Our State's No. 1 Whitetail Of 2008

Our State's No. 1 Whitetail Of 2008

Sportsman Robert Taylor downed a huge 29-point buck while hunting in Butler County last season, coming away with his buck of a lifetime and the biggest deer from last year! Here's his story. (September 2009)

On a windy and rainy late-afternoon hunt, Robert Taylor took this outstanding non-typical buck, which scores a whopping 249 6/8 B&C. Taxidermy by Ron Guinn.

Photo by Bill Cooper.

Every year, hundreds of whitetail hunters across the country make decisions to join or organize a hunt club, acquire a new hunting lease, request permission to hunt a particular farm site or tract of timber, book a guided or semi-guided hunt, or pursue myriad other options. Reasons vary, but always there is the underlying hope that the new location or experience might provide the opportunity of taking a true trophy-class buck.

To some degree, nearly everyone is affected by the old adage, "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," and there is no denying that part of the whitetail mystic is tied to the intrigue of hunting new and different locations. So, early last year when Robert Taylor, a Tennessee resident, was invited to join several friends on a Kentucky hunting lease, he readily accepted.

"I knew the group had hunted the lease for two years," Taylor said. "Although there wasn't a single deer killed the first year, they reported seeing a number of impressive looking young bucks; and during the 2007 season, one of the guys took a deer that grossed over 150. It seemed like a good situation and I really enjoy hunting different types of areas; knowing all of the other hunters made the decision pretty easy."

In August, several weeks after placing trail cameras at various sites on the property, the group received their first inkling that the upcoming deer season might be something special. One of the cameras had recorded photos of a buck with antlers the size of which literally defied description. In fact, from that time on the buck was referred to as Muy, a shortened term for Muy Grande.

"It would be an understatement to say that Muy was the subject of a lot of campfire discussions," Taylor said. "However, that single instance provided the only photos we had of the buck prior to the opening of bow season. Therefore, we naturally assumed the big deer just happened to be passing through the property. I honestly don't think any of us really believed there was much chance of actually getting a shot at the buck."

Located in Kentucky's western coalfields, a great deal of the hunting lease's upland acreage had previously been strip-mined. During the mining company's reclamation process, the land was somewhat leveled and planted in a variety of grasses and lespedeza, creating an almost savannah-like habitat. At one location, approximately 500 acres of these grasslands completely encircle two acres of large mature trees; it is the site of an old family cemetery dating back to the 1800s. This small island of trees is where the trail camera photos of the giant buck were recorded.

In regard to deer, the area had one additional attraction. Within 100 yards of the cemetery, the landowner had established a 50-acre hay field, seeded predominantly in clover.

One of the most fascinating traits of whitetails, especially big, mature whitetail bucks, is that they are totally unpredictable. During the first week of bow season, Lee Denton, the organizer and acting president of the club, was positioned in the cemetery when Muy suddenly walked into view. The hunter came to full draw as the huge deer approached to within 35 yards, but despite trying mouth grunts and every other vocalization he could think of, Denton could not get the buck to stop. Unable to get a clear shooting opportunity, he watched the big deer walk out of sight.

Later, Denton acknowledged that he was very tempted to try a desperation shot, but the possibility of wounding and losing a buck of that class simply wasn't acceptable to him.

"I certainly applaud Lee for what he did," Taylor said. "I'd like to think that I would have shown the same restraint, but that was a terribly tough situation."

The big whitetail was not sighted again during bow season. However, approximately 10 days before the opening of gun season in early November, another photo of the buck was recorded on the same cemetery trail camera.

"Getting the second photo only days before opening weekend of gun season certainly piqued everyone's interest and generated a great deal of enthusiasm," Taylor said. "On the other hand, we honestly had very little on which to base any solid expectations. Two photos, both taken at night, plus one sighting over a two-month period would hardly be considered a predictable pattern. Nevertheless, it was nice to know that the buck was still utilizing at least part of our hunting area."

On opening weekend, Lee Denton's dad, Ronnie, killed a big 140-class 8-pointer while hunting in the cemetery wood lot. The buck was impressive and the hunter couldn't have been any happier if he had shot Muy. No other bucks were taken and Taylor saw only two does the entire weekend.

Because of job obligations, Taylor left for home Sunday night and did not return until Thursday afternoon. During his absence, he learned that another member of the hunting group had taken a big 10-pointer on a different area of the lease, but no one had sighted the giant buck. That afternoon, he returned to the same stand he had hunted on opening weekend, but unfortunately, not a single deer appeared.

"To say the least, I was a little disappointed, especially with my stand location," Taylor said. "It seemed as though everyone but me was seeing deer pretty regularly. However, a strong weather front was forecast to move through the area on Friday, so I decided to stick with the location at least one more day."

Taylor's stand was positioned along a woods line bordering the expansive reclaimed strip site, approximately 1,000 yards from the cemetery in the small island of trees. The hunter selected the spot because of a shallow draw in the grassy terrain that he believed would help funnel deer movement, especially those animals traveling to and from the clover field.

On Friday morning, deer activity near Taylor's stand improved dramatically. Although no bucks were sighted, a number of does moved out of the woods and slowly meandered through the lespedeza and broom sedge; and a few deer eventually headed off in the general direction of the clover.

"Considering the date, I was really surprised at the lack of rut activity, but I was certainly encouraged by the number of deer I saw throughout the morning," Taylor noted. "By mid- afternoon, when I returned to the stand, the

sky had darkened, it was noticeably colder, and the wind must have been blowing at least 20 miles an hour."

Not a single deer appeared during the afternoon, and with rain imminent and darkness less than 30 minutes away, the hunter began gathering his gear together. While doing so, a sudden flicker of movement far out in the low draw of the field froze him in position.

"Two hundred yards away, a deer had lifted its head, and I knew instantly, even at that distance and without the aid of binoculars, it was the giant buck in the trail camera photos," Taylor said. "I immediately grabbed my rifle and maneuvered into a solid shooting position."

Using an IOR 4x14 scope with a 56 mm objective, the hunter cranked the variable adjustment all the way to 14X. Broomsedge and lespedeza concealed the lower half of the deer's body, but everything else was completely in the clear; fortunately, the buck had momentarily stopped.

"I kept telling myself over and over, 'Don't rush. Don't rush. Whatever you do, don't mess this up,' " Taylor said. "For some strange reason, I felt amazingly calm."

Holding his breath while slowly squeezing the trigger of the Remington 700, the hunter fired, quickly bolted another shell into the chamber and fired again. At nearly the same instant, rain began falling.

"The deer simply disappeared," Taylor said. "In spite of the wind, I felt pretty confidant of the shot, but I quickly began to second-guess myself. Darkness was only minutes away and I knew if the buck was merely wounded, rain would quickly wash away any blood trail."

Having marked the location, the hunter climbed down and hurriedly walked to where the deer had been standing. Periodically glancing back at his tree stand to keep oriented, he arrived at the spot only to live his worst nightmare; there was no sign of the buck!

"Not only was there no deer, but I couldn't find any blood or hair to indicate that I had even hit the buck," Taylor said. "Only another hunter can truly relate to this, but I honestly became physically sick believing that I had just missed the deer of a lifetime."

Standing in the gathering darkness with the wind and rain blowing in his face, Taylor decided to recheck his position one more time. After aligning himself with the distant tree stand, he took several steps farther out into the open broomsedge; had he walked a few yards more, he would have fallen over the giant whitetail!

"Somehow, in the open field I had badly misjudged the distance," Taylor noted. "Within seconds, I went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. There isn't a drug in this world that could have made me feel any better than I did when I saw the buck lying there on the ground. Until that moment, I really hadn't gotten excited, but standing there, looking down at the deer, I thought my legs were going to give out on me."

Realizing he couldn't move the buck without help, Taylor began calling other members of the club for assistance. The first person he contacted was Danny Denton, Lee's brother. Danny quickly relayed the news to his dad and brother, whose predictable response was that Robert was merely joking and not to take him seriously.

Danny immediately replied, "No, I can tell from Robert's voice that he's not kidding. He's definitely killed the big buck!"

Upon arriving on the scene, and after several rounds of congratulations and high-fives, the men loaded the big whitetail and headed back to camp. In regard to the size of the buck's amazing antlers, everyone agreed that the rack was even bigger than it had appeared in the photos.

Word of the buck spread like wildfire, and the following morning a continuous procession of hunters and local residents passed through the camp to get a look at the deer. That afternoon, as Taylor was leaving, an older man, accompanied by his grandson approached the Denton brothers and identified himself. He went on to say that on Wednesday afternoon, two days before Taylor taking the deer, he and his grandson were hunting on an adjoining farm when the huge whitetail suddenly ran into view while chasing a doe. He shot at the buck as it was running away, but only succeeded in blowing a handful of hair off the deer.

The man's story was backed up by a 6-inch-long flesh wound on the buck's right hip. Everyone had noticed the bullet wound Friday night after getting the buck back to camp; however, since Taylor had fired twice at the deer, the natural assumption was that the wound was caused by his second shot.

After the man left, Lee called Taylor, who by then was on his way back to Tennessee. After relating the story, Lee added that the man was still pretty torn up over missing the giant buck.

"As he was walking away," Lee said. "He turned around and told Danny and I, 'You might not believe me, but I'm taking this worse than my last divorce!' "

Taylor laughed, but quickly responded that he could certainly sympathize with the man, especially after remembering his own feelings when he thought he had completely missed the deer.

Following the required 60-day drying period, Taylor had the antlers officially measured. The impressive results include a total of 29 scoreable points, 11 of which make up the 6x5 typical frame. An excellent combination of tine length and antler mass combine to produce a great gross typical score of 172 2/8; unfortunately, significant asymmetry deductions drop the final net figure to 157 6/8.

However, the rack's most outstanding feature is the amazing array of 18 abnormal points, which includes three drop tines. These give the rack an exceptional appearance, particularly because they are evenly balanced between the right and left antlers, with 10 points on the right and 8 points on the left. These total a whopping 92 inches of antler, which when added to the net typical score, brings the final non-typical Boone and Crockett score to 249 6/8.

In addition to being Kentucky's top whitetail of the 2008 season, the Butler County deer ranks No. 4 on the state's all-time list of non-typical whitetails and is the third biggest ever taken by a hunter. (Note: The state-record non-typical, scoring 270 5/8 was found dead in Henry County in 2004).

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