Kentucky's Late-Season Trophy Bucks

These big bucks prove that it's never too late to bag that deer of a lifetime when hunting the fertile fields and woodlands of the Commonwealth. (January 2007)

Michael Dobbs arrowed this outstanding buck during a January hunt in Wayne County. Its massive 6x6 frame grosses 182 1/8 and nets a final P&Y total of 176 3/8.
Taxidermy by Danny Coffey. Photo by Bill Cooper

Everyone has a particular time of the season when they prefer to hunt. Not surprisingly, the November rut is most often the top choice.

To bowhunter Michael Dobbs, this is certainly understandable. He readily agrees that buck activity is probably at its peak during the rut, but his hunting preference is still to go afield during the late season.

"By late December, hunting pressure is practically non-existent, and deer are beginning to resume somewhat normal movement patterns," Michael noted. "The colder weather generally triggers increased activity in regard to feeding. And in my opinion, even some of the bigger bucks will switch from being completely nocturnal to occasional daylight movement. Other factors, such as an abundant mast crop, can sometimes limit the distances deer move. But a little scouting can usually pinpoint their primary feeding areas."

This hunter has plenty of proof to back up his theories. Several times during the 2002-03 deer season, Dobbs had sighted a giant 12-pointer, but the deer was always just out of bow range. On a late-afternoon hunt in mid-January, with the season about to end, he was positioned along the woods line of an agricultural field, hoping for one last chance at the big whitetail.

As it turned out, the giant 12-pointer never appeared. However, another huge wide-antlered buck walked almost directly under the hunter's stand. The deer's massive non-typical 13-point rack would later score 170 Pope and Young (P&Y) points.

Last season, shortly after a Christmas, Dobbs and a companion were positioned in tree stands along the woods line of a hillside pasture in Wayne County. The adjacent wooded hilltop had been logged several years earlier, creating a dense cover of second-growth timber. Additionally, the remains of an old farmstead, situated along a flat bench near the top of the hill, was overgrown in brush and sapling thickets.

"The fellow with me that afternoon had already filled his buck tag, and we were hunting that particular location because of several does I had sighted during previous trips to the site," Dobbs said. "About an hour after getting settled, I heard a deer coming down the hill and assumed it was probably a doe heading toward the pasture. However, instead of a doe, a 4-pointer suddenly jumped the fence and stopped about 15 yards away. At this point, I could hear sounds of a second deer moving in the woods farther up the hillside."

Looking in that direction, the hunter suddenly saw a giant set of antlers moving through the brush and trees. But well before reaching the fence line, the big deer stopped. It was apparently unwilling to follow the smaller buck into the open field.

After several minutes, the huge whitetail turned and slowly made its way along the hillside to where the woods sloped downward to a small creek, and eventually walked out of sight.

"There was no problem with the wind direction that evening, but the deer obviously sensed something was wrong," Dobbs noted. "It's hard to understand, but there are times when mature bucks seem to have a sixth sense not shared by other deer."

The following afternoon, Dobbs returned to the location. But instead of hunting near the fence line, he moved several yards up the hillside and climbed a tree within shooting distance of the trail the buck had used. Amazingly, the hunter spotted the big whitetail again; unfortunately, the deer remained well out of bow range. It followed a flat bench along the upper hillside before finally angling down toward the creek bottom.

Due to work responsibilities, the hunter's next opportunity to hunt was the following weekend. Choosing to try a slightly different strategy, Dobbs left home well before daybreak and used a four-wheeler to travel a series of hilltop ridges and reach the location from the opposite direction.

"After walking in from the top of the hill, I climbed a tree on the grown-up flat where the old homesite was located," he said. "The plan worked really well. In fact, the buck passed within 30 yards of my stand, but there was simply no possibility of getting an arrow through the thick brush and saplings where the deer was walking. It was a difficult and frustrating situation, but I wasn't about to take any unnecessary chances with a buck of that size."

The following morning, Dobbs repeated his approach plan. But before climbing into position, he moved the stand several yards to a slightly more open area. Once again, the big buck appeared, but never quite came within bow range.

Another week would pass before the hunter could return, and Dobbs was well aware that the season was rapidly running out.

"One good thing about the weekend was the buck seemed to be following a consistent movement pattern. I felt confident that I had not disturbed the deer in any way," Dobbs said. "With that in mind, I decided to stick with the same hunt strategy on my next trip."

On the next-to-last weekend of the season, the sportsman arrived at the hunt site about an hour before dawn, climbed into position and settled in to wait for daylight. The morning was quiet. Initially, there was no sign of activity in the surrounding woods.

Twenty-five feet above the ground, Dobbs was able to see certain areas of the hillside below the flat where he was located. Around 8 a.m., he spotted a deer moving up the hill in his direction. Minutes later, the same 4-pointer he had seen in the pasture two weeks earlier popped over the edge of the flat and began walking toward the stand.

"Almost immediately, I began seeing additional deer, and they were all bucks. Just behind and off to one side of the 4-pointer, a 120-class 10-pointer stepped into view. On the other side was a young buck with an unusual-shaped rack that had obviously been damaged in the velvet.

"Finally, about 60 yards in front of me, I spotted the big buck, with two smaller bucks just behind him."

The deer were spread out and moving slowly, feeding as they walked. Once on the flat, the bucks began to turn slightly to the right as they approached the concealed archer.

"The big deer was on the outside of the gr

oup and at first, I thought he was going to walk directly under the stand," Dobbs said. "But at about 15 yards, the buck suddenly veered off to its left and stopped, giving me a broadside shot."

Even though the buck was relatively close, brush and saplings covered much of the deer's lower body. Because of this, Dobbs aimed slightly higher than normal to make sure the arrow had an unobstructed path.

At the shot, the big whitetail lunged forward and, amazingly, collapsed almost where it had been standing. After kicking a few times, the deer lay still.

"My high aim point resulted in the blades of the broadhead clipping the spine. I'll be the first to admit, having the buck drop like it did was pure luck. But with deer hunting, luck has a way of balancing out over time. And I'm certainly not opposed to a little good fortune now and then."

The rack of Michael Dobbs' great whitetail has an awesome combination of height, width, and mass: all the features any hunter could hope for in a trophy buck. The 6x6 typical frame includes 27-inch main beams, an inside spread of 20 4/8 inches, and better than average tine length. The paired G-2s and G-3s average over 9 inches each.

After a gross score of 182 1/8 P&Y points, minor asymmetry deductions, plus two small sticker points, drop the final score only slightly to 176 3/8. In addition to ranking in the top 5 percent of all typical whitetails currently listed in the P&Y record book, the buck also qualifies for Boone and Crockett's (B&C) All-Time and Awards record books. Within Wayne County, the deer stands as the biggest bow kill ever recorded, and ranks 6th on the state's all-time list of P&Y typical whitetails.

GREG MEREDITH'S 'END-OF-SEASON' WALLHANGER

Less than a week remained of the 2005-06 late bow season, and Greg Meredith was still hoping to fill his buck tag with a trophy-class whitetail.

High aspirations, to say the least, especially considering the time of year! However, he had an ideal hunting location and knew that at least two big bucks were in the area.

"A buddy of mine and I have a hunting tract that borders the National Park in Edmonson County," Meredith said. "In August, we got several trail-camera photos of two big bucks near a 1-acre food plot that we maintain. Not surprisingly, all of the photos were taken at night. But we felt like there was a good chance of encountering the deer sometime during the season. Unfortunately, that didn't happen."

"When my partner announced that he was going to quit hunting at Christmas, I decided to give the area a rest for a couple of weeks and then make one last attempt at seeing one of the bucks. As it turned out, my plans got changed, and by the time I had a chance to go hunting, the season was nearly over."

The area's location was somewhat remote. In Meredith's opinion, the primary hunting problem was getting positioned in a stand before daybreak without jumping deer feeding in or around the food plot. Once disturbed, the deer usually didn't return. To compensate for this factor, he decided to try a somewhat unconventional approach to the situation.

"I left home a little before 1 a.m. in the morning, drove to within two miles of the location and walked the rest of the way on foot. Just as I reached the tree where my stand was located, I heard a couple of deer snort and run off through the woods. To say the least, I was disappointed, but I went ahead and climbed into the stand. Since it was only 3:30 a.m., I reasoned that there was still plenty of time before dawn for things to quiet down and the deer to return."

About two hours later, the hunter heard a deer running in the woods not far from his tree. Continuing to listen, he could hear the sounds of two or three other deer walking somewhere nearby.

During the last hour before daylight, the sounds of deer activity increased. And, not surprisingly, they were concentrated in the direction of the food plot.

"We had planted a couple of rows of turnips in the plot, and until the second or third frost, deer had totally ignored them. But from that point on, they literally began digging them up. While I assumed most of the deer activity I was listening to involved feeding on the turnips, I had also heard a couple of buck grunts."

At first light, Meredith stood up in the stand and used binoculars to check out the plot. But all he could make out were 8 to 10 dark shapes. Minutes later, a doe came running from the direction of the plot and passed under the hunter's stand.

Situated approximately 15 yards from the plot's edge, behind an old dozer pile grown up in briars, saplings, and vines, Meredith could hear another deer walking in the dense thicket just below the stand. Initially, no part of the whitetail was visible. But as he continued to watch, a quick glimpse of big antler tines identified the moving deer.

Fortunately, the buck was moving toward an open shooting lane that the hunter had cut through the undergrowth. As the deer approached the narrow opening, Meredith came to full draw and waited.

"The buck was only 18 yards away when it stepped out, and my first clear view of the rack nearly took my breath away," Meredith said. "But I immediately aimed and touched my release. The arrow passed all the way through the deer and stuck in the ground."

The big deer bolted forward, running over brush, small trees, anything in its path. After making a wide half-circle run through the woods, the buck began to stagger and finally fell in a small draw next to the food plot.

For Meredith, the long night had been worth every sleepless minute.

The buck's impressive 5x5 typical frame includes 25-inch main beams and four tines that tape between 11 4/8 and 10 3/8 inches. After grossing 162 4/8, the rack nets a final P&Y score of 155 4/8.

TYLER KILBURN'S GIANT LESLIE COUNTY TROPHY

By the end of December, 13-year- old Tyler Kilburn and his dad, Tom, had logged a number of days bow- and gun-hunting for whitetails in the hills and hollows of Leslie County. Unfortunately, most of their luck had been of the negative variety. Tom thought the state's special late-season two-day youth hunt would be a good opportunity for Tyler to take a buck. But after arising late on New Year's morning, the season's second day, his chances appeared to be slipping away.

"I knew Tyler was discouraged, but we decided to ride some of the big strip sites and see if we could spot any deer feeding," Tom said. "While riding across one strip of about 400 to 500 acres, we spotted three deer slightly over a hundred yards away, standing in a small cluster of trees right in the middle of the site. Two of the deer were bucks, one much bigger than the other. I kept thinking, at any minute they were going to run before Tyler could get out of the truck and find a solid rest for his rifle."

Fortunately, the deer remained motion

less as the young hunter maneuvered into position. At the shot, all three deer jumped into the air and quickly disappeared into the trees and high grass.

Tyler thought he had missed, but after walking a short distance through the brush and grass, they found the big whitetail lying dead.

The buck has a massive 6x7 typical frame that includes 26-inch main beams, 9-inch paired G-3s, plus four additional tines that tape between 8 2/8 and 7 2/8 inches. It grosses a tremendous total of 174 7/8, but asymmetry deductions, plus 7 3/8 inches of abnormal points, drop the final B&C score to 164 0/8. This qualifies the deer for B&C's Awards record book and ranks it as the biggest whitetail ever recorded for Leslie County.

For Tyler, it's hard to imagine how the young hunter could have experienced a better start to a brand-new year.

Find more about Kentucky fishing and hunting at: KentuckyGameandFish.com

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