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Serious Mojo

Photo Courtesy of Dave Wachtel

Metro Nashville buck new runner-up to state record

By Mike Handley

Photo Courtesy of Dave Wachtel

If Dave Wachtel should happen to scoot through a turnstile, you'd best start looking for the confetti and balloons to drop. If he buys a lottery ticket, send the CPA to his address.

And if you invite the 37-year-old former restaurateur to hunt deer on your place - even if you stick him in the worst stand on the property - be prepared to drive him to the taxidermist afterward.

This Nashville resident has some serious mojo.

Anyone, regardless of prowess with bow or gun, has a much better chance of winning the Powerball than bagging a world record whitetail.

Plop them down in Tennessee, and the odds of seeing Buckzilla are even worse.

Let's say, however, that it happens - as it did for Dave back in 2000, when the bowhunter uncharacteristically carried a muzzleloader afield and shot a free-ranging 51-pointer with a BTR score of 246 inches.

What are the odds that he would come close to snatching a second record?

Doesn't matter.

Do not bet against this guy.

"I lucked up again, no doubt," says Dave.

And to think he even second-guessed his decision to arrow the 18-pointer that has landed him in this magazine a second time, a buck that's the new runner-up to the Tennessee state (bow) record!

To be fair, Dave didn't have a lot of time to look at the rack. He saw only the smaller side moments before he drew his bow. He'd figured the deer for a 10-pointer wearing 140 or more inches of antler (inside spread included), which meant it was a shooter by his standards. But in the four hours that passed between sticking and finding it, he seriously thought he'd overestimated the headgear.

That Dave even hunted in 2009 was unusual. His father's death in 2001, followed by the sale of the family's Sumner County farm where he shot his former world-record buck, really took the spring out of the bowhunter's step. On top of those events, he moved to St. Louis and even spent a year abroad before moving back to Nashville.

Last season was the first time in five years for him to hunt deer.

"I never lost interest in hunting. It wasn't like I quit after shooting the big one," he said. "The timing just didn't work out."

When his bow-shooting buddy, Bill Ridge, died, it was difficult for Dave not to think about hunting. That summer, he pulled out his compound case, thought about the custom string Bill had made for him, and decided it was time to rejoin the fraternity.

Where to go, however, was a different matter, a problem he'd never really faced before 2009.

Dave turned to another friend, who owns several pieces of property close to metropolitan Nashville, and was given permission to bowhunt five tracts in Davidson County. The one he chose was about 30 or 40 gnarly acres of young oaks and persimmon trees. There were no climbable trees on it, but buck sign littered the former dump.

Photo Courtesy of Dave Wachtel"When my buddy told me about it, he said, 'It's really thick. I don't know how you're going to hunt it,'" Dave said.

"While walking through there, I found several small trees that were either broken in half or completely uprooted ... all by a buck," Dave added. "I also found a good place to set up, but it was really thick woods and huntable only by ground.

"I'd never taken a deer while hunting from the ground," he added.

Dave was in place by 8 a.m. on Dec. 4.

"Getting up before daylight is something I don't do very often," he said.

He'd taken along a little swivel seat and set it back in the brush.

Thirty minutes later, a doe passed through. Or rather, from the looks of it, she was herded out of the thick stuff. But Dave never saw the shepherd.

At around 10:00, Dave rattled, grunted and bleated. Not long afterward, another doe popped out of the thick vegetation. And because something was making a lot of noise in her wake, the surprised bowhunter got ready.

Even though Dave could see only one side of the buck's rack, he figured it for an easy 140- to 150-incher. When he drew, both deer picked up their pace. The buck was heading away from him, but it must've spotted the movement. The doe had already slipped back into the brush, but her pursuer stopped at 25 yards and spun around for a double-take.

Fatal mistake.

Dave saw his arrow's fletching protruding from the animal as it ran away, and he never heard a crash.

"It all happened in like five seconds," he said. He later texted his buddies, saying he'd shot a 145-inch 10-pointer.

Dave had a business meeting at noon, so he left. He returned to look for the deer at 3:00.

Subscribe Today!The blood trail was spotty, but he managed to find the buck after trailing it for 20 minutes. After covering between 75 and 100 yards, he walked up on it. He had no idea the "10-pointer" sported so many extras. In fact, during the time spent out of the woods, he'd almost convinced himself that the buck was probably a lot smaller than he'd imagined.

He took a photo of the buck with his cell phone to send to his buddies. One guy didn't believe him. To prove it, Dave took another with his driver's license next to the antlers.

His other buck, a 51-point, 246-inch Irregular (formerly the world record and still the state record), now resides in a glass case at Bass Pro Shops in Nashville. That muzzleloader kill was the exception for the bowhunter.

He also passed up a couple of great 135- to 140-inch bucks during the 2009 season, deer he put at 3 1⁄2 years old.

"I was holding out for something really special," he said. "But I never counted on this ridiculously huge buck. I really think Bill lined up the stars for me."

• Hunter: Dave Wachtel
• Official Score: 182 7/8
• Composite: 201
• Compound Bow
• Irregular

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

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