Nebraska's No. 1 Irregular by Blackpowder
By Lisa L. Price
Photos Courtesy of Joe Perry
The flush of a covey of quail can rattle the steadiest hunter, but Ed Perry wasn't surprised as he watched his big brother, Joe, then 10 years old, snap up his BB gun and bag one of the birds. The two youngsters added that trophy to the four squirrels Joe had killed earlier that morning, with four shots from his trusty BB gun.
"We were poor," Ed said of the boys' childhood in Dover, N.C. "Joe learned early to make every shot count."
Fast forward 50 years, and the country boy wasn't far from his roots.
Sure, he'd upgraded the BB gun to a Remington 700ML blackpowder gun. He'd lived and hunted in Idaho, Alaska and Wyoming, and had taken mule deer, bobcat, elk, caribou, Dall's sheep, grizzly bear, coyote, prairie dogs and whitetails. He'd also learned to do his own taxidermy.
"Joe always hunts as though the seasons will close forever the next year," Ed said. "He lives by a line he likes from one of his favorite movies, 'The Outlaw Josey Wales,' when Lone Watie is describing the long struggle of the Indians and says they must 'endeavor to persevere.'
"That's what Joe does when he hunts," Ed added. "His technique is wit, plus skill and time in the woods."
On Dec. 2, 2006, Joe's lifelong quest to shoot a truly huge whitetail was realized in Sioux County, Neb. Joe, Ed and a group of friends from North Carolina had traveled west to hunt for more than 20 years. In 2006, with none of the group members able to go, Joe headed west by himself.
"We don't have really big deer around here," Joe says of North Carolina.
"You have to go somewhere else if you're looking for a real head-turner. When I lived out West, I found good places to hunt."
One of those places bore fruit in 1985, when Joe harvested a Wyoming buck that (later) scored 1555⁄8 by Buckmasters' yardstick. The deer he shot in '06 was taken less than five miles from where he downed the Wyoming buck, his previous best.
"I think those deer are related because the racks' structures are basically the same," he says. "Deer don't care about state lines."
Joe hunted Wyoming first in 2006. When the season ended there, he crossed over into Nebraska to hunt that state's muzzleloader opener. He was tired from the Wyoming hunt, and the daylight hours were fading.
It would have been easy to call it a day, to go for something to eat, a hot shower and to go to bed early. Instead, as he always does, Joe decided to "endeavor to persevere."
"I've hunted that same knoll, off and on, for about 50 years," he said.
"Ninety percent of the time, the wind is right."
Soon, he caught a glimpse of a buck chasing a doe. When he looked through binoculars, he saw only one, a huge-bodied deer standing in the open.
"I couldn't see antlers. I was thinking, 'Wow, that's a giant doe,'" he recalled. "I had just put the binoculars back on my chest and offered up a little prayer, saying, 'Sir, please send me a big one.'"
No sooner had he said the words when a buck stepped out from behind her.
"No need for binoculars. There was no mistaking that rack," he said. "I reached for my gun."
The shot dropped the buck on the spot, and Joe didn't wait long before he headed over to see the rack up close.
"I knew I had shot a big buck, but I didn't know exactly what I had until I rolled it over," Joe said. "There were 22 points, and I just about fell down next to it.
"It was a religious moment," he added.
Joe downplays his trophy, using a version of the popular Southern saying, "Even a blind hog will find an ear of corn." But Ed Perry says that few people put as much time into hunting as his big brother does.
"Anyone who shows this kind of devotion and passion toward a sport deserves some kind of recognition, and Joe did it all on a working man's salary," Ed said. "It should inspire others, perhaps younger sportsmen, who don't have the financial ability to dig deep into their wallets and savings accounts to pursue their great passion.
"Joe always says: 'If you stay in the woods and hunt while others choose the warmth of the fire and the comforts of home, good fortune might smile on you.'"
Hunter: Joe Perry
Official Score: 192 6/8"
Composite Score: 211"
-- Reprinted from the November 2008 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.