Another Jennings County Buck For The Books!

Sportsman Greg Hopper downed a huge trophy buck last season while hunting in a county that is becoming known for producing big bucks. Here's his story. (September 2007)

Hopper's buck has one interesting rack with exceptionally long G-1 and G-2 tines, as well as an outside spread of 26 3/8 inches, plus two drop tines. It all adds up to a fine non-typical that scores 202 7/8.
Photo by Dean Weimer.

Plainfield's Greg Hopper has a unique and very important occupation, especially in times of war. He and his crew use a special sandblasting technique on the nation's aircraft carriers. After stripping the old material from the landing and takeoff surfaces, they then apply a new coating of specialty paint.

He ends up traveling all over the country for his job, which is second nature to Hopper, so he doesn't mind the fact that he has to travel from Hendricks County to Jennings County to do the majority of his deer hunting when at home in Hoosierland.

Most weekends find Hopper, and his brother, Clifton, meeting up for some deer hunting. They'd have it no other way. They have enjoyed deer hunting together for many years and have shared many successes together as well. However, they had no way of knowing that the ultimate success would greet them during the 2006 deer season. They would soon discover that a special buck inhabited their hunting area, and thus set the stage for an excellent hunt.

After the hunting duo finished bowhunting in their Jennings County hunting area on Tuesday morning, Nov. 14, they decided to take a drive to the far side of the property to have a look around. The rut was in full swing and they thought it beneficial to get in a bit of scouting time to see if they could locate some recent activity.

"We decided to do a little scouting. We got back to the backside of the area we call the Trash Pile. As soon as we got back there, my brother shouted 'Deer!' " Hopper said.

The two hunters scrambled to put their binoculars up to their eyes to get a better look at the duo standing some distance away from their truck. "There stood a doe and a buck. She then bolted across the field and he bolted right behind here."

Hopper vividly recalls seeing the buck's huge drop tine (he only noticed the longer one at first) and rack lunging up and down with every bound. The huge, wide rack sprinting away from him left an indelible impression on his mind that he'll never forget. Naturally, both hunters thought they'd like to harvest such an incredible specimen.

"That's the first time we'd actually seen him," Hopper recalled. "We might have seen that buck down there before, but that is the first time that we'd gotten to see him together. The deer all ran over the hill and were gone for that day. At that point, we knew we had a big one. We'd seen some big rubs on some cedar trees in the area."

Hopper decided to make a move on the property that would allow him to take advantage of the rutting activity they'd just witnessed. "My brother had been hunting back near that area, and I'd been hunting near the front of it. After that, I decided I'd spend the rest of the week (the final week of the early archery season) back there," he said.

Although Hopper had moved to this new locale, he never again laid eyes on the brute buck that last week of bow season. "We did see a good buck later on that week, but it wasn't as big as the big one. We couldn't get a shot at him though."

Finally, the opening weekend of firearms season arrived. Hopper continued to hunt the backside of the property on opening weekend without sighting a single deer, let alone the trophy buck. Clifton had seen only antlerless deer on both Saturday and Sunday. Then on Monday morning, the two brothers woke up and discovered a nice surprise.

"There was about 1/8-inch of snow on the ground. Since the rut was in full go, it was a good sign of things to come. With the early morning temperature around 30 degrees, the two hunters were pumped up for the morning hunt. "With the cold and snow, you know, we were both excited. It was the coolest morning with the snow." The anticipation was also influenced even more knowing that the majority of the opening weekend crowd would be back at work.

They arrived at their hunting area and Clifton dropped Greg off in the pre-dawn darkness. "It was about 6:45 a.m., when I gathered my gear and began the walk to my stand," he remembered. It didn't take him long into his journey to discover two fresh scrapes along the soybean field edge that he was walking. "You could tell they were fresh because the snow wasn't covering them. They had to have been made at some point during the night."

Hopper then pulled out his drag rag that he'd been using during archery season and doctored it up with some Mrs. Doe Pee's Fresh Doe in Estrus and Blended Estrus urine. After dragging the rag across the scrapes, he headed to his stand. The special urine had worked during archery season, although he never got a shot at the buck he wanted. At one time, he had a buck actually make a scrape in response to his use of the authentic doe-in-estrus urine.

When he arrived at his stand, he put out some more deer urine on four scent tabs around his stand area. After his careful preparation, he climbed into the stand and was situated at 7:15 a.m. He was posted inside the woods edge a bit and had a great look at the area, including the open soybean field. The early morning was uneventful for him, but the fresh snow cover made the morning very interesting. Then, at about 7:45 a.m., he noticed a lone deer near the edge of the bean field.

"So, I grabbed my binoculars, noticed a tall rack and thought, That's a nice one! The buck comes a little closer and I don't look at him again with the binoculars. At that point, I don't realize it's the same deer. He's 200 yards to the field line coming down the field. The buck then arrived at a spot where Hopper had walked with his drag rag. "I lose visual contact with the buck because he positioned himself behind a large tree. The buck just stands there. He stands there for the longest time in the field."

Finally, the buck entered the woods very near to where Hopper is waiting. "He starts coming into the woods. He's angling to a spot and I know he was going to offer a shot," he recalled.

Hopper wasted no time and pulled off his gloves, stood up in the stand, and readied for the shot. The buck is still quite a distance away, but the hunter is fully confident in his shooting skills. His J.C. Higgins pump-action shotgun was shouldered and ready. When the buck entered a small opening at

between 125 to 150 yards, he steadied the gun, aimed high over its back, and fired a shot.

At the report, the buck jumped and did a mule kick with his hind legs, which left little doubt as to the outcome of the shot. The buck took off running in the same direction that he originally was traveling and then suddenly turned and headed back toward the hunter. Hopper pumped another slug into the chamber, but he didn't need to shoot again. The buck moved about 10 more feet before falling to the ground.

After Greg Hopper realized the buck is down, he called his brother but didn't get an answer. He waited for a while in his stand before getting down. He wanted to make sure the buck was down for good before approaching him. Hopper finally descended from the stand and approached the dead buck. "That's when I realized it was the drop-tined buck," he explained. Now, Hopper was becoming pretty excited and tried to call Clifton again, but he still didn't get an answer. "I just wanted to call someone to tell them, so I call my friend, Chris McDonald, to tell him I'd gotten a big one."

Finally, Hopper got Clifton to answer his phone. Clifton asked him if he'd shot a doe, but Hopper told him to get out of his stand and come take a look at the big buck he'd taken. When Clifton finally arrived, the two brothers exchanged hugs and high fives as the reality of the situation began to set in for the elder Hopper. Clifton then went to the truck to retrieve their brand-new deer tote that a friend had made for the hunters. After loading the buck into the truck, they went to show the landowner, who was duly impressed with the size of the buck.

Later on, friend Eric Williams of Whiteland drove over to take some pictures of Hopper's buck. Then the phone calls start to go out to all parts of Indiana. The buck field dressed at 224 pounds on a local farmer's scale. The huge body was accompanied nicely by one of the widest racks a hunter could ever ask for.

Greg and Clifton took the buck to be measured by John Bogucki, chairman of the Hoosier Record Buck Program, at the Indianapolis Deer and Turkey Exposition held in February.

The monster 4x4 typical frame is truly impressive. The inside spread of 23 1/8 inches is extra wide, and the G-2 and G-3 tines range from 8 1/8 inches to 14 7/8 inches. Adding in main beams that measure 29 5/8 on the right and 28 1/8 inches on the left create a whitetail rack that is more befitting of a small elk.

The buck sports matching drop tines, hence the nickname "Double D." The drop tine on the right side is longer and drops down and away from the inside of the rack. Its mate on the left is shorter at 1 5/8 inches. Overall, the buck sports 8 non-typical tines that total 33 4/8 inches. When added to the typical net of 169 3/8 inches, it yields 202 7/8 in the net non-typical score. The buck is one of the top non-typicals killed in the state for the 2006-07 season.

Master Wildlife artist Steve Kinker created another breathtaking mount for Greg Hopper. Jennings County has long been known as one of the premier counties for huge-racked bucks in Indiana. It has coughed up at least three 190-class typicals, proving that some of its bucks have excellent antler genetics. The Double D buck is yet more proof of this fact.

Hopper's buck follows only James Waltermire's 209 7/8 typical shotgun buck from 1985, proving that some of Jennings County's bucks have excellent genetics. Jennings County has produced several huge typicals over the years as well.

In the mid-1990s, two huge typicals came out of the county. The famous "Six Mile Creek" buck, found dead in the spring of 1996, tallied right at 198 0/8 as a typical. Walter Johnson's tremendous buck netted over the 190-class magical mark as well. Another noteworthy firearms buck from the 1990s is Dennis Day's 179 3/8 typical shotgun trophy. Let's not forget Chris Fischvogt's fine buck from last year as well (featured in July 2007 Indiana Game & Fish), which scored 190 4/8 in the non-typical category.

Jennings County lies in the middle of some of Indiana's most famous deer-hunting country in Zone 5. The hills and hollows make this region well known in the state's deer-hunting circles. These areas offer whitetails (and other game species) excellent habitat. This section contains fine "escape" cover, which helps savvy bucks to live longer and to grow bigger racks.

The 4,181-acre Crosley Fish and Wildlife Area (FWA), Brush Creek FWA (1,841 acres) and Selmier State Forest (355 acres) offer three public-land hunting opportunities in the county. All three of these areas are managed by the Department of Natural Resources.

Hopper's double drop-tine buck is proof positive that this area does grow big-antlered deer. Greg Hopper was lucky and skilled enough to be in the right place at the right time when his giant buck came by. Congratulations to a hunter most deserving of this great trophy whitetail!

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