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Need Buck, Will Travel

Kenny Mallett

Mallett hammers a show-me state bruiser.

By Duncan Dobie
Photo courtesy of Kenny Mallett

Kenny Mallett of Iowa, La., was fired up about the '08 deer season. In 2007, his brother-in-law, Doug Johnstone, had leased a small farm in Benton County, Mo.  Doug, who had been stationed in Missouri while in the Air Force, knew the area had plenty of big buck potential and he had placed a series of ads in local newspapers looking for land. After receiving several responses, he ended up leasing a promising 250-acre farm.

Kenny and several other relatives were invited to join the lease, and that first year Kenny shot a beautiful 10-pointer. His nephew, Jake Johnstone, shot an outstanding 9-pointer on the farm as well.

An avid hunter who's been chasing whitetails in Louisiana for nearly 40 years, Kenny had taken several nice bucks in his native state, but never anything exceptional. He also had been leasing land in Arkansas for the past eight years.

As luck would have it, the Arkansas gun season opened a week before the Missouri gun season in 2008, so Kenny hunted there first. Then he headed up to Missouri for opening day on Nov. 14. It would be an out-of-state hunt that he would not soon forget.

"The landowner told us that he had seen three big bucks running together before the season opened, and that was our only indication that we might run into some trophies," Kenny said.

"During the first four days of hunting, I passed up some really nice bucks. I had made a promise to myself to try and shoot something bigger than the deer I took the previous year. I let several nice 8-pointers walk, including a 4x4 pushing 150 inches, a great buck with a broken main beam and one with a very good, but spindly rack," he added.

Tuesday morning, Nov. 18, broke cold and clear. It was Kenny's fifth day of hunting. With the mercury plunging to 18 degrees, it was a perfect morning to be in the woods. Kenny had placed his climbing stand on a well-traveled wooded ridge. About 8:30 a.m., he suddenly got a cramp in one leg.

"I stood up, laid my rifle over the crossbar of the stand, and tried to stretch my leg muscles," Kenny remembers. "While I was standing there, I heard a noise a short distance up the ridge. I looked up and saw a small buck on the crest.

"I had put out some Tink's scent bombs around my stand, and the deer was sniffing the air as if it had just gotten a whiff of scent. Suddenly, it started running down the ridge straight toward me.

"Since I was standing up, I tried to hug the tree so it wouldn't see me. But it stopped right under my stand and looked straight up at me. Then it took off and ran about 35 yards and stopped.

"About that time, I heard another noise on the ridgetop. I looked up and saw a large set of antlers sticking out on both sides of a big tree about 35 yards away. I said to myself, 'That's a shooter,' but I really couldn't see very well because most of its body was hidden.

"I slowly reached for my rifle. The little buck must have seen something it didn't like because it started running again. All this seemed to make the big buck pretty nervous. After a few seconds that seemed like hours, it started running across the ridge toward the little buck. I could see that it was going to run through a small opening about 65 yards from my tree, so I zeroed in on the spot and got ready to shoot."

Kenny was hunting with his scoped Model 74 Remington .30-06. When the big buck passed through the opening, Kenny squeezed the trigger.

Subscribe Today!"It ran down the ridge a few yards and then over the top, and I thought I heard it crash on the other side," Kenny said. "I was pretty sure it was down, but I knew I should give it at least half an hour. I was so excited, however, that I lasted only about two minutes.

"I walked over to the spot where the buck had been standing, and there was no blood. I started walking in the direction it had run and still there was no blood. I finally walked over the little rise where I had heard the crash, and there was no deer! I couldn't believe it. How could I have missed?

"I continued to look, but there was no blood, no deer ... no nothing. Before I could even frown, though, I spotted it under a small tree just 10 yards in front of me. It was well camouflaged because its back was facing me and the antlers were tangled in the tree's branches.

"I was one happy hunter! After I got over there and took a close look at that incredible rack, I think my brother-in-law could hear me hollering clear across the lease!"

Jake had been hunting farther down the same ridge. After the shot, he came over and helped Kenny drag the buck down the ridge to where they could reach it by four-wheeler. Kenny's one-of-a-kind, 15-point buck sported a mainframe 4x5 rack with 6-inch bases and pig-sticker brows. A 5-inch drop tine and triple brows on the left add much character to the huge rack.

Kenny's buck was an estimated 5 1/2 years old. The 10-pointer he shot the year before had an amazingly similar but smaller rack, indicating the two bucks might have been related.

• Hunter: Kenny Mallett
• Official Score: 180 2/8
• Composite: 198 2/8
• Modern Rifle
• Irregular

-- Reprinted from the August 2010 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine.

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