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Big Buck Central

Big Buck 411 Blog


Jeff Essary

By Mike Handley

Jeff Essary was already driving to his deer hunting spot along Missouri’s St. Francis River when a friend, Chris Wilson, called to ask which stand he was planning to use.

“I told him, ‘The two-man stand. Why? Where would you hunt?’” Jeff said.

Chris thought the “welded stand” would be a better choice. The first one Jeff had ever built, it needed some shoring up, but it was still solid enough to support a Missouri duck hunter who’d decided to trade his shotgun and steel shot for a smokepole and single bullet.

Jeff went there instead, and Chris might never let him forget that it was his idea.

Dec. 21 was cool and overcast, and a gentle breeze was blowing out of the northwest. Jeff parked 300 yards east of the welded stand, pulled on his hunting clothes and sprayed himself with a cover scent, and then followed a bush-hogged path to the stand that had seen better days.

He was going to spend the rest of the afternoon looking at grass so high that, beyond 100 yards, a full grown deer could stand up and remain hidden. He was also armed with a muzzleloader with which he’d shot only targets, all because his trail cameras had been yielding photographs of a deer resembling something from a fairy tale.

Eventually, he spotted a doe slinking through the grass. Behind her was the buck that had bewitched him for two years.

It was at 45 yards when Jeff squeezed the trigger.

“Normally,” he says, “I’d be duck hunting that time of year. Instead, I was out there every free moment, looking for that buck. The way I see it, those ducks all look alike. But the deer … not so much.”

That’s a bit of an understatement, considering the deer he shot has a true gross score of 214 1/8 inches and is a new Missouri record for Irregulars smoked by a blackpowder rifle. There are only three bucks in that category, but Jeff’s 19-pointer is nearly 45 inches bigger than the No. 2 deer.

Gita Smith tells the whole story in an upcoming issue of Rack magazine. We also have a photograph of the buck swimming the river, taken by duck hunters and sent to Jeff, possibly to ensure that he would not join them in a duck blind for the rest of the year!

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