By Mike Handley
The first time Randy saw this buck in range, he wouldn't risk reaching for his bow. The next day, he was ready.
Photo courtesy of Randy Bercume
Showing up at camp with a spanking-new untested bow or gun can be like running into your preacher at a nudist resort. There's going to be some mighty wide-eyed stares and more than a little embarrassment.
When Randy Bercume of Fiskdale, Mass., arrived in Kansas last November, his baggage included a bow that he'd purchased just four days earlier. He'd never hunted with it; hadn't had a wealth of opportunities to even shoot it.
His outfitter, Mike Ruddle, might've groaned if he'd known.
The weapon actually was the second new one that Randy had acquired. His first choice was a short 31 1⁄2-inch model that he could not tame. He swapped that one for a more forgiving 33-incher.
Now he was hoping to shoot a deer with it.
Randy wasn't alone when he stepped off the plane. He was accompanied by his dad and brother, Ron and Steve, and a friend, Tony Carvalho. The foursome would be sharing the seven-day camp with a couple of guys from Wisconsin.
It was Randy's fourth year to hunt the Sunflower State, but his first to book with Central Plains Outfitters in McPherson County.
Photo Courtesy of: Randy Bercume
Turns out, this group was Mike Ruddle's first as bowhunting clients. The outfitter usually avoids booking hunts that time of year in order to carry his own bow afield. In fact, it was Mike's unbridled enthusiasm for archery that sold Randy on the idea of hunting with him. Convincing the guy to cater to veteran bowhunters wasn't particularly difficult ... at least for another dyed-in-the-wool bowhunter.
The temperature had pushed well into the 80s when the Bercumes arrived. In fact, on Nov. 8, when they all were officially out of the chute and in trees, the mercury climbed to 89 degrees.
If you pay for a hunt, however, sitting bare-chested indoors ain't gonna happen.
Randy saw only a few does during his first evening. Twenty-four hours later, he passed on a 7-pointer that might've registered in the 130s (inside spread included). After two days afield, he wasn't a happy camper.
"Usually, every time you rattle and maybe grunt a little, something happens out there," Randy says of Kansas. "But not during this trip."
On the third day, at Mike's urging, Randy went to a different stand - about an hour's drive from where he'd been hunting. There, he allowed a 9-pointer to keep on trucking.
On day four, Randy sat in a 15-foot-high metal ladder stand his father had written off after sitting in it for two days. It was tucked in a 30-yard-wide strip of trees in the middle of a cut bean field. Mike's confidence in the location overruled Ron's pessimism. This stand overlooked a small food plot surrounded by tall grass.
That's where Randy saw a deer capable of inducing sleep apnea - a mainframe 10-pointer with kickers - at a mere 25 yards. The breathless hunter hadn't been aloft an hour.
"I never even picked up my bow," Randy said. "It was completely in the wide open, but it all happened so quickly, I just couldn't move."
When the massive buck meandered out of range, Randy grunted softly. But instead of coming closer, the deer spooked and bounded another 30 or 40 yards.
"He didn't want any part of that," Randy said.
Later on, Randy arrowed a coyote that had been chasing a doe. Deer-wise, he'd pretty much given up, since the landowner began tilling the land - at one point driving the tractor to within 40 yards. The man had no idea a hunter was on the property that day, and he apologized profusely when he learned of it.
Nevertheless, haunted by visions of the big 10-plus-pointer that he thought would surely top the 150-inch mark, Randy returned to the stand the next morning, Nov. 12. At 6:30, the exact same time the big buck had made its appearance a day earlier, the animal stepped out of the woods. And this time, it strolled to within 20 yards.
"When it got that close, I thought, 'Oh my god, it's THAT deer,'" Randy said. "I didn't dare make a sound because of how it reacted the day before. I just shot."
When the deer ran off afterward, Randy was desperately seeking to confirm that he'd hit it. He kept looking for his hopefully bloody arrow through his binoculars, but the glass kept fogging up - largely because Randy's lungs were chugging along like a steam engine. He never did spot the yellow and dark green fletching of his carbon arrow.
"I couldn't even remember where I'd put my pin before I shot," he admitted.
Fifteen minutes later, he was down on the ground, looking for any sign of a hit.
After several frustrating minutes, he stumbled across the arrow. But since there was no blood trail to speak of, he re-climbed the tree and tried to call Mike (who was out of cell range).
When Mike finally called to check on him, Randy told him that he'd stuck a very good buck.
When the outfitter arrived, they sat in the truck for 20 more minutes before picking up the trail. Not long after Mike discovered three or four drops of blood, Randy heard him say, "I got it," meaning "deer," not "more blood."
Randy refused to leave the deer (code for his legs were too shaky to walk), so Mike went to get a camera. He knew the deer was special, and he wanted good field photos of it.
"Mike kept on saying it was a 170, easy," Randy said. "I was hoping it would go 180. Either way, it was much bigger than I thought it was."
The rack was a mainframe 5x5 alright, but the kickers Randy had seen were among a dozen extra irregular points.
"When Mike and (partner) Jason Buschbom measured the left side first, they came up with more than 100 inches," Randy said. "We knew then it would go over 200, and nobody could believe it!"
Hunter: Randy Bercume
Official Score: 210 1/8"
Composite Score: 228 1/8"
-- Reprinted from the October 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine