The Mingo Buck

The Mingo Buck

Paul Deaton had plenty of visitors at his Mingo home after he shot a 230-class non-typical last year. (September 2007)

Deaton's 230-class non-typical took best in show at the prestigious Iowa Deer Classic in Des Moines.
Photo by Randy Templeton.

By the time the 2006 season came to a close, reports of several giant whitetails being taken in the Midwest had been received. However, few so captured the attention of hunters and non-hunters alike as did the awesome 27-point non-typical taken in Iowa by shotgun hunter Paul Deaton.

Within hours of the Jasper County giant's demise, photos were being splashed across the Web. Few people knew Deaton's name, so the buck was labeled with the hunter's home town, and quickly came to be known as the "Mingo Buck."

When the story of a big whitetail starts making the rounds on the Internet, some people can't seem to stop themselves from adding a few fictional tidbits before passing it along. It can sure make for some entertaining reading -- but before long the story is both exaggerated and watered down to the point that it's tough to sort out facts from fiction.

I've never been much for spreading gossip (or adding fuel to the fire, for that matter), so I called Paul to get the straight skinny. Moreover, I wanted to hear about the exciting events that led up to him taking one of the biggest whitetails in the country during the 2006 season.

"There's no doubt in my mind: The hunting gods were shining down on me that day," the 42-year-old Deaton began. "I've been hunting for 22 years and only dreamed of shooting a deer of like this. For weeks after I couldn't grasp how much attention the deer and I had drawn. Even today it's still hard to believe that this actually happened to me.

"It seems every year I hear stories of a big deer that had been spotted around the general area before the season; sometimes the stories ring true, and others times not. This year wasn't much different -- except I learned firsthand about a huge deer on the property we would be hunting from my good friend, Jimmy Byal.

"Before this year, the landowner hadn't allowed any shotgun hunters on the property since the mid-to-late 1980s. In recent years, however, the landowner had let a couple of bowhunters on during the archery season.

"It so happens that Jimmy is a distant cousin to the landowner," Deaton continued, "and was given permission to take his son, Billy, pheasant hunting during the youth season in late October. When Jimmy returned that day, he couldn't wait to tell me about the big buck that the dog had jumped in a grassy draw."

After considerable pleading with his cousin, Jimmy was given permission to hunt the 140-acre farm during the shotgun season. Needless to say, after hearing about the big deer, Paul and his 16-year-old son, Mack, were really looking forward to the upcoming season.

According to Paul, the property isn't big by any means, but it has ideal habitat for harboring a big buck or two. Agricultural crops such as corn and soybeans surround the perimeter of the farm, but the 40-acre apple orchard is the primary attractant for deer with a sweet tooth.

"I've hunted the general area for over 20 years," said the hunter from Mingo, "and had always dreamed of hunting that piece of property. And that day finally arrived."

THE HUNT BEGINS

"We were up bright and early that morning," Deaton recalled. "I'm guessing around 5:00 or so. Shortly after Mack and I finished breakfast, Jimmy and Billy arrived. Within a few minutes we were loaded up and heading down the road.

"Our plans that morning were to still hunt half the property for the first hour. Afterwards, we'd make a soft drive through that section. We set up Billy on one side of the grassy draw and Mack on the other; Jimmy was posted on the far end, and I swung around to the lower end. If we hadn't seen or shot anything by 8:00, Jimmy would walk the draw toward me. Afterwards we'd make a slow push toward the boys.

"An hour passed pretty quickly, and about the time Jimmy was supposed to start walking, I heard two shots fired that came from the direction of the boys. We pushed the draw toward Mack and Billy, but failed to run anything their way. We did learn that Billy had two does within range, but missed both times.

"Having driven half the property, we decided to push the apple orchard next. I volunteered to walk, but Jimmy's not much for sitting still and insisted on walking one more time. Afterwards, I'd take my turn while he rested.

"We posted Billy and Mack on both sides of the orchard and I swung around to cover the back door -- just in case any deer tried to slip back through. Since the whole family really likes eating venison, I'd pretty much made up my mind to take the first big doe I saw.

"I was in position by 9:00, and hadn't been sitting long when two does came running up from my right side. They were small, so I passed on the opportunity. Not more than five minutes later, two more does came running from the same direction, and they were quite a bit bigger.

"I brought the Remington 1187 up and was just getting ready to shoot when I caught movement, again from the corner of my eye, maybe 50 yards away. It was a buck -- and he had the biggest set of horns I've ever seen.

"I'll be honest: Just the sight of him made me nervous. I pulled up and shot once, but pretty sure I'd missed. There's no doubt I had a bad case of buck fever. To this day I'm not sure whether I was aiming at his head -- or even looking down the barrel, for that matter.

"The deer turned and started back to my right, and I shot again. Although I thought I saw him flinch, he continued another 30 or 40 yards before stopping in a small grassy area. I shot two more times, and pretty sure they were clean misses, too. Instead of running, he stood there with his head hanging down. In the process of reloading, my mind was racing, and thought to myself, 'This deer is going to get away if I don't get my act together.'

"I made one step toward the deer and he decided to take off running, this time cutting straight in front of me at 50 yards. I pretty much knew it would be my last chance, so I beared down on the sight and aimed small for a spot behind the shoulder, and squeezed off. A tuft of hair exploded from behind the shoulder, and I knew instantly the shot was good.

"The buck conti

nued another 30 feet or so and stopped in front of an apple tree. What happened next was really unbelievable: I stood there in awe watching as the buck walked up to the tree, lowered his head and began raking his antlers up and down. After making three or four swipes, he stopped for a second and then fell over sideways with his antlers hung up in the lower branches of the apple tree. Knowing that I had just shot the biggest darn deer of my life, I stood there motionless and speechless.

"I was snapped back to senses with gunshots being fired all around me," Deaton went on. "It sounded like the boys were shooting, so I took off in their direction. When I arrived, I found out that the boys had shot two does. Mack asked, 'How did you do?' I said, 'Well I just shot the biggest deer of my life,' and pointed off in the direction of where it was lying. Let me tell you -- those boys were gone in no time flat!

"About then I saw Jimmy, and he asked me what I shot. I replied, 'You're not going to believe the deer I just shot -- it's the biggest dang thing you've ever seen. And I can't begin to thank you enough!' Of course, Jimmy is pretty reserved, and not much for expressing his emotions. He congratulated me, and we were off to recover the deer."

When Paul finally walked up to the monster that he'd shot, he was in shock: Its horns were huge. "The boys and I took turns trying to count points," he said, "but we kept getting distracted and losing count. Honestly, I tried getting my hands completely around the bases and couldn't. We all just stood there admiring the deer for a good 10 minutes or more. I couldn't help but think the hunting gods had finally thrown me bone!"

After field-dressing the deer, the group loaded it in the pickup and started home. At the end of the landowner's driveway, County Conservation Officer Jerry Ratliff, who just happened to be passing by, stopped to check the deer out. Evidently the Iowa Department of Natural Resources had been watching the deer for quite some time. It hadn't been seen for a couple of weeks, and worries that it might have been poached were rife.

Like most deer of this caliber, Deaton's kill attracted a lot of attention. From the minute Paul arrived at home, hunters and non-hunters came in droves to see the deer and to congratulate the humble man from Mingo. "The phone rang off the wall the entire afternoon and through the night," Deaton recalled. "People were stopping by to take pictures; some of them I knew, and others I didn't. Although I didn't think about it at the time, if I would have charged just $1 per photo, I'm guessing I would have made an easy $1,000 that day alone. Honestly, I was surprised with how many people actually knew where I lived. I'm not used to that kind of publicity -- and it's been totally crazy ever since."

OTHER FACTS

It's only human nature for people with a vested interest to be tightlipped about a giant deer -- at least until some lucky hunter puts it down, anyway. Such was the case with the Mingo Buck.

Amateur wildlife photographer Gary Hanson, of Newton, had known about the buck's existence since late October; apparently, a coworker named Trish had told him about a big deer that she'd seen as she went to and from work. Hoping to capture the deer's image, Hanson asked her to let him know the next time she saw it.

"One rainy evening Trish called to tell me she had just seen a huge deer on her way home from work," Hanson said. "She said that the deer looked like it was carrying around a pile of brush on his head. I didn't waste any time loading up my 3-year-old grandson, Krayton, and wife Julie and headed out the door. It was about a 10-mile drive. And by the time I arrived the sun was just going down.

"Trish had explained the exact location where she had last seen the deer, so I headed there first. When coming over a hilltop, I spotted a big buck standing in a deep ditch on the east side of the road. I eased up slow and pulled off on the roadside, and grabbed my camera. By the time I turned around, the buck had disappeared.

"I wasn't quite sure where he had gone," Hanson continued, "so I drove further up the road and pulled over. There was an open pasture on top of the hill, so I crept up there to look around, but there was no sign of him anywhere. At that point, I figured I'd drive back the other way and take another look.

"I had no more than reached the same spot when I saw the buck on the opposite (west) side of the road. He was in a ditch and heading toward the timber. I quickly grabbed my camera and waited for him to step into a small opening. When he did, I snapped off several pictures before he disappeared."

Gary spent several more evenings in the area hoping to see the deer again, but it simply wasn't in the cards. However, when he learned that Paul Deaton had shot a big buck just a couple of miles away, he couldn't help but wonder if it might not have been the same deer. Curiosity got the best of him, and he drove out to Paul's for a look.

"The second I saw the buck there was no question in my mind that it was the same deer," he said. "I told Paul that I'd taken photos of the deer from the roadside one evening in late October. A few weeks later I made copies of the photos and gave them to Paul."

CONCLUSION

Paul took his trophy to Rick Whitaker Taxidermy in Knoxville, Iowa, to have it mounted. By early March it was complete -- just in time for the renowned Iowa Deer Classic in Des Moines. For the information of those who didn't attend the Classic: Paul Deaton's 27-point non-typical took first place in the shotgun division with an official Boone and Crockett score of 227 3/8. The Jasper County giant also took best of show at the Classic, a prestigious award given to the most impressive deer of all those entered. Greg Huffman presented Paul with the first-of-a-kind trophy, awarded in memory of his father, Larry Huffman, who passed away in February 2007. Not only was Larry the founder of the Classic, but he made the show what it is today as well: the greatest whitetail show on earth!

Paul had this to say in closing; "I've taken a couple of big deer over the years, but none compare to this one. I would like to thank my good friend, Jimmy Byal and his cousin, the landowner. Without them none of this would have been possible."

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