For Troy Wilson of Mt. Sterling, Ky., success in the deer woods has always been measured by the lumps in his freezer, not by a measuring tape. The self-proclaimed "meat hunter" has never cared much about what his bucks’ antlers score. As long as he’s able to collect fresh venison for family table, he’s happy.
Troy’s outlook changed, however, on Oct. 27, 2001. When the smoke from his muzzleloader slowly drifted away on the breeze that morning, he was staring at the largest and perhaps strangest set of antlers ever recorded from Kentucky — a rack carrying 48 scoreable points, completely covered in velvet, which surpassed the 300-inch mark. Not only is the Gallatin County bruiser No. 1 among all weapons and antler classes in the Bluegrass State, but it’s also a new world record for both the BTR’s "blackpowder" and "velvet" categories.
When you’re looking at a rack this size, it’s easy to lose focus and forget about bulging backstraps, even if they are on a 300-pound whitetail! (The deer, even after being field-dressed and hanging for three days, registered 205 pounds when finally weighed.)
Troy was hunting that morning (opening day of Kentucky’s early muzzleloader season) with his father, Pat, and brother-in-law, Tommy Jackson. It was a two-hour drive from Troy’s home to the private farm near the Ohio River, a place they had hunted for five years.
The trio normally scouts for sign during the bow season, but they hadn’t made it that year because Troy had gone elk hunting in Colorado.
They arrived at the farm before daylight and, with the aid of flashlights, loaded their muzzleloaders under a thick blanket of fog. Like most blackpowder hunters, the guys first snapped caps to make sure their barrels were clear. The spring on Pat’s gun had become rusty, and the cap on his rifle wouldn’t snap. That’s when some quick thinking came in handy.
They popped the truck’s hood, got a tiny bit of oil off the dipstick, and rubbed it on the spring. Soon afterward, Pat was loaded and ready to go. After some good-natured ribbing of Pat about cleaning his gun, the three set off into the fast approaching dawn.
Since Troy had taken an elk on the Colorado hunt, he agreed to let the other two hunters take stands while he tried to push a deer their way. (As the locals would say, he agreed to "dog" for them.)
Pat and Tommy took up positions about 150 to 200 yards apart, one in a permanent stand and the other in a treetop they had used in years past. Troy moved off a considerable distance and took a seat for about an hour, enjoying the cool dawn.
After allowing for plenty of time to spot whitetails slipping through the hardwoods en route to their beds (he saw none), Troy got up and began slowly still-hunting through the oak forest toward the others. He had covered maybe 400 yards in that first hour when he saw a buck eating acorns about 80 yards distant.
Troy knew immediately that he was looking at an amazing animal.
"I’ve always felt that people often try to count points rather than pick a spot," he said. "I always try to pick a spot, and that’s what I did that day."
With his muzzleloader tucked into his shoulder, Troy put the crosshairs on the huge buck’s neck and gently squeezed the trigger. At the roar of the big .50-caliber rifle, the deer bolted as if it hadn’t been touched and quickly disappeared from sight.
Troy dug out his Motorola and practically yelled, "I’ve just shot the biggest deer I’ve ever seen!"
The buck had collapsed within about 30 yards.
Many bucks whose racks remain in velvet late in the season have suffered some sort of injury to their testicles. Those on Troy’s deer, however, appeared to be intact and undamaged. The only marks on its body were some long scars on the back legs, which could account for the super-charged rack’s configuration.
While most hunters who have taken world-class bucks seek to have them recognized by as many record-keeping agencies as possible, Troy is happy with his BTR score and title.
Neither the Boone and Crockett Club nor the Longhunter Society recognize deer in velvet. Thus, in order to qualify for either of those books, Troy’s buck’s rack would have to be stripped of velvet and allowed to dry for 60 days.
Troy doesn’t intend to remove the velvet. He wants the deer to remain just the way it was when he harvested it.
James Barnes of Broken Arrow Taxidermy in Frankfort, Ky., freeze-dried the 16-pound rack to preserve the velvet. The four-month process kept Troy from coming forward and having the rack scored until last spring.
At 303 4/8 inches, the Wilson Buck shatters the previous world blackpowder record (Irregular) by more than 57 inches! The former record, set by Tennessean Dave Wachtel during the 2000 season, taped out at an even 246. And this Kentucky buck’s tally doesn’t reflect the unscoreable sticker points below and slightly to the rear of each burr.
Troy’s wife, Marsha, cans a lot of venison for use in barbecue, patties and other dishes. The world record, according to Troy, tasted "Gooood!"
Pat Wilson and Tommy, by the way, say that the next time Troy dogs for them, they’re not going to let him take a gun.
"We’re just country people," Troy says. "That buck was put there by the Lord, and maybe this will be my chance to witness more for Him."