By Peter Schoonmaker
Hunter: Andy Hall
When it was bright enough to see without a flashlight, Andy Hall eased through the brush and timber to his treestand. The Ontario County property he shares with family and friends is dissected by a rural highway - 70 acres of thicket on one side, 15 on the other.
The small woodlot is where Andy chose to hunt on Nov. 19, 2005 - the opening day of New York's shotgun season. It was overcast, and the thermometer registered in the low 30s.
More than anything, he wanted his father - who was hunting nearby - to connect with a nice buck. But the morning was uneventful.
When Andy's dad had endured enough, he wandered over from the big thicket across the road to find Andy. He was ready to hunt someplace else.
Nov 19, 2005, will be long remembered by Andy Hall (right) and his dad, Bill. Both collected bucks that day, Andy's one of the largest felled in the entire northeast that year.
Before throwing in the towel, however, they decided to still-hunt through the 15-acre woodlot.
Andy had completed his circle around the cover and was en route to his truck when he heard his father shoot. The old man had dropped a fine 8-pointer, which lifted the hunting party's spirits considerably as everyone pitched in to drag the buck to the vehicle.
Having lost a lot of time, rather than drive somewhere else, Andy decided to return to his elevated perch in the thicket. He hadn't been in place long when the sound of moving deer at the edge of the cover drew his attention. As the afternoon began slipping away, he couldn't shake his curiosity over whether the deer he'd heard were in the adjacent field.
He had to look!
In a crouch, Andy snuck up to the edge of the cut field and, sure enough, spotted a buck and a doe in the distance.
"The buck had lean hind quarters, a huge chest and neck, and a conglomeration of antlers," Andy said. "My first impression was that its silhouette looked just like a buffalo's."
The doe grew nervous and trotted back into the woods, while Andy dropped to a knee, braced against a tree and held high for the 150-yard shot. He squeezed the 20 gauge's trigger, but the slug flew high. He quickly pumped in another shell, lowered his aim onto the clueless buck's shoulder, and tried again. That time, the brute fell.
As Andy jumped to his feet, the big deer rose and disappeared into the nearby creek bottom. The doe popped back out and bolted away as the sprinting hunter approached.
Andy parted the brush and stepped down out of the field to find the surprise of his deer hunting life. The incredible buck quickly swapped ends and faced the hunter at 15 feet. Startled, Andy missed the first point-blank shot, but the second slug ended the standoff.
The adrenaline high and buck fever collided at that point, leaving Andy shuddering. He stared in disbelief at the impossibly huge deer.
When he finally went back to rendezvous with the rest of the gang, he was babbling about drop tines and wrist-thick beams.
His brother-in-law calmly said, "Settle down, Andy ... You've killed other big deer."
It wasn't long before brother-in-law and everyone else found themselves blabbering on and on about the monstrous buck. But they fell quiet when Andy's father approached, and they all turned off their flashlights. At the appropriate time, multiple beams illuminated the downed buck, causing the elder Hall to gasp.
That night, Andy sat in the barn with his father until midnight, talking of deer hunting and admiring their bucks between visitors who had heard the news.
Hunter: Andy Hall
Official Score: 178 2/8"
Composite Score: 201 6/8"
-- Reprinted from the October 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine