Rack Magazine

Hoodwinkle

Hoodwinkle

By Mike Handley

Virginia Buck has 31 4/8-inch Spread!

For as long as people have had the ability to post and view photographs over Al Gore’s Internet, deer hunters have tried hoodwinking their buddies.

Such pranks have almost become the world’s largest caption contest, in which it’s not uncommon to see the same photo of a giant buck that, according to various email subject lines, was killed in no fewer than 17 states.

It’s progressed to the point that many people summarily dismiss claims unless the photo includes a license plate or carries a time-date stamp.

Jim Wilson of Chase City, Va., learned this lesson the hard way, when he almost became the laughingstock at his workplace for daring to show coworkers a photo taken by his new trail camera. If anyone actually believed that the impossibly wide-racked whitetail was photographed on his 27 acres, they kept mum.

By the end of October 2012, however, all their tongues were wagging.

Last August, Jim began hauling the apples from a tree in his yard to the edge of the field behind his home.

When the number of deer tracks outnumbered the fruit, he bought and set out a trail camera.

That very night, he got photographs of six bucks, one of them huge, their racks still in velvet.

Jim carried the photo of the big one to his workplace, where coworkers claimed he was pulling their legs.

“Everyone said I’d gotten it off the Internet because the date and time were not right,” Jim laughed.

He checked his new toy religiously after that, but he didn’t get any more photos of the bull of his woods until he moved the camera. He amassed about 50 pictures at the new location, and the buck had shed its velvet by then.

HoodwinkleThe buck became camera-shy after that, but it reappeared later, about the time it started making scrapes.

Jim’s farm has a five-acre block of mostly white oaks. There are two main ridges, and the buck was leaving his calling cards on both.

Most of the trail camera photos were taken at night, but sometimes just before dawn.

On opening day of Virginia’s 2012 bow season, Jim and a friend, Bobby Overton, set out to hunt the ridgetop buck.

“We were hoping that one of us would at least get to see, if not take it,” he said.

But the deer was a no-show. Jim saw only a small 6-pointer, a couple of does and a 3-pointer.

“I hunted that buck for the next two weeks, whenever the wind was right,” he said. “I saw it twice, both times early in the morning in that patch of oaks. But it wasn’t close enough to shoot with a crossbow.

“I passed up two nice 8-pointers in the 17- to 18-inch-wide range, too. Afterward, when I got down from my stand — never having seen big boy — I was mad at myself,” he added.

Jim’s quest for the ridge-runner was interrupted by Hurricane Sandy.

It was the evening of Oct. 30 before he returned to the woods. He parked at his pond, sprayed down with scent-killer, doused his boots with Tink’s #69, and then walked about 300 yards to his trail camera, which was about 20 from his ladder stand.

It was 4:00 by the time he climbed into place.

“The woods were still very soaked with rain from Sandy,” he said.

“At 5:00, I looked up and saw big boy trotting down the same path I’d walked, his nose to the ground. The buck was at 50 yards and closing fast, headed right to my trail cam,” Jim said.

“The only bad thing was that the deer would be in cover by the time it was in range. So, having only a few seconds to make a decision, I elected to try the quartering-to-me shot at about 28 yards,” he continued.

When Jim lifted his crossbow, it nicked the stand. The buck stopped abruptly and looked around for what seemed like the longest 10 seconds in the history of the universe to Jim, but then it resumed walking.

A grunt stopped the deer at 28 yards, and that’s when Jim squeezed the trigger. The bolt hit a small limb just as it got to the deer, veering slightly off course, but it still passed completely through it.

Afterward, the buck — tail clamped — wheeled and left.

“That’s when the rush hit me,” Jim said. “The entire treestand was rattling as hard as I was shaking.”

Ten minutes later, when he was breathing normally, Jim descended the ladder and walked to his bloodied arrow, which is about all the man could decipher.

“I was facing quite a dilemma,” he said. “Because I’m semi-colorblind, I have a very hard time seeing blood in the woods. Plus, the leaves were already wet.

“After I found a spot of foam, I marked it with my backpack and walked out to my truck to call a friend, B.J. Mull,” he continued.

B.J. arrived in short order with his tracking dog-in-training. After talking about the hunt and the shot for about half an hour, they went to the backpack, the dog leashed.

“As soon as we reached it, B.J. said, ‘Man, there’s blood everywhere! This deer couldn’t have gone far,’” Jim said.

The answer was 50 yards.

“That’s when the high-fives and picture-taking started,” Jim said. “And it wasn’t long before the pictures hit Facebook and went all around the Internet.

“I guess I’ve had my moment in the spotlight. I’m just glad the good Lord allowed me the chance to harvest this wonderful deer ... my buck of a lifetime,” he said.

In a couple of years, this 31 4/8-inch-wide specimen will be shot in Alabama, Missouri and maybe Oklahoma.

By 2020, it will have been felled in four more states.

But at least Jim’s coworkers will know the truth by that time.

Hunter: Jim Wilson
BTR Score: 189 6/8
Crossbow
Typical

– Photos Courtesy Jim Wilson

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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