The David Jordening Buck

Hard work and good management practices paid off for David Jordening in the form of a massive typical buck. (August 2007)

David Jordening poses with the huge typical buck that he'd been hunting for several years.
Photo by Tommy Garner.

As the hunter walked silently through the dawn woods near the banks of the historic Mississippi River, he could see trees silhouetted against the overcast sky. He had spent the last several years turning this place -- Two Rivers Hunting Club -- into one that he hoped would produce giant whitetail bucks. His excitement grew as he realized that today might be the day for him to come face to face with one deer in particular.

He was hoping to catch up with a beautiful long-tined buck that he'd seen only in trail camera pictures. Oh, lots of exceptional bucks had been caught on tape -- but this particular one was special, from all indications grossing over 200 Boone and Crockett points, and thus possibly challenging Arkansas' current state-record typical. The hunter David Jordening had pursued this buck for two years without actually laying eyes on it; today, the hunter hoped, would be the day.

"I had waited on a north wind because I decided that it was the only way that I was going to be able to see the buck without being winded by the does," he said. "I had hunted from stands many times, but the does would come in and eventually work their way downwind. They always busted me. I was going to have to change tactics to intercept the buck, and I felt that the only way to do that was to hunt on the ground with a north wind."

A lifetime of hunting big whitetails reinforced the knowledge that mature bucks are very sensitive to human intrusion, so the hunter left his truck a mile and a half from his chosen hunting area and walked as silently as possible to an area where he felt that he would be able to intercept the big buck between feeding and bedding areas.

"It was overcast and dark," Jordening recalled, "and all I had was a very dim flashlight to light my way."

As he walked towards his destination in the darkness, he reflected on the time, money and effort that he'd put into Two Rivers. Over time, he and his partners Burt Robinson and Chris Canale had bought more than 5,300 acres between the Mississippi River and the St. Francis River and leased another 1,000-plus acres. The land was mostly commercial farming ground, where the only trees were along the rivers and sloughs that meandered through the property.

The next few steps sparked a lot of negative comment. Except for the very limited roster of members, all hunting on club property was stopped, which made folks who'd had use of the parcel for years extremely resentful. And when Jordening at his partners stopped running deer with dogs and stopped all commercial farming, sharp criticism came from those who didn't understand that deriving an income from the property wasn't a priority -- the goal was producing big whitetails.

The partners, who controlled the only two access roads to the property, hired two caretakers, Denny Green --whose status as an ex-Green Beret stopped most would-be trespassers and poachers -- and Gary Odle.

Fast forward to that fateful day, and the movement in the brush that caught Jordening's attention. "I could hear and see animals moving close by," he recalled, "but it was still too dark to tell anything about them. I actually thought that even though I had gotten up at 3:30 a.m. to make the long walk before daylight, I might be too late."

Daylight was still just a promise as the hunter continued towards the place he hoped would give him a look at the big buck in person.

Though Jordening and his partners had stopped all commercial farming on Two Rivers, plenty of things still being grown would benefit the wildlife. They had planted more than 600,000 trees in what used to be crop-producing fields.

"We wanted to restore the property to what it originally had been a hundred years ago, and create a widely diverse habitat," Jordening explained. "We planted the trees in stages beginning in 1999. We planted more in 2004, and then again in 2006. Since we have created a wide range of habitat, the wildlife has responded. About three years ago, we began to have resident bald eagles that nested here. The alligators returned, along with black bears and cougars."

Of course, the deer responded in a big-time way. Two Rivers Hunting Club has always had good genes in the deer herd, the same genes that are on Crowley's Ridge, which produces a good number of B&C bucks. (You can actually see Crowley's Ridge from the property.) The mature bucks that had been killed on Two Rivers in the past were big-bodied, heavy-antlered bucks with twisted, gnarly racks -- some even palmated -- but few had racks that would score very well. An intense doe harvest and management buck plan was put into motion to lower the deer numbers and remove the mature bucks that needed to be removed.

"I don't feel that we made any substantial habitat improvements until 2001," Jordening recalled.

They began to establish food plots of clover, corn, and soybeans double cropped with oats. The trees that were planted were of five different kinds of oaks, persimmon, ash, and pecan. They also planted switchgrass, and let the weeds take over some areas. Poison ivy made a major assault on some areas; it's an important plant food for deer, so they let it grow. (According to a biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission as much as 2,000 pounds of poison ivy pods per acre can be found in some places.)

Every leaf, every bean and every kernel of corn is left standing in the fields for the deer. Supplemental mineral licks were established, using base elements of calcium, phosphorus, and salt. Trail cameras were put up over the mineral licks; in 2006, they recorded 5,400 deer between mid-July and Sept. 1.

"Of the 5,400 deer that were recorded, there were 17 more does than bucks. We have a virtual 1:1 doe-to-buck ratio," Jordening said. "In 2001, when I saw a picture of a wide, very long-tined buck in velvet, I was excited, because I finally felt that we had made some progress. Without the cameras, we would have no idea what kind or how many deer we have. Also, all of the big bucks that we have killed were taken within 200 yards of where they were photographed on a mineral lick. Our bucks just do not seem to move very far."

The first megabuck taken was shot by Lil' Burt, son of Burt Robinson. "Lil' Burt killed a world-class buck in 2003 in a place we call the 'Hog Pocket,'" Jordening explained. "The buck grossed about 180. He killed

another one in the same place in 2005 that grossed in the 170s. We knew it would just be a matter of time until we killed something really big."

That really big deer was the one that Jordening was after this day. He hoped he wasn't too late. The hunter could see deer moving in the distance, but the light was so dim that he could not tell what they were. As daylight slowly came, he continued down the road towards the food plot where he expected to see the big buck. This was only one of 41 food plots on the Mississippi River side of the property, but it was the one where the buck's image had been captured on a trail cam several times.

As the sun began to rise over the Mississippi, peeking from behind the gray clouds, it cast an eerie orange glow over the river basin. A doe stepped into sight, followed by a huge-bodied buck with a massive rack. Jordening briefly looked at the buck with his binoculars and could tell that he was a definite shooter.

"I never picked up my binoculars again," Jordening said. "I knew this deer was a mature buck that would probably push 200 inches, but I was not totally sure if it was the buck that I had hunted for the last two years. I was going to shoot him regardless -- because he was a monster!"

Ducking below the rise of the ground, Jordening eased into the woods to get to where he could intercept the buck. He removed his backpack to use it for a rest, and lay on the ground waiting for the buck to appear over the rise. The doe materialized, and then the enormous rack, followed by the rest of the buck's body, came into sight. Taking a deep breath, Jordening found the buck in his scope, let half of the breath out, steadied the rifle, and squeezed the trigger. The hunter was totally stunned to hear the metallic click of the firing pin dropping on an empty chamber! Always thinking of safety first, Jordening had intentionally omitted to chamber a round during his long walk in the darkness.

The buck was apparently too far away to hear the click, and so was unaware of the danger that lurked ahead. As slowly and silently as possible, the hunter, keeping his composure, bolted a live round into the chamber. This time, with the buck at 100 yards, Jordening held the cross hairs steady and again squeezed the trigger. At the shot, the deer bolted 40 yards before falling.

Flooded by emotion, Jordening headed over the rise toward his fallen buck. The elated hunter first wondered if it was the animal that he'd sought so long -- and then realized that, yes, it was the one.

"When I got to him, there was no doubt that it was my buck," Jordening recalled excitedly. "He was even bigger than I thought! There lying on the ground was the most magnificent, beautiful animal that I have ever seen! This was the first time I had ever seen him in the flesh. I had only seen pictures of him."

Jordening called his best friend, his wife Sharon. She knew her husband was hunting this specific buck.

"I killed him. The big one!" he told her. Then he called caretaker Denny Green to say, "You better bring the front-end loader. We've got a big one!"

Jordening's beautiful record book buck from Arkansas is a typical 5x5 with three abnormal points. The brow tines measure 7 5/8 on each side; the G-2s and G-3s are from 10 6/8 inches to 13 inches, with G-4s of 7 5/8 and 9 1/8 inches long. The inside spread is 19 2/8 inches. The circumferences total 39 inches. Due to the three abnormal points, two on the right side and one on the left, with a total of 18 7/8 inches, the very typical-looking buck was scored by B&C scorer Clinton Latham as a non-typical with a net score of 205 6/8 B&C.

All of the work, time, and money invested in the Two Rivers Hunting Club have paid off for Jordening and his partners. Jordening's record-book buck was not the only oversized buck taken on the property in 2006. Club member/owner Chris Canale took a massive monster that would gross in the 180s as well. The Two Rivers Hunting Club, in Lee County, has hosted the taking of four world-class bucks in the last three years, along with 20-plus does annually. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that this club was voted as the "Best Co-op of the Year 2004" for Arkansas Acres for Wildlife by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation.

And David Jordening, Burt Robinson and Chris Canale feel that they've only begun to see the fruits of their labor. No one knows for sure what the future holds, but the partners firmly believe that they -- and we -- ain't seen nothin' yet!

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