Rack Magazine

Bulletproof ... NOT!

Bulletproof ... NOT!

By Dale Weddle

Four misses in three years not enough to send this buck packing.

Seventeen-year-old Jacob Murphy made his second shot count, even if he had to wait a year and change weapons to do it.

The Kentucky teenager took his first poke at the enormous 6x6 during the 2015 muzzleloading season. His second chance came during the next year’s modern rifle season.

He wasn’t the only person hunting or shooting at the deer.

Jacob’s Russell County neighbor, Dustin Ballanger, missed the giant Typical in 2014, the same year Jacob collected the initial trail camera photograph of the buck.

After Dustin’s shot flew wide, nobody saw the deer for the rest of that season.

In 2015, the buck reappeared on Jacob’s cameras with an even bigger rack, which is why the teen made immediate plans to hunt the deer during the early muzzleloading weekend. Prior to that, he’d never hunted with a blackpowder rifle.

When dawn broke on the third Saturday in October, Jacob was cradling a .50-caliber rifle while sitting in his favorite ladder stand. He erects the stand in the same place every fall, against a big white oak in a half-acre of woods overlooking a hollow.

Jacob thought the buck of his dreams was bedding either in or near the hollow, which is bordered by a long soybean field.

“It was cold that first morning, probably in the 20s,” Jacob said. “When I hadn’t seen anything by 9:30, I decided to get down and walk around. I slowly eased along the edge of the bean field, looking down the steep bank into the hollow.”

Still-hunting was a good choice.

“Suddenly, I saw that big buck’s ol’ head,” he said. “It was standing about 150 to 160 yards away and looking at me.

“I put my scope on it and shot off-hand. Afterward, it ran across the hollow and up the other side into a hayfield. I thought I had hit the deer, so I took off after it.

“When I got up to the field, the buck was nowhere in sight,” Jacob continued. “I went back and looked for blood for about 45 minutes, but I never found any. It had apparently been a clean miss. I wanted to cry.”

Jacob wound up filling his 2015 statewide buck tag with a nice 8-pointer during the latter part of the modern gun season. He also accompanied his stepfather, Joe McCreary, for the special quota hunt at Land Between the Lakes, where he shot another 8-pointer.

“We came back from LBL on Nov. 22, and I checked a trail camera,” Jacob said. “The big Typical had walked past it at 11:00 that morning. It had survived another gun season!

“I found out later that Dustin had missed the deer again, and his girlfriend had also missed it,” he added.

The buck with nine lives now had only five remaining.

Jacob retrieved his first trail cam picture of the buck for 2016 on July 14. The deer was a full-fledged monster with some tines almost a foot long.

The 12-pointer was coming to a mineral lick Jacob had established in the small patch of woods beside the hollow. It appeared to prefer the mineral over the nearby corn.

Jacob put up his ladder stand by the big white oak in August. By September, the buck was a regular at the mineral lick, showing up like clockwork between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. almost nightly.

Jacob wanted to bowhunt from the ladder stand as well, but he decided he needed more concealment. He took an old ground blind that had the top out of it and wrapped it around the seat of the stand.

The only problem was that the stand’s new skirt tended to flap around when the wind was blowing. As a result, the buck immediately stopped visiting the mineral lick.

“I told him the blind flapping around had spooked the buck,” said Joe, his stepfather. “But he wouldn’t listen to me. Someone else told him the same thing, and he finally took note.”

Almost two months passed before the deer stepped back in front of the camera. It walked past the lens on the Thursday before Kentucky’s modern gun season opened. All that was captured in the photo was the buck’s antlers, but there was no doubt as to which deer they were attached.

“I got in my stand between 4:00 and 4:30 on opening morning,” Jacob said. “I would have been earlier if I hadn’t waited on my vehicle to warm up.

“It was shooting light by 5:30. Just at daylight, five gobblers flew down in front of my stand. They pecked around at each other for a few minutes, and then left.

“About a half-hour later, two does came past. They kept looking at something in the distance before running off as if they were spooked. After five minutes, a 4-point buck came running through about 60 yards away with a coyote 20 yards behind it,” he said.

When the coyote stopped, Jacob shot it. His first inclination was to go get it, but he ultimately decided to stay put.

“Fifteen minutes later, another coyote chased a doe through the area. That one was farther away, though, so I let it go,” he said.

About 7:30, 20 minutes after the excitement with the coyotes, Jacob heard sticks breaking within the hollow and saw a flash of white, a deer tail.

“I had been texting with Joe, and I told him what I had just seen. He said to keep my eyes open, that the deer might be the big buck, and not to shoot unless I had a good clean shot. Ten minutes later, I saw a deer cross the creek and come up the hollow. It WAS the big 12-pointer.

“The last points on each beam looked sort of like crab claws, so the buck was easy to identify. While it was walking about 150 yards away, I said ‘Hey!’ to try and stop it. The deer looked my way, but it kept walking.

“I could see another opening out in front of it at about 125 yards. When it got to it, I yelled ‘Hey!’ even louder. When the buck stopped in the opening, I shot it,” he added.

When his .30-06 barked, Jacob saw the white tails of running deer and, for a second, was afraid he’d missed the buck.

There was no need for him to worry, however, because the buck had been shadowing some does Jacob hadn’t noticed. It was their flags he saw waving goodbye.

Meanwhile, the 270-pound 6x6 was lying where it fell.

Editor’s Note: Dale Weddle, a regular contributor and regional director for the BTR, was named 2017’s wildlife conservation communicator of the year by the Kentucky Wildlife Federation Foundation.

This article was published in the October 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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