posted on April 13, 2014 15:39
By Mike Handley
Tony Royal of Pleasant Garden, N.C., fell in love with Indiana while visiting his wife's relatives there two decades ago. He's made the long drive to hunt his in-laws' farms ever since, usually with friends he's eager to introduce to a landscape completely foreign to most Southerners.
Going into the 2013 season, Tony and his friends had tagged 15 bucks that scored 150 or better, and plenty more that topped 140 inches.
"It doesn't get any better than that," he says.
Tony and his comrades du jour normally hunt close to their living quarters when the season opens, but they deviated from that plan when they arrived and couldn't find the usual deer sign. He blames that on a family friend who was given permission to roam the property before their arrival.
He and his friends spent the day before the opener driving around and looking.
At one point, a 200-class buck crossed the road in front of their vehicle. That deer, along with the fact that a lot of the corn was still standing, gave Tony the idea of hunting out of a ground blind along one of the many drainage ditches between fields.
He set it up near an intersection of ditches, which gave him four shooting lanes. He liked the setup, but the fierce wind really whipped the fabric, so he went out that afternoon without it.
Because heavy rains were forecasted for Sunday, farmers were in their combines, harvesting as much corn as possible. About 150 yards south of where Tony sat, three tractor-trailers, a combine and tractor were running full-bore. Another combine was shaving rows to the north.
"It was a serious downer until I remembered what a couple of my good friends, Billy and Mark, had said about harvest time," Tony said. "They'd told me the deer there often stay in the corn until the very end, until the combines push them out of their sanctuaries."
And that's exactly what happened.
After alternately running and playing peekaboo with a giant buck that was more interested in the nearest combine's movement than Tony's, the slug gun barked. Three times and then once more, all it could.
The weeds in the ditch were so tall, Tony practically stumbled over the dead buck while walking to where he thought it had run back into the corn.
The 14-pointer's BTR composite score is 190 5/8 inches.