By John E. Phillips
It costs nothing to take second, third and even fourth looks at deer you’ve already let pass.
Ronald “Bubba” Belk of Sheridan, Montana, hunted deer in southeastern Kansas with outfitter Larry Ellis in 2014. Also in camp during that first week of the Sunflower State’s muzzleloader season were David Morris and some cameramen from “The Bucks of Tecomate” television show.
Bubba was hoping to shoot a buck with a name.
“Larry had trail camera photographs of a shooter whitetail feeding in a milo field just before daylight. He’d named it the Pitchfork Buck, because both sides of his rack with their long tines looked like pitchforks,” Bubba explained. “But from the picture, we couldn’t tell exactly how big the buck’s rack was.”
All day Monday and Tuesday morning, the first days of the hunt, the wind was wrong for Bubba to hunt the Pitchfork Buck in the milo field. When the breeze shifted on Tuesday afternoon, Bubba and Larry went to the big buck’s favorite diner.
While the hunter climbed into a treestand, the guide sat in a nearby ground blind.
Pitchfork and two buddies in the 140-inch range appeared just before dark. Larry and Bubba prayed the bucks wouldn’t catch their scent as the trio walked in front of Larry’s ground blind. Legal shooting time had expired 15 minutes earlier.
On Wednesday morning, the men shared the ground blind. Bubba saw the two 140-class bucks, but not Pitchfork.
After that hunt, Bubba and Larry pulled the memory card from the trail camera near the treestand. Once again, there was a shot of Pitchfork going to the milo.
When David Morris saw this picture, he told Bubba, “You can say yes or no to what I’m going to ask you. No matter what you answer, I’ll still feel the same about you. Your hunt with that buck needs to be shared with the world, because he’s a world-class whitetail. I’d like my cameraman to film your hunt, and I promise the cameraman won’t interfere.”
“I’d never been involved with TV or having a hunt videoed before, but I said, ‘Okay, let’s give it a shot,’” Bubba remembers.
Before the Wednesday afternoon hunt, Larry and Bubba decided the milo was so high they needed to move an elevated stand to where they’d spotted the big buck for Bubba to be able to see the buck. They hung a platform stand about 40 yards in front of the ground blind where they’d hunted that morning. Bubba climbed into that stand, and the cameraman set up shop in the ground blind.
“In the afternoon, I saw a 160-inch 10-pointer walking the edge of the woods line,” Bubba recalls. “At any other time, I’d have taken it. However, the 10-pointer kept turning and looking back into the woods, and that’s when I spotted Pitchfork going into the milo field.
“While I was watching through binoculars, he raked the velvet off his antlers, throwing the milo stalks up in the air.
“This continued for 11/2 hours, about 275 yards from me,” he continued. “I was so excited. I watched Pitchfork for so long and so hard that I had to pour the sweat out of my binoculars’ eye caps.
“Since the cameraman couldn’t see Pitchfork, he didn’t get any footage of the deer that evening,” he added.
On Thursday, Bubba spotted only the two 140-class bucks.
The next afternoon, with only 20 or so minutes of shooting light left, a 130-inch 8-pointer walked in front of Bubba and followed the edge of the milo field.
Bubba constantly scanned the field with his binoculars, hoping to spot one of the larger bucks from earlier in the week. The cameraman was filming the 8-pointer until he saw Pitchfork, and then he filmed him walking through the milo.
“Larry was sitting about 900 yards out on a road with his spotting scope trained on the milo field,” Bubba said.
“He’d seen Pitchfork well within my range and couldn’t believe I wasn’t taking a shot.
“From my vantage point, I thought Pitchfork was the 8-pointer I’d seen earlier, because he was in almost exactly the same place. Although the cameraman and Larry both were looking at Pitchfork, I hadn’t even spotted him,” he continued.
Bubba felt his cell phone vibrate in his shirt pocket and saw the cameraman had texted him with the message: Kill him!
“I couldn’t understand why the cameraman wanted me to shoot the 8-pointer,” Bubba smiled. “I put the phone back in my pocket, and it started vibrating again with a text from Larry saying: Shoot!
Bubba picked up his binoculars and looked at what he thought was the 8-pointer in the rapidly fading light. That time, he recognized Pitchfork.
“Although I didn’t want to shoot Pitchfork in the chest, I knew I couldn’t shoot the deer after legal shooting time,” Bubba said. “With Pitchfork 85 yards away, I was confident that my T/C Omega was dead-on at 100 yards and that the 300-grain sabot would put the buck down efficiently.
“Looking through my scope, I squeezed the trigger,” he said.
Pitchfork took the bullet and ran about 75 yards before entering the very thick woods.
“There was no blood trail,” Bubba said. “I told Larry, ‘I don’t want to jump that deer up in the dark. Let’s come back in the morning to find him.’”
The following morning, David, his cameraman and Bubba found the buck beside a dry creek bed not far from the field’s edge.
Editor’s Note: For booking information about Extreme Wildlife Adventures, visit www.ewahunting.com or call Larry at (405) 545-2129.
Hunter: Ronald "Bubba" Belk
BTR Score: 213 5/8
View BTR Scoresheet
This article was published in the April 2016 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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