Rack Magazine

Footlongs for Four

Footlongs for Four

By Dale Weddle

Half of this Kentucky Stud’s Uprights are At Least 12 Inches Long!

Setting out and monitoring trail cameras can be almost as satisfying as squeezing a trigger, especially if photographs reveal a world-class buck.

Danny Smith of Monticello, Ky., can attest to that.

“I started using trail cams about 10 years ago,” he said. “I was one of the first to use them around these parts.”

The Wayne County, Ky., native has hunted small game for most of his life, but he didn’t take up deer hunting until he was in his 30s.

“When I was a kid, there just weren’t any deer around here,” he said. “But the deer and turkey populations have really exploded in this county in recent years.”

There are so many, in fact, that Danny can’t imagine someone not being able to get his limit, not with tools like trail cameras.

“I can’t remember a year when I haven’t taken a buck. Using the trail cams to scout, locate and pattern deer has really added an extra dimension to my hunting,” he said. “And it really paid off in 2012.

“Running cameras started to get interesting around 2009, when I caught some nice bucks on film,” he said. “In 2011, I had lots of pictures of deer, including several of this monster at night.”

The big deer’s rack was very tall with several long tines in a basic nine-point configuration. There was an irregular point near the base of the right main beam and small kicker on the left P-2.

“I haven’t bowhunted much, so I was looking forward to the early muzzleloader season,” Danny said.

He hunted opening day, a Saturday, and didn’t see anything. Church kept him out of the woods on Sunday.

“As luck would have it, Sunday was the only time the buck passed in front of a camera during the daytime,” Danny said. “It showed up on camera all the way into December, but never again during daylight hours.”

And then the season ended.

“All summer long, I hoped that deer made it through,” Danny said.

He found out that it had survived when a neighbor retrieved a photo of the distinctive deer in early September. Danny didn’t get any pictures until November, after he set one of his cameras on video-record.

That generated a 20-second clip of the giant buck that would make any deer hunter go weak in the knees. Its rack had changed somewhat since 2011, to the point that Danny had some doubt if it was the same buck.

The irregular point by the base of the right main beam was now gone, replaced by an irregular point off the brow tine on the left side. The right P-3 had gained considerable length, and there was now a fully developed right P-4 where there was only a hint of a point the previous season.

The huge, formerly mainframe 9-pointer was now a basic 5x5 with a couple of irregular points on the left side. The rack was still very tall, however, and the left side retained almost the same characteristics.

The video footage came a week before Kentucky’s modern gun season opened. A couple of nights later, on Nov. 5, the buck showed up again about 10:30 at one of Danny’s feeders.

“I have permission to hunt several private farms, probably around 1,000 acres total,” Danny said. “There hasn’t been a doe taken off all that area in the past two or three years, so the deer herd has really grown.

Footlongs for Four“My plan for opening day was to hunt a hardwood ridge that’s about 100 to 150 yards from where I got the buck on video. It’s been a good spot for me in the past,” he continued. “I’ve killed several bucks off that ridge.”

Not only is the hill usually covered with acorns, but it’s also a preferred travel route. It drops steeply off to a creek on one side.

“Because two friends, Robert Webster from Indiana and Anthony Antognoli from Tennessee, were coming to hunt opening weekend with me, I took a 20-foot ladder stand to the ridge on the Friday before the opener,” Danny said.

“The next, warmer-than-usual morning, Robert, Anthony and I headed out to different stands. I was in the new ladder with my Nikon-scoped .243 an hour before daylight,” he continued. “I’m one of those early-getter-outers.”
Daylight came about 6:30, and the first couple of hours were uneventful except that Danny’s legs were cramping.

“After a while, a 7-pointer chased a doe by my stand. I was wearing hearing devices, so I could hear them running on the ridge behind me. They made a second pass, too,” he said.

“My excitement level was up a notch after the buck chased the doe past me, but nothing else happened for the next hour,” he continued. “About 9:30, I had another leg cramp and was actually thinking about throwing in the towel. That’s when I heard a splash down in the creek, which I was convinced was a deer.”

At almost 10:00, Danny finally saw the deer he knew was coming. And when he got a look at its antlers, he recognized them.

“When you see something like that coming through the woods, there’s no doubt,” he laughed, holding his hands about two feet apart.

Danny wasted no time in leveling the crosshairs over the buck’s vitals and squeezing the trigger. It was only 40 yards from him, which is also where it fell.

“The instant I shot the deer, I had another leg cramp so bad that I could barely get down out of the tree,” he said.

“I had to throw my pack down, and I thought I was going to have to drop my gun as well.

“When I got to the ground, I had to sit for a while. I couldn’t even go look at the deer because of the cramping.

Eventually, I gave the other guys a call.

“It took about 100 feet of rope, a four-wheeler with a winch and the three of us to get the deer off that hillside,” Danny said. “Afterward, I learned that another hunter on the other side of the creek had seen this deer. He would’ve taken a shot at it, but his scope was fogged.”

Danny has never been more happy over another man’s misfortune.

Hunter: Danny Smith
BTR Score: 193 6/8
Centerfire Rifle

– Photos by Dale Weddle and Danny Smith

This article was published in the Winter 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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