New York's Top Bow Buck From 2008?

Ontario County hunter Jon Aldrich spent two years hunting this incredible buck, which may be the biggest archery buck taken by a New York hunter in 2008. (September 2009)

The Aldrich buck has a gross Pope and Young score of 179 5/8, with 16 scorable points. It is the largest gross-scoring archery buck taken in New York in 2008.

Photo courtesy of Jon Aldrich.

Sometimes a little "beginner's luck" isn't really luck at all. It's a combination of planning, execution and a good dose of optimism that puts a hunter in the right place at the right time.

Jon Aldrich of Victor in Ontario County found himself in that position last season, and the result was this state's biggest gross-scoring archery buck of the year!

After one season of bowhunting that was fraught with poor stand placement, arrows falling off rests and no luck at all, Aldrich decided it was worth modernizing his equipment.

He also decided that he'd better do some reading -- a lot of reading! He scoured magazine after magazine, absorbing tips on stand locations, scent advice, calling techniques, and even how to move on a stand.

By the following fall (2007), with some practice under his belt, Aldrich was rejuvenated and more excited than ever to get back into the field.

A BETTER START

The 2007 season had a much better start for the novice archer. With the application of his newly acquired knowledge, Aldrich successfully arrowed a nice 8-point buck as the deer moved through a hedgerow into a large, cut corn field where several does were feeding.

It was his first deer ever with a bow, and it was his first buck ever with any weapon.

During the off-season, Aldrich's bowhunting passion grew, and he continued to read. He noticed a growing number of articles about hunting suburban bucks, or "patchwork" bucks, as they were often described.

He was struck by the deer's ability to thrive in densely populated areas, and that got him thinking about a buck his parents had been watching over the past two years around their yard in the village of Victor.

ENCOUNTER WITH A MONSTER

Aldrich saw the buck for the first time in January 2007 and knew him to be a large 10-pointer with long tines and a respectable spread. In Nov. 2007, the buck was again spotted chasing a doe in the gulley of his parents' front yard. The buck had grown to an 11-pointer, managing to maintain his long tines while adding a great deal of mass.

Aldrich was able to get a glimpse of the big buck once as he was on his way to go hunting. The bruiser was trailing a doe across his parents' back yard. He was by far the largest buck Aldrich had ever seen, other than those pictured in the many stories he had read.

Needless to say, Aldrich's blood was pumping, and his mind was consumed with thoughts of this huge buck. To make things even more exciting, his parents' neighbor managed to get some pictures of the big buck fighting a large 8-pointer in his back yard.

Slowly word began to spread of the large buck living in town. A final sighting after the 2007 season was all he offered before the 2008 season. Aldrich could only hope he would see him again.

A DAY TO REMEMBER

It was now the second week of November and no one had seen the big buck yet. Aldrich had taken a nice doe that Saturday, so now he could concentrate on the buck he had been after all this time.

That Sunday, he received a call from his father, saying that he had just spotted the animal just outside the village, feeding with a doe.

Thankfully, Aldrich did not have to work the next day, so he started asking landowners in the area if he could have permission to hunt. While heading back to his car from a neighbor's door, he spotted a doe, and then in some thick brush, he saw the big 11-pointer!

Eventually, Aldrich got permission to hunt some land adjacent to where he had seen the doe. After work Wednesday, he went and purchased a climbing tree stand. Thursday evening was spent practicing ascending and descending trees with his new gear and studying aerial photos of the hunting area to determine the ideal stand placement.

Friday was the last day of archery season so Aldrich would have to make the day count.

The next morning had the makings of a beautiful day, and by 7 a.m., Aldrich was on the side of a hill, 20 feet up in an ash tree overlooking a well-covered draw with a multitude of tracks and trails weaving their way through the brush. Just as he pulled his bow up and got settled, a group of does moved across the hill behind him followed by a small, gnarly-antlered buck. The rest of the morning was spent listening to traffic on the nearby highway.

Around noon, three does made another appearance. They moved down the hill and then crossed in front of Aldrich. An hour or so later, two more deer came into view directly in front of Aldrich's stand. They browsed for a while, and then bedded down for an hour or so before moving on. As the sun started to fall toward the western horizon, Aldrich heard a rustling sound behind the stand. A small doe had bedded down 20 yards behind him! He didn't know if this was a blessing or a curse.

It is always good to have does around when you want bucks in the area, but she would also act as an alarm, detecting any movements Aldrich would make preparing for a shot.

At about 4 p.m., the doe got up and began to move. As he watched her feed, Aldrich saw her snap to attention. He slowly turned to see a monster buck heading straight toward him, following a scent trail he had put down on the way in.

Aldrich was caught off guard and was still sitting down in his stand. The big buck stopped 15 yards in front of the stand, broadside. There was a small tree that blocked any shot that he would have had, so Aldrich remained motionless. The monster began walking up the hill, quartering away from Aldrich and heading toward the doe. The moment the buck walked behind a large tree, Aldrich stood up and drew, but still had no shot.

As Aldrich let off the draw, the old buck looked right at him. Aldrich's heart was in his throat. With the doe on his mind, the buck once again took up pursuit. He paused again behind a large oak tree revealing only his rump and head. Aldrich drew his bow a second time and held on the big buck for what seemed like minutes. Squatting down and leaning back, he had a tight 30-yard shot. As soon

as the buck took a step out from behind the tree, Aldrich touched his release.

The arrow hit its mark with a hollow thud. The old buck crashed his way through the woods up over the hill and out of sight. Aldrich sat back down, put his head in his shaking hands and let the reality of what had just transpired sink in.

After dark, Aldrich drove back to his parents' house and shared his excitement with his dad. The next hour seemed to go on for days as they gathered flashlights and came up with a strategy to track the deer. Finally, they were in the woods and on the trail, but the blood trail was faint. Often, they had only disturbed soil and upturned leaves to follow until the next drop was found. Finally, the blood trail led them to a recent gut pile.

Aldrich's heart sank.

"I thought someone had swiped my trophy right out from under my nose," Aldrich recalled.

After looking more closely, he determined that the gut pile must have been from the previous day.

Aldrich regained his composure and went back to looking for blood. As he pushed his way through a tangle of thorn bushes, he looked up to see the massive antlers and huge-bodied deer in a heap on the ground.

"I've got him! I've got him right here!" Aldrich's journey from beginner to trophy hunter had met a glorious conclusion!

THE ALDRICH BUCK

The Aldrich buck has a gross score of 179 5/8 and a net Pope and Young score of 173 3/8. He had 16 scorable points with 10 typical and 6 non-typical points. His spread was just over 18 inches, and his beams were relatively short at 21 1/8 and 22 7/8 inches.

Tine length was excellent with the longest tines on each side at 11 inches or better. The buck had bases of 6 3/8 and 5 3/8 inches!

Overall, the buck stands as the largest gross-scoring archery buck taken in New York in 2008, according to the Northeast Big Buck Club.

For more information about the Northeast Big Buck Club, visit the club's Web site at www.bigbuckclub. com, or e-mail jbhunts@aol.com.

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