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Big Buck 411 Blog

Entries for 'Mike Handley'

The Cat That was Never in the Bag

Travis Cockburn winced whenever he heard a gunshot during last November’s firearms season in Illinois. But it wasn’t because slugs were whizzing past his head or splintering nearby trees.

With every bang, he just knew somebody had shot the cartoonishly big buck his son, Caden, had nicknamed Ginormica after seeing summertime trail cam photographs of the beast in velvet. Seems everyone in Johnston City knew about the deer.

The bodacious and nocturnal buck was thrice photographed on the Cockburns’ 80 acres, the last time on Sept. 1. At least one neighboring landowner got 30 photos.

After not seeing the buck in the flesh or on a camera during the first six weeks of bow season, Travis’ hopes were tainted with fear that someone would shoot the giant deer when the gun season opened. But no news was good news.

When Travis took his bow afield on Nov. 27, a Sunday afternoon, he never expected to see the brute.

“I saw only a bobcat until around 4:15,” he said. “And then I spotted something off to the side and turned to see this freak slipping down the creek, knee deep in water. In the span of 15 seconds, he was broadside to me at 18 yards.”

[Read the rest of this article...]

All for an Extra 30 Minutes of Stand Time

Wind direction and limited time dictated where Wisconsin's Rory Leszczynski hunted after work on Nov. 2, 2011. Though he had access to private lands, he opted for public ground, which would give him an extra 30 or 45 minutes in a tree.

Rory had heard rumors of one or two giants roaming the Marathon County tract, but he'd seen only one decent buck during previous hunts. He'd also found a nice 5-point shed there in the spring.

The weather that day was breezy and rainy. The wind was out of the east and was supposed to do a 180. And, for once, the forecast was on target.

"Before I climbed a large double oak 40 yards off a cornfield, I sprayed some doe-in-estrus and dominant buck scents on a wick and placed it over a scrape," he said. "I also sprayed some nearby trees."

Aloft at 3:30, he ranged a few trees and the distance to the cornfield. A half-hour later, he rattled and grunted, a routine he likes to employ every 20 minutes.

"At 5:25, the rain finally stopped and the wind died. I rattled, scanned the area, and then hung up the antlers. When I scanned again, I saw a deer about 150 yards distant," he said. "I could see a rack before I even grabbed the binoculars."

It had to be a 170-incher, he thought.

When Rory grunted a couple of times, the buck started walking toward him.

While trying to get into a shooting position with his bow, Rory inadvertently brushed one of the double trunks with his nocked arrow, which fell 20 feet to the ground after a loud ding. His next-to-last nerve fell with it.

He scrambled to nock another arrow. Checked three times to see if the nock would hold. Prayed the buck didn't hear the first one plummeting.

[Read the rest of this article...]

World's Second Largest 4x4

Crestfallen, Mike Kemble looked at his grunt tube as if it were a turd.

He hadn't been in his treestand for very long on Nov. 3, 2011, when the 130-inch buck at the top of his wish list appeared 60 yards down the creek that wound through his favorite patch of woods. To coax it closer, the hunter from Newton Falls, Ohio, pulled out his tube and grunted softly.

He might as well have shouted, "Run away, fool!"

Blue flames shot out from under its high white tail as the deer rocketed out of sight.

"I wondered what the heck caused it to do that," Mike said. "My grunting isn't THAT bad!"

A few minutes later, an absolutely HUGE 4x4 was broadside at a mere 15 yards, which is when Mike's crossbow bolt sliced through its shoulder. Leaking like crazy, the animal collapsed at the end of a 60-yard dash.

"Later that evening, several of my friends convinced me that we should measure the rack," Mike said. "The numbers we got were unreal. If we were right, based on what I found on the Internet, the deer was one of the largest 8-pointers ever harvested. Maybe THE largest!"

Waiting for Boone and Crockett's 60-day drying period was torture, and widespread speculation that the buck might be a world-record 8-pointer didn't make it any easier. It had not occurred to Mike that Buckmasters has no drying period.

[Read the rest of this article...]

Screensaver Buck

Prior to the 2011 season, Christian Kincheloe, his father and brothers pored over thousands of trail cam photographs, hoping to see the giant buck that had strolled in front of their cameras the previous fall. They salivated over several whitetails worthy of their hit list, but there wasn't a single image of the big one.

Had the estimated 200-plus-incher been among those photographed, Christian would've recognized it. He'd used one of the 2010 photos -- minus the drool stain -- as his computer's screensaver.

Christian chose to see the opening-bell sunrise from a newly hung stand on the family's 145-acre farm in Daviess County, Mo. The wind probably kept many hunters indoors that day, but Christian, a teacher and wrestling coach in the Park Hill School District, wasn't about to let the weekend – his only time to hunt – pass without being afield.

Early into his vigil, he watched a basket-rack 6-pointer and a young forkhorn chasing a couple of does. When the activity slowed midmorning, he decided to still-hunt his way back to the cabin to share a cup of coffee with the guys and to see if they'd seen anything.

When he was within 85 yards of the last thicket between him and a cup of joe, he saw a buck low to the ground, slinking away from him. Christian continued forward slowly, intending to circle the island of trees in hopes of catching the buck in range on the other side.

Just as he'd hoped, the buck was there, along with a doe -- probably the only reason it hadn't left the county. When the lovesick brute stepped into the clear, Christian squeezed the trigger, and he was at the fallen buck's side almost before the shot's echo had faded.

Until that moment, he'd had no idea he was shooting at his screensaver.

A bit later, the Kincheloes settled in front of a computer to compare photos to the nighttime trail shots from 2010. It was the same buck, no doubt, but it had lost several inches from one year to the next.

[Read the rest of this article...]

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