Hoosier Hunters Share Their Trophy Tales

Hoosier Hunters Share Their Trophy Tales

Though not record-breaking deer, each of the four bucks highlighted here are respectable specimens in a state not known for producing lots of world-class whitetails.

By Ray Harper

Debbie Grizzell's 2003 deer season got off to a slow start. The mother of two, who is a veteran of 15 deer hunting seasons, missed the early archery season because of a health problem that required surgery.

On the third week of bow season, her luck began to change. "I got up in the morning, looked out my window and saw this big buck in the field in front of our house," said the Franklin County resident. "I saw him with a doe . . . then he headed off toward my daughter's house. I called Samantha and she videotaped him."

Debbie Grizzell, a hospital worker from Laurel, had recovered from surgery and was in her tree stand on opening day of gun season. She and her husband, Roy, own 20 acres for deer hunting in Fayette County, across and down the road from their Franklin County home. She was hoping to see that wide-racked buck that her daughter videotaped during archery season.

"The first day, I saw does, but no bucks," Grizzell said. "On the second morning, I was sitting in my tree stand about 9 a.m., when three does came through. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught this deer and he was limping like the buck I had seen earlier during bow season. He was behind a big oak tree about 20 to 25 yards away. I tried to turn slowly in my stand, but the does caught me and took off. The buck just stood there. When he came out from behind the tree, he bolted. I said, 'I've got to do something.' So I whistled."

The buck stopped and she shot him at about 50 yards with her Thompson Contender 45-caliber handgun. Grizzell's buck, with 8 points and a 23 4/8-inch spread, scored 158 2/8 points for the Boone and Crockett (B&C) records. The buck field dressed at 160 pounds. It was her fourth buck with a handgun. (She also has taken numerous does and four bucks with a bow.)

The state's Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) changed deer hunting regulations in 2002 to limit the buck harvest to one per hunter per season. While the one-buck rule is expected to improve the age structure and possibly the quality of Hoosier bucks, many Indiana hunters - like Grizzell - already are harvesting record-book bucks.

Here are the stories of three other Hoosier hunters who bagged record-book bucks.

Photo by Michael H. Francis

THE MIKE SETLAK BUCK

Fort Wayne attorney Mike Setlak, 29, has been deer hunting since he was 11 years old. "I have been hunting with my dad and his friends and their sons since the mid-1980s," Setlak said. "I started out hunting with bow and arrow and slowly moved into using my 20-gauge single shot."

He took his first deer, a big doe, with a shotgun, when he was 14 and has taken more than 30 deer since then. However, his biggest buck came during the 2002 season.

He was hunting near his parents' home in Pierceton, in Kosciusko County during opening day of the 2002 gun season - Nov. 16. He was in his stand at about 2 p.m., when he saw this particular trophy buck for the first time. "I saw this deer about 150 yards away through the woods," Setlak said. "No matter what angle I could take, I just did not have any shot. The big buck slowly walked away and I figured deep down that I would never see him again." Setlak didn't have another opportunity to hunt for more than a week.

"I did not get into the stand until about 2:30 p.m.," he said. "I hunted a stand closer to where the big buck was headed the week before. I hunted the whole afternoon, watching a few does and at one point had two small bucks walk right beneath my stand."

At 5:15 p.m., he heard some sticks cracking behind him. He stood and turned slowly to see a big 10-pointer in the thick woods at about 60 yards and quartering away. He slowly raised his muzzleloader, aimed and fired. After the smoke cleared, the deer was still standing there, just looking around. He quickly reloaded. "My heart was beating 1,000 beats a minute," Setlak said. "To my luck and good fortune, the big buck started walking toward me. The buck was now broadside about 30 yards away." He fired his muzzleloader again. The buck leapt and ran about 20 yards before falling.

The buck's rack was perfectly symmetrical and scored 149 7/8 B&C. It field dressed at 175 pounds.

"Now that I have taken such a wonderful deer, it makes hunting a lot less pressured and less stressful," Setlak said. "This past season was the first year since taking my first deer that I did not bag a deer. I passed on many small bucks. It was easy, knowing I have this big buck on my wall."

THE COTEY DeMOSS BUCK

Thirteen-year-old Cotey DeMoss was hunting with his dad, Dennis, and his 15-year-old brother, Corey, at Patoka Reservoir near Paoli, on the second day of the 2002 gun season. That's when he encountered and bagged his 11-point non-typical trophy buck.

"We hunted the woods that morning and nobody but me saw anything," said DeMoss, who was only 12 years old at that time and deer hunting for the first time. "I saw a couple of does. We stopped hunting for lunch and my dad and brother wanted to try some other place."

DeMoss wanted to return to his morning stand and convinced his dad and brother to let him do just that. Before returning to his stand, he shot his muzzleloader to make sure he could hit his target. He discovered he had lost his ramrod that morning. "I had to use a broken arrow to reload."

The young hunter waited most of the afternoon before the big buck came walking in. "I shot him right through the shoulder. He ran 80 yards and dropped. I was amazed. I didn't think I'd ever kill a beautiful buck like that during my first year of hunting," the young hunter said.

"The big buck just walked out of a pine tree thicket to within 25 yards of Cotey's stand," Dennis DeMoss said. "He made a good shot. I am real proud of him." The 11-pointer field dressed at 187 pounds and scored 141 0/8 points for the B&C record book.

THE BRYAN TURLEY BUCK

Forty-seven-year-old Evansville jeweler Bryan Turley was hunting a corn field in Warrick County when he first spotted a big 10-point buck during the 2000 early archery season.

"I saw this buck four days before I killed it," Turley said. "I was hunting evenings beside this unharvested corn field. He was with another smaller buck. They were both there again the next evening. But I never had a shot. Then on the fourth evening

, the bucks walked out into a little weed patch. It was a wet spot in the corn field where the crop hadn't grown. They sparred for a little while, then the smaller buck turned and walked underneath my stand, about 20 yards away."

The big buck stayed in the corn field, according to Turley. He would walk down a row of corn and eat and then move a little farther. "He looked around and noticed the other buck wasn't with him," he said. "He turned and followed the other buck's trail right under my stand. When I shot him, he ran into the standing corn."

Turley said it was nearly dark and he probably began to trail the buck earlier than he normally would. When Turley found the buck in the standing corn, it leapt up and ran. Searching to no avail and with temperatures in the 30s, Turley waited until the next morning, when he found the buck 70 yards away.

The buck field dressed at 175 pounds and had an inside spread of 20 inches. It scored 131 5/8 points for the Pope and Young records.

DEER MANAGEMENT

The DFW is faced with the task of managing the state's deer herd for maximum hunter opportunity and also minimal crop depredation and automobile collisions. During the 1980s and early 1990s, deer seasons and bag limits were liberalized. In 1980, statewide either-sex muzzleloader and late archery seasons were established. In the same year, five counties were designated as bonus-hunt counties, allowing a quota of applicants to harvest a deer of either sex during the firearms season.

By 1986, 34 counties were designated bonus-hunt counties and antlerless permits replaced either-sex permits. In addition to the season bag limit of one antlered buck, 20,500 hunters were authorized to harvest an antlerless deer during the firearms season.

During 1986, the archery bag limit was also increased to two deer of either sex. By 1995, all 92 counties were designated as bonus antlerless counties with 204,400 permits available. In 1996, the regulations on antlerless harvest were liberalized further so that every hunter had a statewide bag limit of four bonus antlerless deer with county constraints of from one to four bonus antlerless deer.

As hunting opportunity increased, the total harvest increased as well. Annual harvests increased from 19,780 in 1980 to 117,729 in 1995. The number of individual deer hunters that bought one or more deer licenses increased from 118,000 in 1982 to 189,000 in 1993. Additionally, in 1993, 25,000 hunters qualified to hunt without a license (landowners, tenants, military personnel).

Since the harvest increased faster than the number of hunters, success rates also increased. The diversity of recreational hunting opportunities also increased during this time period with the addition of handguns to the list of legal firearms. The muzzleloader and archery seasons were lengthened and bag limits were liberalized from a total of three deer that a hunter could take in 1981 to 10 deer in 1996.

A total of 106,986 deer were harvested in Indiana during the 2003 season, a 2.5 percent increase from the 104,428 total deer harvested in 2002. The antlered buck harvest of 49,533 represented a 5 percent increase from 2002. The 2003 antlerless harvest of 57,453 was similar to 2002 (57,251).

Our state's total deer harvest has increased annually since 2000. Approximately 1.97 million deer have been legally harvested during the past 52 deer hunting seasons in Indiana.

"It's too soon to tell what effect the one-buck rule will have on the herd," according to Jim Mitchell, the state's deer biologist. "I don't think you would clearly know until three years at a minimum, probably five. We had been seeing, even prior to implementing the one-buck rule, a trend toward older bucks in the harvest. That trend is going to make it tough to see what the effect really is."

Mitchell said the one-buck rule has resulted in a shift in the harvest away from the early archery season and toward the firearms and muzzleloader season. "Over 90 percent of our archers are firearms hunters as well," Mitchell said. "If it's going to have an effect, it's going to reduce the early archery harvest."

Mitchell said there was a 38 percent decline in the antlered harvest during early archery season from 2001 to 2002. In 2003, the second year of the one-buck rule, the early archery antlered harvest was higher than 2002, but remained 25 percent below 2001.

Mitchell said he expects to see hunters become more selective in their buck harvest because of the new one-buck regulation and because the state's deer hunters are maturing. He expects the selectivity will change the age structure of harvested bucks toward more mature animals. "In fact, the first year (of the one-buck regulation), the harvest of our 1 1/2-year-old bucks did decrease and the harvest of older bucks increased," he said.

Gordon Whittington, an expert on white-tailed deer and editor of North American Whitetail magazine, predicts the new rule will affect the quality of bucks being harvested in the Hoosier State.

"Indiana certainly has the habitat and genetics to produce outstanding bucks far more consistently than it has in recent years," Whittington said. "If there were lower overall deer numbers, as well as a more balanced buck-doe ratio and age structure, we'd see less crop and forest damage, fewer deer-auto collisions and other such problems. A happy byproduct of this would be better odds of taking healthy, mature bucks that have at least approached their genetic potential.

"We've seen that in many places over the years, among them Ohio and Kentucky. Of these two neighboring states, I'd say the results in Kentucky are the more relevant to Indiana deer hunters. By having a fairly long gun season during peak rut, no quota on deer permits and with centerfire rifles being allowed, Kentucky puts a lot of pressure on its buck herd. Even so, since Kentucky went to a one-buck annual limit in the late 1980s, the state's production of big bucks has skyrocketed. This past season, Kentucky has produced at least 20 net Boone and Crockett bucks, plus many other big ones. It just keeps getting better."

Whittington said neither Kentucky's genetics nor soil quality is superior to those in Indiana. "In fact, I'd say Indiana would have the edge in both aspects," he said. "What Kentucky does have an advantage in is overall cover, but not allowing the use of centerfire rifles in Indiana should help to balance that out. In short, I can't think of any obvious reason Kentucky would be producing more monster bucks these days than Indiana unless it's due to the long-term impact of selective buck harvest, largely as a result of the one-buck annual limit.

"By the way, I'd be surprised if the good 2003 season in Indiana wasn't due to the effects of the one-buck limit already being evidenced, even after just one year. The next few years could be really special for big deer, even if total deer numbers aren't totally brought in line with the available food supply."



Discover even more in

our monthly magazine,

and have it delivered to your door!

Subscribe to Indiana Game & Fish


Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.