A Mountain State Monster-Roger Maynard Buck

A Mountain State Monster-Roger Maynard Buck

The rugged hills of southern West Virginia produce mature, trophy class whitetail bucks. They also turn out a breed of hardy folks with a strong work ethic, a trait that transfers into their hunting activities as well. These two factors collided when Mingo County native Roger Maynard successfully harvested a 170 1/8 typical buck, culminating a three-year effort targeted at taking this particular deer.

As of this writing it appears Maynard's buck ranks seventh all-time in the state's typical bowkill category. The top buck is Mark Lester's 175 6/8 inch Logan County trophy, taken in 1998

Mingo County is one of four bowhunting-only counties in the southern West Virginia coal belt. Along with Logan, McDowell and Wyoming counties, this region has been off-limits to gun hunting since the 1980s, a regulation put into place to encourage the rebound of a deer population negatively impacted by subsistence hunting, poaching and predation. It's an excessively steep, heavily forested area, owned primarily by timber and mining interests. Successfully hunting this harsh terrain requires both tough mental and physical conditioning, as well as an understanding of how deer use the ridges and hollows. Though deer hunting is always a work in progress, Maynard's lessons began early in life.

"My father, Ercle Maynard, taught me what to look for in the hills, some of the best places to hunt like ridge tops, bedding areas and funnels," recalled Maynard. "He would work all night on third shift, and go hunting when he got off work. We still had a gun season back then. I can remember him taking me out a few times before the season closed, when I was an 8th or 9th grader."

Maynard credits two of his wife's uncles — Richie Moore and Billy Runyon — for providing vital bowhunting lessons. They helped him set up his first bow, got him into 3-D shooting, and shared many hunts. Roger learned well. His 2012 buck, while his biggest, is just one of several Pope & Young class bucks that have fallen to his efforts. And like those that mentored him, Maynard relishes the chance to pass the tradition on to younger family members. His biggest thrill last fall wasn't the taking of his trophy buck, but rather sharing in the harvest of his eight-year-old grandson Brennan Salmons' first deer. It was icing on the cake, the final act of a play that opened in November of 2010.

"My son-in-law, Damien Salmons, went to scout out a new area," said Maynard. "He came back pretty excited, talking about all the scraps, rubs and deer trails in this area, wanting me to come and look at it. So we jumped on the four-wheelers and checked it out. As soon as we started walking up a little drain I could tell that I liked the place. By the time we had gotten to the first flat on a hill, I was looking for a place to put a stand, and to put up trail cameras to see for sure what was using that area."

Maynard said that Damien hunted the area first, and saw a nice buck his first day in a stand, the third week in November. Then the trail cameras they'd place began to pay off, capturing the first images of a big buck Maynard would come to name "Almost," since he almost didn't get him. It sported a huge rack, one with massive brow times and crab claws accenting the main beams.

Not surprisingly, the big buck was elusive. Initial trail cam shots were exposed at night. But Maynard did see the buck one time, on the last day of the season.

"He was with a doe on a flat below me," Maynard recollected. "I was still-hunting a ridge top. But they saw me first. I did get a good look with binoculars before they threw up the white tails and said goodbye."

Maynard left his trail cameras in place until February, but he didn't get any more pictures of the intriguing monster buck.

"It was like he vanished," he said. "And I changed jobs the following August. I knew that would make things tougher, with no extra days off to hunt."

The big buck, "Almost," heavily occupied Roger's thoughts during the offseason. He looked for sheds but found none. He tried to figure out where the buck traveled, where it bedded. He spent time studying the landscape on Google Earth. Those efforts unveiled an old, overgrown gas well road that led to the flat where he'd had his lone encounter with the buck. So during late summer, prior to the 2011 season, be expended considerable effort opening that avenue, so he'd have an efficient and silent way of approaching the area.

"It took me about two weeks," he noted. "A buddy of mine from work, Paul, would re-sharpen the chain on my saw, since I was cutting trees off close to the ground, hitting stones. I set a stand on the ridge, and two trail cameras."

Despite the preseason work, it would be a long time before Maynard confirmed that the big buck was still around. The season opened during late September. It was mid-November when he finally showed up on a trail cam image.

"I went up the next day and hunted a lower stand, near where the trail cam picked up the buck," he related. "As I was sitting there I heard a deer running over to my right on the hillside. I kept looking until I saw a doe running down the hill toward me. And then I saw him behind her. I was thinking, 'Oh yeah, she is bringing him right to me.' She kept coming down the hill toward me, and him after her, grunting away. When they hit the little road at the bottom I thought I would get a shot."

But as so often happens in this situation, the perfect scenario didn't play out to the desired conclusion. The doe turned direction, headed back up the hill, with the buck in tow. No amount of grunting on Maynard's part was going to pull him off the hot trail.

That was Roger's only encounter with "Almost" during the 2011 season. His trail cam picked up lots of pictures, but they were always at night. When the season concluded, he again left his cameras in place, even longer than the previous year. But as had been the case in 2010, after the season was over the buck disappeared. There were no more pictures or sightings.

Maynard spend the next offseason pondering questions like, had the buck gotten hit by a car, been poached, or become a victim of coyotes?

Last fall brought an all-out quest by Maynard. He placed additional trail cameras, hitting too a ridge on the opposite side of the highway from where he'd been hunting.

"I'd gotten pictures of a nice eight-pointer, one in the 150-inch class, on my trail camera," he noted. "I was hunting this deer, since I didn't know if the big guy was still alive. Then on October 27th I got a daylight picture of 'Almost' from one of my new camera areas. Oh boy, was I excited to learn that he was still out there."

Armed with this new information, Roger backed off his efforts directed at the 8-pointer. He had a new stand location in mind, and he'd need his climbing sticks to pull it off.

"The tree I picked out had a big fork in it," Maynard explained. "I wouldn't be able to get my API Grand Slam climber up there without the sticks. I should have taken a picture of that setup."

Making arrangements at work to take off November 5th and 6th, which was a Monday and Tuesday, Roger had four consecutive days to hunt.

"During the weekend I saw a lot of activity," he recalled. "I saw does, bucks, fighting bobcats, and a great view of a grouse on a ridge top."

Lots of activity, but not the buck he was waiting for. Not until Tuesday, the last day of his four-day extended weekend.

"A little after daylight a doe comes by, and then another one, watching behind herself," Roger said, relating the events of what would prove to be quite a day. "I spot a buck coming in behind here. It's an eight-pointer. He's chasing her back and forth. Then another buck appears, a 10-point, and a fight breaks out. Well, the 10-pointer whips the smaller buck and takes the girl. After that, all calms down. Around 8:30 a.m. I see movement off to my left and spot two coyotes. I think, 'this is not good, they'll run everything out of here.'"

Maynard's apprehension about the coyotes didn't play out. Around 9 a.m. he again spotted movement.

"I know it's a deer, but can't tell what it is," he said. "Then it starts walking in my direction. Oh yes! It's him, and he's walking right down the trail that passes in front of my stand. I wear tennis shoes when walking in, to be quiet, and then put on insulated booties on once I'm in the stand to keep warm. So I'm trying to get into position, dealing with those big things that take up most of the platform. Still, he's coming right toward me. I took my eyes off him for a minute to be sure everything's right, that the arrow's in the rest, that the broadhead blades are closed. When I look back I don't see him. A little panic sets in, but then I pick him back up. He'd stepped off the trail a bit to feed on acorns."

Maynard had pulled out his grunt call just in case the buck left the trail, planning on using it only as a last resort. It's a tactic he didn't have to use.

"He returned to the trail. I drew back when he passed a tree. I keep telling myself 'don't look at the antlers.' I'd planned on mouth grunting to stop him when he hit my shooting lane, but he stopped on his own. I set my 20-yard pin on his lungs, just about ready to squeeze the release, and he looks up right at me! I hadn't made a sound. I let the arrow fly, and he squats down to jump the string. I almost miss him, hence the nickname 'Almost.'"

As it turns out, the 125-grain Rage broadhead hit the spine. Initially, the buck dropped in its tracks, but then mustered enough energy to pull himself over the crest of the ridge. Maynard dropped out of his stand and rushed over the edge rim of the ridge.

"He wasn't in sight," he said. "But I can see the path he tore up going over the hill, and there's good blood. So I started off in that direction and get about 75 yards down the hill and I spot him below me. He's another 50 yards on a flat, his antlers tangled up in a tree. I could tell it was over, and let out a big shout, 'Yes!' Once I had a few moments to realize I'd finally gotten him I had that bittersweet feeling."

Because of the steep terrain, it took Maynard, along with the help of four family members and a Polaris Ranger, four hours to get the big buck out of the woods.

The Maynard buck is a main frame 12-pointer with three stickers. After deductions it scored 170 1/8, having lost 6/8 inch from its green score. The gentleman that scored it believed it to be a 7 1/2-year-old deer. You'd think a buck like that would highlight a hunting career — at least a hunting season. Not for Roger Maynard. That happened a few weeks later, when his grandson Brennan dropped his first buck at 18 yards from a ground blind not far from his granddad's home.

The two had been at a family birthday party that afternoon, when Roger suggested the possibility of sneaking in a late afternoon hunt during the day's final hour. Brennan jumped at the chance. In the closing minutes of the day, with his grandfather at his side, at 18 yards the eight-year-old put an arrow through the buck's heart.

"I thought, 'I can't believe what just happenen — getting to share this with him,'" Maynard said of his reaction.

In a bowhunting world often saturated with self-promotion and glorification, what a refreshing attitude.

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