled hole left when a tree was toppled. Getting it out of there involved a second shot and a bit of wrestling (literally a head-lock), but Kevin managed with a little help.

He had no idea he was shooting at a 23-pointer with antlers that would rival the fallen tree’s root wad. It was Dec. 18, a last chance for Kevin and his son, Cody, to punch their tags by slugging a deer. Cody also shot a doe while his dad was playing in the root pond.

[Read the rest of this article...]

Cover Girl

Sixteen-year-old Hanna Harris of Danville, Pa., would’ve been positively gleeful if she’d shot the 6-pointer that passed by her deer stand around 7:00 on the morning of Pennsylvania’s 2010 rifle opener.

The young buck was hers for the taking, too, but she watched it and a couple of other deer melt back into the trees without firing a shot. So wracked with buck fever, her jumpy synapses were arcing like downed power lines, and her trigger finger just didn’t get the juice.

That was Hanna’s first time to hunt unaccompanied. She was in her mother’s elevated stand on the family’s 280 acres, alone, though many other Harrises and some friends were loaded for deer elsewhere on the farm.

While trying to understand how or why she’d frozen, she saw more deer coming: two does and, farther out, a buck.

Determined not to make the same mistake twice, Hanna wasted no time in planting a knee against the stand’s rail so she would be steadier if she got a chance to shoot.

“When this buck stopped behind a double tree, I could see its rack on both sides of the trunks. I knew it was big,” she said.

When it stepped fully into view and stopped, she squeezed the trigger. Not long afterward, her father and brother arrived to track the deer, which took all of 10 minutes.

[Read the rest of this article...]

The Last Places on Earth

I’m constantly amazed at how often 200-inch whitetails are taken off tiny scraps of land that most of us overlook. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve run across someone who has found antlered gold on only 10 acres or less.

I know hunters who have tagged monster bucks on a single-acre lot; others who have successfully hunted the thin strips of woods between subdivisions. And it makes me wonder why so many people feel compelled to lease hundreds or thousands of acres, when they could just buy their own farm.

The latest case of a big buck from a small parcel happened last season in Ohio, where this kind of thing occurs often.

If Walt Fanthorp ever decides to quit deer hunting, it won’t be because of the price of gasoline or for the lack of a place to hunt.

Walking is cheap.

Walt’s 10 acres north of Cincinnati is mostly open ground, but there’s a wooded creek bottom at the rear of the tract. He hunts about 150 yards from his back door, which allows him to frequently spend an hour or two in a stand on days he might not otherwise have time to spare.

[Read the rest of this article...]

First New Mexico Entry Tough to Beat

It’s obvious the late singer-songwriter Jim Croce never bowhunted New Mexico’s high plains. If he had, sneaking up on a deer would’ve rated right up there with tugging on Superman’s cape, spittin’ in the wind and pullin’ the mask off that old Lone Ranger -- things you just DON’T do.

Nobody told Robert Barnwell, however.

The 40-year-old bowhunter also missed the memo pointing out that shooting a whitetail, even a little one, in a state renowned for its elk, mule and diminutive Coues’ deer would be like pulling a 10-pound largemouth out of a birdbath.

That’s not to say whitetails haven’t moved into eastern New Mexico from the Texas Panhandle. It’s why the state sells “any-buck” tags. But because the wide open spaces there are best suited for prairie chickens and pronghorns, odds of that lunker bass are more favorable.

Robert didn’t set out to demoralize the oddsmakers last season. He wasn’t nocked for whitetails, even though he’s smitten with them and has been saving for years to be able to travel to Iowa or some other corner of the Midwest to hunt them. He had no reason to believe he’d do anything beyond sticking his 12th muley, and only if the deer gods were in a generous mood.

Robert hunts public land in Roosevelt County, and I’m talking wide open ground that would keep most whitetail hunters inside their truck cabs, cursing the snake oil salesmen who convinced them to apply for deer tags in New Mexico’s Unit 31. Yet he came out of there last January with a 13-pointer carrying 161 6/8 inches of antler – not counting the generous 22 2/8-inch inside spread, which gives the rack a composite score of 184 inches.

[Read the rest of this article...]

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