By Mike Handley
John Klucky carries the family torch by continuing to film hunts like his late father, George. Unfortunately, there was no camera on the day he toppled this New Hampshire state record.
When John Klucky first laid eyes on the buck that would be New Hampshire's state-record Typical, it wasn't a Kodak moment.
He revels in telling the story. In fact, he rattles off the details so quickly that his tongue begins to knot. But the hunter from Bow, N.H., freely admits that he had no clue as to the caliber of whitetail he twice fired at on Nov. 25, 2006.
In all the excitement, he knew only that the deer was a buck and that it had sweeping main beams. That those beams supported 13 pickets in its fence never registered until he knelt over the fallen animal.
Adrenaline is partly responsible. And it didn't help that he was looking straight into the sun.
"I'm thankful I had a great scope on my shotgun," he said. "Instead of losing the image in the sun's glare, the crosshairs were almost glowing. I'll never forget those gold crosshairs."
Neither will he forget how he almost didn't go hunting - at least with his buddies - that Saturday. In fact, if it hadn't been for his wife, he might have overslept altogether.
John Klucky of Bow, N.H., shows off his state's No. 1 Typical. He shot it during a man-drive in Merrimack County on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
John got a telephone call from pal Eric Ranfos on Friday night, Nov. 24, asking him to join the gang for a few "pushes" on Saturday. When they're not swapping treestands and going it alone, they all get together at least a couple of times a year for pushes.
But John, anxious to spend time in his treestand where a very nice buck had been seen, declined.
The next morning, however, John's wife poked him.
So much for best-laid plans.
"Get up, honey. You can't shoot a deer from here," she said.
"I might've hit the snooze button," John said later. "I really don't remember. But since I was running late, I called Eric about 6:00 to say 'I'm on my way.'"
After splitting a dozen doughnuts, John and Eric, Eric's dad and brother, V.J. and Vic Ranfos, and Ron Lavoie drove to their favorite stretch of public ground, which might have taken 10 minutes. The party of five arrived at the parking spot about 7 a.m., and then struck out on a 45-minute hike.
"Most of the people who hunt those woods put up a treestand within a couple hundred yards of the road. They don't like to walk," John said. "We don't mind walking."
The group's man-drives rarely last longer than half an hour. Most are executed within 15 minutes.
The day's first push saw John and Eric as "the dogs," while the rest fanned out ahead of the block to be driven. When that was finished, the gang met at a beaver pond to plan the next one, and their roles reversed.
"The other (standers) were going to their favorite places. They told me, 'John, you go over there by that rock,'" he said. "They never ever had seen a deer come out there, but I didn't mind."
The rock actually was a giant boulder, and John climbed on top of it. In front of him was a swampy clear-cut. It was cold, clear and eerily quiet that morning.
Sound traveled a long way.
Ten minutes into the push, John heard the unmistakable sound of deer approaching, though it took him a second too long to pinpoint where the animal or animals might appear. By the time he zeroed in on the source, the very big body of a deer passed between a gap in the trees, followed by a much smaller doe.
It had to be a buck, but John never saw its head.
A few minutes later, he heard more deer coming - this time directly in front of him. It was a doe, walking almost nonchalantly. John, who was looking into the sun at that point, shielded his eyes as he followed her progress ... veering left and passing within 40 yards.
When he turned and looked ahead again, he was staring at a buck he'd never heard coming.
"All I saw were the main beams; I never noticed the points," he said.
John's semiauto coughed twice, the second time as the buck was fleeing. The deer crossed a logging road before disappearing from view.
When Eric arrived at John's side, he yelled to the others ... "You guys know what to do!" That was the signal to fan out well ahead of the buck, while Eric and John followed the blood trail.
The duo jumped the buck not long after crossing the road, sending it toward V.J., who took a shot at it. After that, they all leapfrogged again.
"Eric kept telling me, 'Don't worry ... it's a dead deer,'" John said.
Soon into the second leg of the search, the two friends heard the buck crash.
All three slugs had connected. The first two would've been enough, so John got the credit.
"When we got up to it and saw how big it was, we were speechless," John said. "It was unreal."
After much celebrating, the next hour and a half were spent dragging the animal back to the truck.
"I can tell this story a thousand times, and I never get sick of it," he said. "A lot of people ask me why I mention ALL the details, why I tell them the part about the three shots - mine barely missing the liver and severing the windpipe. But that's what happened. I'm just happy I got the deer."
When they got back to John's home, the men built a fire in the stone fire pit that has held many a late-night bonfire. And for the next several hours, between 50 and 60 people came to pay their respects and view the gigantic buck.
The news spread immediately and quickly. Within the first half hour of their getting back to civilization, 30 people had snapped photos with their cell phones, and e-mailed images began sailing across the Internet.
It was John's buddies who convinced him to get what he thought was a 160-inch buck (far bigger than anything he'd ever shot before) scored. When they put a tape to it and came up with 197 inches, there were even mumblings about it being a new state record.
It was indeed.
Editor's Note: If the name Klucky sounds familiar in hunting circles, it's because John's late father, George, was a renowned outdoorsman/cameraman. He founded Wilderness Adventures and Klucky Films and captured miles of 16mm film of wildlife and hunting. John, a 45-year-old, two-stroke engine mechanic and former world champion snowmobiler, is now following in his dad's footsteps. Not only is he planning to re-release some of his dad's tapes on DVD, but he also is producing his own videos.
Learn more about Klucky's Outdoor Adventures online at:
Hunter: John Klucky
Official Score: 182 5/8"
Composite Score: 200
-- Reprinted from the July 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine