Tennessee's Top Bow Kills Of 2009
October 04, 2010
Tennessee's woodlands gave up a number of very impressive archery trophies last season. Here's a look at the stories behind these deer.
For the second time in a decade, Dave Wachtel of Nashville downed a giant Tennessee buck. This one was the biggest non-typical bow kill in the state and scored 181 P&Y points. Photo by Bill Cooper.
Many avid deer hunters around the Volunteer State will recognize the name David K. Wachtel of Nashville. During the 2000 season, while hunting with a muzzleloader in Sumner County, Wachtel took a monster 49-point buck that scored 244 3/8 Boone and Crockett points. In addition to being Tennessee's top all-time non-typical whitetail, the buck ranks 5th in the Longhunter Muzzleloading Big Game Record Book, and No. 92 out of 2,340 entries in the B&C All-Time record book.
Over the last few years, Wachtel's regular fall hunting excursions gradually got replaced by travel and business obligations. A turning point came near the end of 2008 when he lost his longtime friend and hunting companion, Bill Ridge.
"Bill's passing was a significant loss in my life," Wachtel said. "In addition to being a great hunter, he was an outstanding tournament archer and a master bow technician. His memory motivated me to readjust my priorities and get back to the outdoors."
Shortly before the 2009 season, Wachtel contacted a Davidson County landowner he had known for a number of years. After a brief discussion, he was given permission to bow hunt a block of land a few miles from Nashville.
"I hunted the location several times and saw a number of deer," Wachtel noted. "However, I also continued to check out other areas that were nearer to my home in the city's outer suburbs. Despite scattered neighborhood developments and a few commercial properties, there still remained numerous small acreage tracts of relatively undisturbed land. Because of my variable work schedule, I knew a closer hunt site would give me many more opportunities to be in the woods."
During October, while checking into the availability of nearby wooded acreages, Wachtel met a local firefighter that happened to have hunting access to several tracts of undeveloped suburban properties. After some discussion, he gave Wachtel permission to bow hunt one section of a 150-acre hunting tract
"The hunt site, about 40 acres in size, was basically an old landfill grown up in saplings, brush, vines, and briars," Wachtel said. "Fortunately, there were a few scattered openings of grasses and clover. Because of the thick ground cover, I knew the area would be extremely tough to bow hunt, however, that problem was more than compensated by the amount of deer sign present.
"Particularly impressive was finding several small trees and saplings that a buck had severely rubbed, raked, and in some cases broken over. I had seen 'signpost' rubs on large trees before, which may or may not indicate the presence of a big deer. In this instance, there were places where three or four saplings growing within a couple feet of each other had been twisted together and either broken off or ripped out of the ground. There was no doubt in my mind a deer would need a rack of considerable size to cause that type of damage."
Initially, Wachtel experimented with three or four different stand locations, a couple of which were directly dependent on the prevailing wind direction. Since there were no trees large enough to support a climbing stand, he utilized isolated thickets of brush and saplings to construct makeshift blinds.
"Over a three or four week period, I saw a number of does and a few bucks, the biggest being an impressive 130-class, 8-pointer," the hunter noted. "Most of the deer appeared to be feeding in an adjacent tract of big hardwoods, and then moving back into the thick cover to bed down."
During the first week of December, having completed early morning preparations for a noon business meeting, Wachtel elected to spend the intervening hours at the hunt site. Being somewhat limited by time, he decided to do some rattling and calling, his favorite and most productive method of hunting.
"I had attempted rattling a couple of times during November," Wachtel said. "In each instance, the response was negative. Last year, rut activity seemed to be extremely variable, at least in the areas where I was hunting. There never appeared to be a major activity peak, and that made it difficult to determine the most opportune time to try the call and rattling technique."
By eight o'clock, the hunter had maneuvered into position, nestled behind a small cluster of brush and saplings, approximately 15 to 20 yards from one of the narrow grassy openings. After a brief wait, he initiated a short, but fairly intense rattling sequence
"Within minutes, several does walked into view," Wachtel said. "They hung around awhile, before slowly making their way through the dense ground cover and eventually moving on out of sight. I had hoped a buck might be following behind them, but that wasn't the case."
Realizing his time was somewhat limited, Wachtel decided to try a longer and more aggressive rattling sequence, pausing occasionally to use the grunt call. After four or five minutes, he stopped to listen.
"Almost immediately, I heard something down the hill coming in my direction," Wachtel said. "I immediately grabbed my bow and maneuvered into a kneeling position. From previous rattling experience, I was well aware that a buck often comes straight in without hesitating; a shot opportunity might last for only a few seconds."
Because of his low position in the thick ground cover, the hunter was unable to see that the deer was a doe until she was less than 25 yards away. However, at that point, he could also hear the sounds of a second deer directly behind the doe.
"The first thing I saw was one side of a big rack sticking above the brush," Wachtel said. "Instantly realizing the buck was a definite shooter, my concentration shifted to making the best possible shot."
Less than 25 yards from the concealed archer, the big deer continued to closely trail the doe. Unfortunately, as Wachtel began to draw, the doe detected the nearby motion and jumped forward, breaking into a trot.
"Her sudden movement slightly spooked the buck, which also quickened its pace," Wachtel said. "Hoping to stop the deer, I mouth-grunted; however, instead of merely stopping, the buck abruptly whirled almost completely around. The deer was standing in a slight quartering-away position; certainly not the best shooting option, but I knew that would probably be my only chance."
At the shot, the big deer bolted forward, quickly disappearing into the brush. Wachtel was satisfied with the shot placement, but the degree of penetration was another matter. He continued to listen intently, hoping to hear the buck go down, but there was no further sound. Realizing the deer needed to be left alone for a few hours before any search was attempted, he returned home to change clothes and prepare for the noon meeting.
"Physically, I attended the business meeting that day, but mentally, my mind was somewhere else," Wachtel noted. "Shortly after three o'clock, I returned home, quickly changed clothes and headed back to the hunt site."
Initially, there was no problem finding the trail, however, the tiny blood droplets gradually became fewer and fewer, eventually being no more than specks on leaves and vegetation. At times, the hunter was forced to crawl several yards through the dense ground cover.
"In places, it was hard to believe a deer, much less an antlered buck, could get through the maze of brush and vegetation," Wachtel said. "I was literally within 10 feet of the deer before I saw it."
Throughout the day, the hunter had been second-guessing his size estimate of the buck's antlers. Now, up close, the rack was even bigger than he had remembered.
"That was a really great moment, and once again I thought of my friend, Bill Ridge. He had customized the Hoyt bow I used to take the buck," Wachtel said. "It would have been nice to share the experience with him, but somehow I think he knows."
The awesome rack has 18 scorable points, 11 of which comprise the 6x7 typical frame. Tine length, including both normal and abnormal points, is definitely the most outstanding feature. For example, two tines exceed 11 inches, one is 9 inches, and three more top the 8-inch mark. Antler spread is also impressive, measuring 20 4/8 inches outside, and 18 1/8 inches inside. Additionally, a long forked drop tine, arising from the right burr, adds great character to the rack.
In regard to scoring, the rack grosses a whopping non-typical score of 196 3/8. Unfortunately, significant differences between the right and left antlers results in asymmetry deductions of 15 3/8, dropping the final non-typical Pope and Young score to 181. This ranks the buck No. 4 on the state's all-time list of non-typical bow kills.
The No. 2 bow kill was taken by Eric Ogle. The rack scored 163 2/8 P&Y points. Photo by Bill Cooper.
ERIC OGLE'S 13-POINTER
Last year during the first week of October bowhunter Eric Ogle returned to a small acreage McMinn County farm he had hunted a couple of years earlier. He did not hunt there in 2008 because of an ongoing hardwood logging operation.
"Because of the timber cut, I fully expected the area to be grownup," Ogle said. "But it far exceeded anything I might have imagined. The place was like a jungle. One big white oak had been left along a fencerow bordering a hayfield and I decided to sit there for the afternoon. Basically, I figured my day off was wasted, but I knew a special juvenile hunt was scheduled later in the month. Assuming any deer appeared, I thought the location might be a good place to bring my 10-year-old son."
By 3:30, several does and two young bucks, 8- and 6-pointers, had moved into the hayfield. As the hunter looked on, the deer suddenly became alert, several blew, and within seconds, white tails seemed to bouncing in every conceivable direction. Moments later, Ogle spotted two coyotes crossing a distant corner of the field.
"Well over an hour passed and nothing else appeared," Ogle noted. "Thinking the coyotes had already ruined the afternoon, I decided there was nothing to lose by trying a call. I began by alternating between a bleat can and a grunt call, and then switched to using both at the same time."
After several minutes, the hunter put the calls away and was in the process of taking a drink from his water bottle when he suddenly heard a noise. Although the sound was quite distinct and very close, he was unable to immediately determine its origin.
"There was nothing in the field and it was impossible to see anything in the thick undergrowth behind me," Ogle said. "Then I happened to glance downward and got the shock of my life. Standing directly under the stand, only 14 feet away, was the biggest buck I had ever seen in 40 years of hunting.
"The deer was so close I could have dropped an M&M squarely between his antlers. I was literally afraid to breathe, must less reach for my bow. It was obvious that the buck was mad and intently searching for the source of the call. His ears were laid back and the hair down his back was standing straight up. When the deer finally began to move, it was in a slow stiff-legged walk."
The buck momentarily passed behind a low limb of the oak, giving Ogle a chance to maneuver into position and draw his bow. Luckily, the deer turned slightly to the right as it entered the field, providing a clear shooting opportunity.
"Having previously ranged the area, I estimated the buck to be about 31 yards away," Ogle said. "I thought, 'Lord, you've given me a lot of critters over the years, please don't let this be the one that I miss.'"
A millisecond after touching the release, the archer watched his arrow pass completely through the deer's chest. Amazingly, the buck's only reaction was a slight jump, before resuming the same slow deliberate walk.
"I was dumbfounded," Ogle said. "Especially since I had seen where the arrow hit. The deer continued on for approximately 50 yards, stopped and lowered its head, raked the ground a couple of times and bedded down. Within minutes its head rolled over."
To say the hunter was excited would be an understatement. While attempting to hurriedly climb down through the thick undergrowth, Ogle got entangled in his pull rope and safety harness, which finally required cutting the rope and throwing his pack out of the tree. As he headed across the field, the buck seemed to get bigger with every step.
Ogle's great whitetail has an impressive 6x7 rack that includes main beams of nearly 24 inches, an inside spread of 17 2/8 inches, and six tines that measure between 9 4/8 and 7 3/8 inches. After grossing 168 7/8, minor asymmetry deductions drop the final typical P&Y score to 163 2/8. In addition to placing high in P&Y records, the deer also qualifies for the Boone and Crockett Awards book. The buck ranks 10th on the state's all time P&Y list of typical bow kills.
hard Britt's 15-pointer scored 162Â 5/8 P&Y and is Tennessee's No. 10 all-time non-typical bow kill. Photo by Bill Cooper.
RICHARD BRITT 15-POINTER
Early last fall, after spending a couple of hours scouting and hanging stands, bowhunter Richard Britt returned to his four-wheeler and found a big coonhound perched on the seat. That night, Britt contacted the owner, who was more than happy to drive over and pick up his dog. While there, the coon hunter happened to mention the location of a wooded hollow where he had sighted a very big buck.
"The term 'big' can often mean different things to different people, especially when describing the size of a deer," Britt noted. "Nevertheless, I decided the information was definitely worth checking out."
During a scouting trip to the area in early October, Britt discovered a scrape and several large rubs along a well-used hillside trail. Days later, the hunter was positioned in a tree stand near the site, when shortly before dark he suddenly noticed the top of a nearby sapling swaying back and forth -- and there was no wind! Within minutes, a huge buck walked to within 16 yards and the archer's arrow was on target.
Afterwards, Britt sent a text message to a hunting buddy stating that he had just shot a 140- to 150-class buck.
"Are you referring to weight or inches of antler!" was the reply.
The impressive rack has 15 scorable points, including an awesome 4x4 typical frame that grosses over 155. The seven additional abnormal points, totaling 13 3/8 inches, brings the gross non-typical score to 168 7/8. After minor asymmetry deductions, the final non-typical P&Y score stands at 162 5/8, ranking the deer 10th on the state's all-time list of P&Y non-typical bucks.