By Lisa L. Price
Kelly Richey and son, Carson, grasp the calcium handlebars adorned by the newest addition to their family.
Photo Courtesy of: Kelly Richey
Two people, neither of them hunters, told Kelly Richey about the huge buck. One informant was Robert Rose, Kelly's boss with the Muhlenberg County Highway Department there in Kentucky. Robert also owns the farm that adjoins Kelly's, and he'd seen a buck with incredible antlers.
But what really made Kelly sit up and take notice was the report from the second person, a young man who attends the same church.
"He saw it crossing the road, saw the two drop tines, and then got so excited that he ran off the road," Kelly chuckled. "He had to be pulled out of a ditch."
So the rumor must be true, Kelly mused.
After considering the scenarios, Kelly decided the deer probably was seeking shelter in a cedar thicket. This presented a problem, since there was no place in there to hang a stand. If Kelly were going to put his tag on the buck, he'd have to figure out how to hunt it.
"A buck can hide where a rabbit can hide," he said. "And that's where this guy was living, in an overgrown cedar thicket."
Kentucky's 2000 rifle season opened on a Saturday. Thoughts of outsmarting the local legend and seeing lots of big deer coming into his brother-in-law's taxidermy shop had Kelly pumped. He'd been keeping an eye on the thicket, taking note of the wind and deer movement and plotting a way to sneak close enough to get a chance at the animal.
He wasn't going to try until the conditions gave him a green light.
"On Wednesday, everything was right," he said. "I slipped down to a place where I could hide in a brush pile about 3:30 p.m."
Not long afterward, three does exited the thicket and headed for a cut cornfield. Behind them came a small buck, which relentlessly tried to herd and nudge them. The whole time, the adolescent buck was grunting steadily.
Kelly took out his favorite deer call, Knight and Hale's "Easy Grunt."
"I fooled with those deer for about five minutes," he said. "Then after the small buck left, I kept mimicking its grunts. I kept it up for about 20 minutes.
"Then, all of a sudden, this bruiser charges out of the thicket about 100 yards from me," he added. "It didn't go to the does like I thought it would. Instead, it came straight at me.
This is the view that caused at least one young motorist to drive into a ditch. Photo Courtesy of: Kelly Richey
"It all happened in the blink of an eye, the way it just shot out of there," Kelly recalled. "It happened so fast that, at the time, I didn't know if it had tree limbs hanging off its rack or what, just that something was hanging down on the right side. The antlers had super mass, too!"
Kelly had been sitting with his Remington across his lap. He quickly shouldered it and shot the charging buck in the chest, dropping it on the spot.
When he went for a closer look, he couldn't believe his eyes.
"It's not the spread or the tine length, it's the super mass that makes the rack what it is," he said. "I saw that it had mass plum out to the tip of every point.
"This is something you hunt for all your life. I might hunt the rest of my life and never get something like this again," Kelly added. "When I stood there looking at that deer, I was literally shaking - a feeling only hunters will understand."
The first buck to join the does had been a 9-pointer. Knowing the bigger buck was around somewhere, Kelly had chosen to wait. He figures the 9-pointer's grunts, followed by his own, were what pulled the buck from its lair.
"I think the big buck knew the sound of the other one's grunt," Kelly said.
"When it heard me - a stranger - it busted out of there, looking for a fight. Like a gobbler will zero in on a turkey hunter's yelping, this deer had pinpointed the grunting's origin and was coming right at me."
The relatively young 3 1⁄2-year-old bruiser won the big buck contest at Uncle Lee's Store, a nearby hunting shop. Kelly used his $300 gift certificate prize to purchase another Remington rifle, a .243, to compliment his .270.
Kelly grew up on a farm, and his brother farms 2,000 acres. They are also surrounded by thousands of acres of hunting land in the Peabody Wildlife Management Area in western Kentucky.
"I've always had a lot of good land to hunt, and there's lots of good hunting on the Peabody property," Kelly said. "But even with all the good hunting possibilities, I'd never seen a buck like the one that charged out of that thicket.
"I've read that if a buck lives through three seasons, the odds of taking it - of it making a mistake - go way down. There are so many times that people see a big buck, and then nobody ever lays eyes on it again," he said. "It all worked in my favor that day. Luck was definitely on my side."
Hunter: Kelly Richey
Official Score: 201"
Composite Score: 216 5/8"
-- Reprinted from the August 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine