The sprawling Fort Knox military base south of Louisville, Ky., has long been known for two things. It's where most of our country's gold reserve is stored, and it's the home of the army's most storied Calvary and armored divisions.
Not all of the inhabitants, however, wear the old WWII camouflage and carry M-16s - especially during the fall. Fort Knox means something entirely different to those who don't, like Troy Gentry of Mount Washington.
On Nov. 23, 2002, the 30-year old taxidermist shot an 11-point buck there with towering tines, four of them more than 14 inches long! It ranks as the best ever Typical taken by shotgun in the Bluegrass State. Only one bigger (by a little more than an inch) has ever hit Kentucky soil.
Each year, portions of Fort Knox are opened to small game and deer hunters – under strict regulation. Hunters must check in and out during each day's hunt and stay in their assigned areas. Gun hunting (muzzleloaders and shotguns) is limited to a few weekends, and only a prescribed number of hunters are selected by drawing.
There were four weekends of gun hunting during 2002. The first was a youth hunt, the next for military personnel only, and the final two were open to the general public.
Troy, his father Kenny and a friend, Mike McCord, applied for the quota hunts as a "group" and were selected to hunt the weekend of Nov. 23 and 24.
Hunters are assigned a numbered area to hunt, and the group must report to an area guide, who escorts their hunters onto and off of the post through a checkpoint.
Since centerfire rifles aren't allowed, Troy borrowed a Remington 11-87 from a friend and practiced with the big 12 gauge until he learned its range and was confident he could take a deer with it.
About 5 a.m. on Nov. 23, the Gentrys and Mike met their escort, Joe Pike, and his assistant in nearby Radcliff before being led onto the base. Theirs was hunting area no. 113, also known as the Yano Tank Range, one of the more popular sections of the base. After entering through the checkpoint and arriving in the area, Joe began to drop off hunters at various locations while offering last-minute advice and directions.
Troy's group was dropped off first. As the men prepared to enter the woods, they checked their Motorola radios and then decided to go their separate ways. After walking about 600 yards, Kenny decided to put up a stand. Troy, who had never set foot on the base, watched before continuing along the creek bottom in the dark.
"I just went in, blind by the moon," he said. "I crossed a couple of creeks and probably had gone on about three-quarters of a mile before I could begin to see clearly."
When Troy could see, he became excited.
"I had found a sweet spot. It was classic," he said.
Right in front of him was a tree overlooking the bottom with open hardwoods - a corridor between two thickets. Troy quickly attached his climber and jacked himself up the tree as dawn was breaking.
"It was about 26 degrees with no wind," Troy said. "You know how, sometimes, you can sit there and you hear every little thing hits the leaves? That's how it was. It was perfect."
As shooting light improved, the hunter could see more detail in the woods around him and noticed several rubs were in sight of his stand. Troy checked in with his dad on the walkie-talkie and described his newly found hunting spot in excited, yet hushed tones.
As the morning progressed, deer movement increased. By 11 a.m., Troy had seen at least 20 whitetails pass though the funnel, 19 of them does. The lone buck was a 6-pointer.
About 11:00, Kenny checked in with his son. He said he was going to the truck to eat lunch and asked if Troy wanted to join him.
"I didn't want to leave because there was too much action going on," Troy said. "But during the morning wait, I had developed a headache."
Knowing that his dad sometimes carried pain pills, Troy asked, "Have you got something for a headache?"
After an affirmative, Troy got down and hiked back to meet his dad.
"When I got to the truck, I took the pills, gulped some water and turned right back around and headed for my stand ... It was a good spot," he said.
"I had eased back into the woods and was within 75 yards of my stand when I heard something. A doe had stepped out right by my tree, so I eased up against another tree and waited," he continued. "After a short while, I caught sight of more movement about 35 yards in front of me."
As soon as he saw it, Troy's heart lurched into high gear. The buck approached ever so slowly, taking measured steps. As its head emerged from behind a tree, Troy saw antlers and fought the urge to stare at the foot-plus-long tines.
Slowly, the buck inched forward until its shoulder was exposed.
"I brought the gun up and got him in my scope, but I was shaking badly. From the first minute I saw him, I knew he was a record book deer," he said.
To make matters worse, when Troy peered through his scope, he noticed that a big cedar was obstructing any shot into the deer's boiler room. He remained frozen, 35 yards from the monster, with gun raised and a heartbeat off the charts.
The buck stood there and looked around, obviously deciding what to do next. Troy got the sinking feeling that the deer wanted to turn back, which would've eliminated any chance for a shot. Another minute went by, and the strain of the situation became almost unbearable.
But then the antlered giant took one step and turned left, exposing its shoulder. Troy slowly reached in his can call and bleated. When the buck froze at the sound, the big slug gun spit out the sabot. The recoil brought Troy out of a near trance-like state.
As soon as he could refocus, Troy saw the buck running down the creek bottom.
"He was doing a funny swaggering-type run, and I thought: 'Man, he's dead on his feet.' And then he was out of sight in a second."
Troy immediately radioed his father and shouted, "I've just shot the biggest deer I've ever seen in my life!" Kenny, who could still hear the echo from the shot, advised him, "Don't push him, and make sure he's down. I'm on my way!"
"I waited about a minute and that was all I could take," Troy said. "I walked straight to where he'd been standing."
There was no sign of a hit at first, but a little farther out the hunter spotted a cedar that was covered in bright red. From there, the trail was evident and continued over a rise and toward another creek. And there, in the water, was the massive deer.
"As I raised the rack out of the water, it nearly took my breath away when I saw half of it. I said to myself, 'Man, I hope the other side matches!'"
To his amazement, it did.
"When I saw the complete rack, I just fell to my knees and didn't know whether to laugh or cry," Troy said.
A short time later, he saw his dad's orange hat bobbing through the woods. Mike arrived shortly thereafter, took one look at the deer and said, "I think you got your 12-inch minimum," referring to the minimum spread requirement in effect. When the three men got the deer back to the spot where the area guide was waiting, it quickly evolved into a big circus.
"The area guide was running around saying, 'We've got a new state record,' and 'Make sure you tell everybody it came from my area,'" Troy said.
Several army guys arrived on the scene to ogle the deer, including a game warden that had shot at the huge buck the previous weekend during the military-only hunt.
Later on, the Gentry home became a tourist attraction as well. And the incredible buck will surely spur an increase in applications for the limited hunting opportunities on the base.
This is one gold mine that can't be staked!
Editor’s Note: Want to read more tales about the world’s greatest whitetails? Subscribe to Rack magazine by calling 1-800-240-3337.
View Official BTR SCORESHEET for Troy Gentry.
Taken By: Troy Gentry
BTR Official Score: 185
BTR Composite Score: 204 6/8
Location: Bullitt Co., Kentucky
Date: November 23, 2002