Photo courtesy of Chris Belisle.
For many years now, the Constitution State has produced some of the Northeast’s most impressive archery bucks. If you have never hunted this state, you probably are not aware that it provides an extended bow season that extends from mid-September through late January (depending upon what zones you hunt).
Parts of Connecticut are densely populated, and therefore bowhunting is often the only legal and acceptable means of hunting deer. Deer densities tend to be fairly high in these areas as well. Other parts of the state, particularly along the state’s western border with New York and the northwestern border with Massachusetts, are remote and rugged, and “hunt” more like the big woods of New York.
In both habitats, whitetail bucks have the time and nutrition that allows them to grow to maturity — and that means big racks. Combine these factors with an extended bow season and liberal bag limits, and you have the makings for some great bowhunting opportunities!
Despite all this potential, and the state’s reputation as a great source of archery “monster bucks,” the last few seasons had been a little less impressive in terms of top-end archery bucks. But not so in 2008!
This past season started out with a flourish. By late September, the Northeast Big Bucks Club was already receiving phone calls and e-mails about big bucks being arrowed throughout the state. Most of the bigger bucks seemed to have been taken early on in the campaign, but the trend continued through the late season.
In this article, I will feature the new state-record typical archery buck, plus several outstanding bucks that have been officially scored and entered in the Northeast Big Buck Club records.
THE BELISLE BUCK
Back in 1989, Ron Tavrick arrowed a monster 10-point buck in Litchfield County that grossed 175 0/8 and netted 171 6/8 points. It stood at the top of the list as the state-record typical for nearly 20 years until 2008, when Chris Belisle entered the woods in late September. Tavrick’s buck came from the rugged country in western Connecticut, but Belisle was hunting in Hartford County, primarily suburban habitat full of expensive houses and big backyard bucks.
One particular “backyard buck” was familiar to Belisle. In fact, he and his hunting partner, Mark Kulig, had two years worth of trail-cam photos of the giant.
As Belisle tells it, Kulig was a little leery about showing the photos to his friend because Belisle is self-employed and has more time to hunt! But Kulig let his friend see the photos, plus some additional shots taken during summer 2008, including some night photos taken just three weeks before Belisle downed the giant.
On opening day, Belisle was in his stand, listening to cars and busses go by, hoping to see the big buck. But throughout that week and over the weekend, neither hunter saw the buck. The next week, Belisle started seeing bucks on a ridge about 100 yards away, so he decided to place another tree stand on that ridge.
The next morning, Belisle was in the new stand, and immediately saw some does, out of range and down by his original stand. He was starting to have second thoughts about his stand choice!
Then at 6:34 a.m., Belisle spotted movement at 40 yards. It was the big buck, which quickly entered the underbrush and popped out just 5 yards from the hunter, directly to his left. The deer looked right at him!
Belisle was already at full draw, but because the buck was so close and standing head-on, the only shot would have been between the deer’s shoulder blades. Belisle didn’t like the angle, so he hesitated, waiting for a better shot.
The wise old buck spotted the hunter and snorted, bounded twice to the left, and then made his last mistake: He stopped and looked back at just 24 yards!
Belisle did not panic when the deer first bounded, and he was ready when the deer stopped to look back. The arrow flew true, and Belisle heard that “baseball bat sound” of a solid hit.
The deer jumped and ran off. Belisle heard a loud crash and hoped the deer was finally down from what looked to be a high lung entry and low offside lung exit.
Belisle took a full 25 minutes to gather his composure before he went over and found his arrow. His arrow was full of blood and air bubbles, which was a great sign.
Belisle then called some friends and waited for his buddies to arrive to help track (and, hopefully, drag) the buck out of the woods. He hoped he was doing everything right as he tried to (anxiously) enjoy the great moment.
As it turned out, the deer traveled about 150 yards, and although the team lost the blood trail for a while, they quickly recovered the buck in some briars in an open field. Belisle knelt down and said a prayer of thanks while his buddies celebrated over the size of the buck!
Later, Belisle called a local taxidermist to make an appointment to bring in the great buck. The taxidermist suggested that he get the rack measured. Carl Lieser, Connecticut’s regional director for the Northeast Big Buck Club and official scorer for the Boone and Crockett Club, went to Belisle’s house to green-score the buck.
Recognizing that the deer could be a new state record, Lieser arranged for the rack to be panel scored after the 60-day drying period. (Panel scoring is required by the NBBC to certify any new records, and requires that at least three certified NBBC measurers participate.) The result of the panel scoring was a new state-record archery typical!
A NEW STATE RECORD!
The Belisle buck’s gross score (before deductions) was 177 5/8 as an 11-point typical. The net Pope and Young score (after deductions) was 172 1/8, qualifying the rack for the Boone and Crockett Club’s all-time record book.
The buck was solid all around with an inside spread of 20 5/8 inches, and main beams of 23 5/8 inches each. The brow tines are exceptional, with lengths of 10 and 11 4/8 inches. In total, there were six tines over 9 inches long.
The rack’s mass is very good, with both bases measuring over 5 inches.
Deductions totaled only a little over 5 inches, with some of that due to the unmatched G-4 on the left side.
Interestingly, Belisle’s friend, Mark Kulig, had another buck scored by Carl Lieser while Belisle was having his buck scored. Kulig’s buck, taken back in 1990 but never officially scored until now, turned out to be the new state-record typical muzzleloader buck, grossing 164 4/8 inches as a 10-pointer. What a great story: two friends with two state records!
MORE GREAT BUCKS
As is often the case when a new state record hits the ground, other impressive bucks taken in the same season tend to be overlooked. Well, we’re not about to let that happen!
In 2008, there were many great bucks arrowed in the state. The second largest typical of the year fell to Paul Johnson in New Haven County. That 10-pointer grossed 164 2/8 and netted 160 2/8, and dressed a whopping 226 pounds! It ranks No. 7 all-time in the state for archery typicals.
Other great bucks from last season included Jason Stockburger’s Hartford County 10-pointer that scored 158 4/8 and Kyle Jay’s Tolland County 10-pointer that scored 151 1/8. And those are just the big bow bucks we know about!
There’s no doubt that many other great bow bucks will surface as well. The 2008 bow season was obviously a very good one in the Northeast, and Connecticut is once again leading the way with impressive bucks from throughout the state!