By Lisa L. Price
Tine length and the sheer number of points put this Noble County, Ind., buck in a unique class. If the mass were more typical of bucks of this caliber, it might've easily been a world record.
For most people, graduation from high school marks a rite of passage - but to where? Every spring, when thousands of graduates swish their tassels, they know they're moving into another stage of life, but don't yet know what will play on that stage.
Shane Silver never had a doubt. During those formative high school years, he'd become friends with people who hunted. The teenager had always enjoyed fishing, but no one in his family hunted.
"My family thought I was crazy," Shane said. "But as soon as I met friends who were into hunting, I got interested."
That interest turned into a career when Shane opened The Hunter's Den, an archery shop in Laotto, Ind., near Fort Wayne. The store includes an indoor range and Techno Hunt, as well as some fishing supplies.
During the hunting season and in the weeks leading up to it, work at The Hunter's Den intensifies. The outdoor store also serves as a check station, and as the years passed, Shane saw hundreds of deer.
On Nov. 14, 2004, he saw one that stood out from those hundreds. And he wasn't at the store; he was out hunting near the town of Avilla.
"My friend, Jason Lutter, and I had done a lot of scouting, including setting out trail cameras, and we'd done a lot of archery hunting in the area. But as far as I know, no one had seen this deer," Shane said. "Bow season ended on a Friday, and on Sunday I was back out hunting with a muzzleloader.
"I'd seen bucks during the archery season, but nothing I wanted to shoot," he said. "It seemed like all I was doing was watching them go, and watching them go."
Shane was in a treestand he had used during the archery season. It was situated on a travel route from the deer's bedding and feeding areas.
"If you're a hunter, you can pick out travel routes," he said. "But being there when a big buck is coming through is another thing."
The morning was clear and fairly warm. In fact, with the treestand facing east into the cloudless sky, Shane found himself blinded by the sun. So he turned away from it.
"That's when I saw the buck coming out into an open field," Shane said. "As soon as I turned, it was going into some corn stubble, and I could see massive beams and lots of points.
"I hadn't seen a doe, but as the buck walked into the field, it had its nose to the ground as if it were trailing one," he continued. "I grabbed my .45-caliber Knight and shot. I hit it in the neck, not where I was aiming. I must have been looking at antler. But the shot dropped the deer."
Shane knows now that he reloaded the blackpowder gun, but he doesn't remember doing it. He doesn't remember getting down out of the treestand either.
"I just remember walking over to the deer. The closer I got, the bigger it got," he said. "I was just in total disbelief."
Although he'd seen hundreds of deer come through his store, he could not imagine what his buck would score. Turns out, the 21-pointer, with a 12-point mainframe, tallied 191 5/8 in the BTR's semi-irregular category.
Shane's friend, Jason, was hunting nearby.
"I kept trying to get his attention and finally just told him he better come over," Shane said. "At first, he was mad that I was messing up his hunt. But when he saw my buck, his jaw dropped."
The day had warmed, and after registering the deer at the closest check station, Shane and Jason took time to skin the trophy. Shane's wife had opened the store for him, and he hurried there afterward. Early customers had heard that he'd shot a big deer, and they had spread the word.
"I had the rack and the hide with me, and when I got to the store, a crowd had gathered," Shane said. "It looked like a circus."
Shane's mount now hangs in The Hunter's Den. People who stop to shop there are often stunned by its size. Strangers often ask where the buck was taken and are surprised by the answer.
"Most hunters drive through Indiana to get to Illinois," Shane said. "But more and more people are starting to notice the big bucks coming out of Indiana.
Editor's Note: Shane is correct about Indiana's growing reputation for monstrous whitetails. In 2005, Indiana was the No. 1 producer of giants, while its western and eastern neighbors - Illinois and Ohio - dropped into the Nos. 2 and 3 spots.
Hunter: Shane Silver
Official Score: 191 5/8"
Composite Score: 211 5/8"
-- Reprinted from the July 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine