One of the biggest whitetails to go through Tennessee taxidermist Michael Austin’s shop last year didn’t belong to a customer, and he won’t make a dime off it.
Instead, the deer without a nametag will lighten the 54-year-old’s own wallet.
Michael brought this public land bruiser home from Kentucky, his reward for spending opening day of firearms season in a tree, a habit of his for nearly two decades. He also hunts his home state as well as a national forest in southern Illinois, but he considers Kentucky his No. 1 trophy spot.
In January 2017, Michael and a friend drove to a public tract in Ohio County. Maps in hand, they searched for buck sign off the beaten path and found a dozen promising locations within the hills and swales of reclaimed strip mines.
They revisited those sites in mid-October to hang stands and set up trail cameras. The reviewed the photos from a Beaver Dam motel room the day before they donned orange and headed afield with their rifles.
When Kentucky’s firearms season dawned on Saturday, Nov. 11, Michael had already been in his stand amidst roosting turkeys for an hour. He was hunting about a mile from where he’d shot a record-book 13-pointer 12 years earlier.
By lunchtime, he’d seen 15 deer, most of them wearing antlers. At 1:30, he saw a buck chasing a doe behind him. A few minutes later, he heard splashing and turned to see a big-bodied 7-pointer near the edge of a nearby cattail swamp. It was followed by the 17-pointer at the top of his wish list.
Michael thinks they heard the commotion of the chase.
He shot his dream buck from 60 yards, and put a second bullet into it before it hit the ground. The drag out took one and a half hours.
BTR Score is 189 7/8 inches.
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