posted on June 06, 2011 07:40
By Mike Handley
It’s obvious the late singer-songwriter Jim Croce never bowhunted New Mexico’s high plains. If he had, sneaking up on a deer would’ve rated right up there with tugging on Superman’s cape, spittin’ in the wind and pullin’ the mask off that old Lone Ranger -- things you just DON’T do.
Nobody told Robert Barnwell, however.
The 40-year-old bowhunter also missed the memo pointing out that shooting a whitetail, even a little one, in a state renowned for its elk, mule and diminutive Coues’ deer would be like pulling a 10-pound largemouth out of a birdbath.
That’s not to say whitetails haven’t moved into eastern New Mexico from the Texas Panhandle. It’s why the state sells “any-buck” tags. But because the wide open spaces there are best suited for prairie chickens and pronghorns, odds of that lunker bass are more favorable.
Robert didn’t set out to demoralize the oddsmakers last season. He wasn’t nocked for whitetails, even though he’s smitten with them and has been saving for years to be able to travel to Iowa or some other corner of the Midwest to hunt them. He had no reason to believe he’d do anything beyond sticking his 12th muley, and only if the deer gods were in a generous mood.
Robert hunts public land in Roosevelt County, and I’m talking wide open ground that would keep most whitetail hunters inside their truck cabs, cursing the snake oil salesmen who convinced them to apply for deer tags in New Mexico’s Unit 31. Yet he came out of there last January with a 13-pointer carrying 161 6/8 inches of antler – not counting the generous 22 2/8-inch inside spread, which gives the rack a composite score of 184 inches.
The photo of Robert and his state-record buck doesn’t do justice to the antlers, which include four uprights longer than 10 inches (the largest a notch shy of 15) and 6-inch bases. It’s the only whitetail in our record book from New Mexico, meaning it still would’ve been a state record with a much lower score, regardless of category. However, keep in mind that the B&C record for that state is a mere 167 inches – 17 inches smaller than Robert’s grosses.
So how did Robert pull this rabbit out of a hat, this lunker out of a bird bath, this enormous whitetail out of the world’s largest sand trap? You can find out in the September issue of Rack magazine.