posted on June 08, 2014 07:01
By Mike Handley
Dennis Nickell and his friend, J.T. Rawlings, knew an enormous buck had been seen near the 160-acre farm they hunt in Fleming County, Ky., in 2013. A neighboring landowner had retrieved trail camera photographs of the animal when its impressive rack was still in velvet.
Despite spending many hours in a treestand with his bow in September and early October, the Flemingsburg hunter never glimpsed the buck from the photos. He was beginning to think it had vanished until a state trooper spotted it in a nearby bean field.
That sighting put the spring back into his step.
On opening Saturday of the modern gun season, not by accident the beginning of Dennis' annual vacation, he watched the sunrise from a stand overlooking a bench on a long ridge that runs through the tract he's hunted since 1990. The wind was gusting, and he spent much of that morning holding on for dear life.
He saw about 10 deer that day. Ditto for Sunday and Monday. And he stayed indoors on Tuesday because of a snowstorm.
He saw the trail cam buck on Wednesday, but another deer spooked it before he could acquire it in his scope.
Dennis almost went to a different setup on Thursday, Nov. 14, but his buddy convinced him to return to the same bench stand. Just before 10 a.m., the big buck chased a doe over the crest of the ridge.
It wasn't until they - or maybe it was another doe - made a second pass that Dennis found an opening and fired.
He got his deer, though it cost him every bullet he carried into the woods that day. That's what a double dose of buck fever - the first upon the initial sighting, and the next when the fallen deer came back from the dead - can do to a man.
Dale Weddle measured the deer and interviewed Dennis for the story that'll appear in Rack magazine this fall. The buck's BTR composite score is 203 inches.