A Magic Day For New York Deer Hunters

On opening day of gun season last year these three huge bucks were taken in New York.

Tim Cool and his big non-typical buck. The buck had 18 scorable points and net non-typical score of 178 3/8. Photo by Jeff Brown.

Huge bucks are taken in New York each year by hunters toting all means of hunting implements, including bows, muzzleloaders, shotguns, rifles and even pistols. But for decades deer hunting in this great and diverse state has been synonymous with "firearms season." Nothing gets the blood flowing like the approach of "opening day," with cars lined up along country roads, kids absent from school, and "sick days" at an all-time high at local businesses. Even for the hunters that enjoy time in the woods with their bows or muzzleloaders, no memories are as poignant as "opening day" of the firearms season.

These "best of the season" articles are always dangerous to write because inevitably great bucks surface after the article is written. But for purposes of this article I am going to feature the three largest gross-scoring bucks from the 2009 firearms season scored by the Northeast Big Buck Club. Amazingly, all three were killed on Opening Day -- November 21, 2009! While it is not unusual for the season's biggest buck to be killed on opening day, it certainly is unusual to have the top three all killed in the same day.

Here are the stories behind the Rodney Hill buck, a 187 7/8-inch non-typical; The Tim Cool buck, a 184 6/8-inch non-typical; and a quick look at the Ryan Jackson buck, a 185 6/8-inch non-typical.

THE HILL BUCK

Rodney Hill was very excited about the upcoming 2009 regular season in Cattaraugus County. He had been off work most of the spring and summer after a major shoulder surgery, so he was pretty much stuck at home on the farm. He spent a good deal of his time watching the hay fields and pasture land for any game on the move on his 116-acre farm.

One day he saw an unusually large-racked buck that caught his attention. After seeing the same big buck a few more times, Hill told his boys Eric, Matt and Jim about the monster. They just said "yeah sure," assuming their dad was hallucinating. But then one evening they were all at the house for supper. It was just getting dusk so Hill got up from the table and stepped out on the porch, and there was the big buck just above the pond in the hay field grazing. Hill called for the boys, and after that they had no question that their dad had not lost his mind (yet!) Hill would see the huge buck a total of six times before opening day, including a last sighting about a week before the opening of the shotgun season.

On the afternoon of November 20th, which was the day before the opener, Hill and his oldest son Eric hung two stands and then went to bed early that night so they would be ready early the next day. Hill slept pretty well considering how anxious he was for opening day. He woke up at five o'clock and had some breakfast with the boys, and then got ready for the hunt. He left before the boys so he could get to his stand before first light, and on the way out said jokingly, "One of you guys are going to have to move one of your mounts to make room for the Monster Buck that one of us is going to shoot today!"

He didn't know just how right he was.

At day break it was a little windy and chilly, but overall a decent day for deer hunting. It wasn't long before Hill saw some activity -- a small spike and a four pointer together.

Another hour passed and he saw four does and a six point. Determined not to shoot anything but the big buck, he passed on the smaller bucks. At about 10:30 he saw six more does and a nice seven point, capping off a good first morning.

About noon his cell phone vibrated -- it was Eric, who said he wasn't seeing much and was going to the house for lunch. Hill told him he was going to stick it out till dark.

About an hour later Eric called back, and Hill stood up and leaned his gun against the tree so he could answer the phone. But as Hill looked to his left, his heart skipped a beat -- there he was! The monster buck was coming right at him! Hill said nothing on the phone, shut it off, put it carefully on the seat, and slowly picked up his gun. He had to lean out against the rail on the stand to shoot around a tree. He put the crosshairs right between the neck and shoulder and squeezed off the shot. And the monster buck dropped right in his tracks! Still in disbelief, Hill stayed in the stand for a couple of minutes as the buck expired. He picked up the phone, called Eric, and said, "You won't believe this, but the monster is dead!"

The Hill buck certainly will be one of the highest grossing non-typical bucks from New York in 2009, and may very well be the largest.

Hill's "Monster" had a gross B&C score of 187 7/8 non-typical, and a net B&C score of 179 0/8. In total the buck had 23 scorable points, 13 of which were abnormal. The typical gross score of the buck was 182 2/8. The massive rack had an inside spread of 19 0/8 inches and main beams of 23 4/8 inches and 23 0/8 inches. The buck had good mass and very good tine length, with the longest tines measuring 11 4/8 inches and 9 4/8 inches. So it's safe to say that The Monster lived up to its name!

Rodney Hill holds the rack of his giant 187 7/8 non-typical, which had 23 scorable points. Photo by Jeff Brown.

THE TIM COOL BUCK

After shooting a nice 8 pointer on the second day of the 2009 archery season in Cayuga County, Tim Cool had plenty of time to focus on shooting a doe, and scouting for gun season. He spent a lot of his time in one stand that he calls the Cherry Tree. It is a 16-foot stand that had given him some trouble in the past because deer could spot him pretty easily. But it was a productive stand and he did not want to give it up.

He dusted off an old Baker tree stand, fixed it up, and put it above the platform in the Cherry Tree by using a few tree steps. He hoped that would make this a better stand for gun season, and it did, but he was still worried that because of the terrain around the stand he would lose sight of any deer that walked down the sloping terrain, a phenomenon he experienced a few times during archery season.

With no time to make any adjustments prior to opening day of shotgun season, Cool decided to go out a few hours early on Opening Morning and move the tree stand even higher. It could have been the gamble that would make or break the hunt. As quiet as he could Cool put in two more steps, unsc

rewed and resecured the tree stand to a new height. He managed to do it without dropping anything or making noise, and he did with time to spare.

By the break of dawn he had his gear settled and he was ready to start the hunt. Once the sun started to lighten the eastern sky Cool recalled thinking to himself, "Wow, what a great vantage point. I can see everything from here!" Cool was ready.

And it didn't take long for his risky decision to pay big dividends: At about 7:10 a.m. Cool spotted a big deer right behind him walking from the thicket through the swale, and quartering away.

The deer blended in very well with the brown foreground and background. Cool could see that it was a buck and he remembers thinking, "I'm not going to shoot just any buck since I already shot a nice 8 point with my bow."

Before he could reach for his binoculars to get a closer look at the rack, the buck stopped and turned his head to look up in Cool's direction. Cool could see that the rack curved up out beyond his ears, and quickly decided to take him.

Still not sure how big the buck was, Cool raised the gun and shot. He could see the buck run off, and was fairly sure he saw him pile up not far from the stand.

Cool got down from the tree stand after waiting a half hour. He walked over to the shot sight hoping to find sign that would lead him to a downed deer. But he could not find anything. Panic and frustration started to overtake him, so he decided to go right to the spot he last saw the buck. And there he was!

At first glance it looked the buck had a big rack on one side, and a broken beam with three brow tines on the other. He bent over to grab the rack and move it to a spot to field dress it, and it was tangled in brush. After pulling hard to free the rack, he was surprised -- pleasantly -- to see "the rest of the rack" under the brush. He was shocked to count 18 points!

Cool couldn't believe it, and excitedly called his son (who as hunting nearby) and the landowner. It took a long time for the truth to really hit him -- he had shot a real giant! And all because he took a risk and moved his tree stand before first light!

The Cool buck had a gross B&C score of 184 6/8 non-typical, and a net B&C score of 178 3/8. The buck had 18 scorable points, 11 typical and 7 non-typical/abnormal. The typical gross score of the buck was 171 6/8. The impressive rack had an inside spread of 18 1/8 inches and main beams of 24 2/8 inches and 24 5/8 inches. The buck had good mass, with both bases measuring 5 inches, and very good tine length, with the longest tines measuring 11 0/8, and 11 6/8 inches respectively. So it is safe to say that The Legend lived up to its name! In almost any other season this could have been the largest gross scoring gun buck in the state.

SUMMARY

The New York bucks mentioned in this article are just three in a string of impressive gun bucks from the state in recent years. In 2007 Ron Madison shot a Chautauqua County non-typical 16-point with a gross B&C score of 192 6/8, and Nick Erway took a Chemung County non-typical 16-point grossing 190 4/8 inches. In 2006 Bob Cuozzo shot one of the most impressive bucks to come out of this state in many years, and one of the biggest all-time. That Chemung County 19-point monster had a gross Boone & Crockett score of 215 3/8 and a net score after deductions of 209 6/8.

That year also produced several 180-class bucks as well, including two from Wayne County (Victor Bernardi's 185 2/8-inch 12-point and Stephen Bailey's 183 2/8-inch 17-point) and a 181 6/8-inch 17-point from Oneida County for James Doyle. In 2005 Andy Hall shot an Ontario County buck that scored 201 6/8 (gross B&C).

With Erway and Madison added to the list, that's quite a string of big bucks. But certainly 2009 brought the most impressive batch of opening day bucks to be killed in the same season.

The were many other great bucks taken during New York's 2009 season, some of which you will see featured in articles in upcoming issues of this magazine. Be sure to watch for more about other great bow and muzzleloader bucks from 2009 in New York.

For more information about the Northeast Big Buck Club, or to purchase their hard-cover Record Book -- Northeast Trophy Whitetails VI, visit their website at www.bigbuckclub.com, email jbhunts@aol.com, or phone (508) 752-8762. For more information on the New York State Big Buck Club, visit www.nys-big-buck.org

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