It is hardly a secret that, for many thousands of Bluegrass hunters, fall deer season is the highlight of the year. To be sure, Billy Riddell Jr. of Irvine would be included in that majority; however, the 2001 season was markedly different for the hunter, because for the first time in 23 years he would not be sharing the opening day experience with his dad, Bill Sr.
“Dad was having some major back problems,” Riddell explained. “The farm we hunt lies along the Ohio River in Trimble County and he simply wasn’t able to make the trip. I had mixed emotions about going without him, but I knew it would still be a good family hunt since both my 14-year-old son, Jonathan, and brother, Brian, were going along.”
Well before daybreak on opening morning, Riddell and his son followed a path through a large timbered hollow that extended downward from a high bluff toward the river. After reaching a permanent stand built several years earlier, the two hunters climbed into position. Situated along the edge of a narrow powerline right-of-way, the location had proven to be successful for both hunters during previous seasons. In 1997, the stand produced a huge 150-class 12-pointer for Riddell, while two years later Jonathan took an impressive 14-pointer there.
“The morning was clear and calm,” Riddell noted. “Shortly after dawn we heard a buck grunt from a nearby cedar thicket. I answered back with my grunt call, but there was no further response and no sign of deer movement along the powerline right-of-way.”
Although hardwoods covered the majority of the hollow, pockets of big cedars scattered along both hillsides made seeing through the timber exceedingly difficult. However, this dense cover, lying immediately below agricultural cover crops planted along the top of the bluff, is specifically why deer continually frequented the location. The key was watching for bucks crossing the open right-of-way.
“Around 8:30 we took a break and Jonathan got some deer jerky out of his backpack,” Riddell said. “While we were eating, I heard a stick break and moments later, about 85 yards down the powerline, a big buck came out of the woods.”
The buck was walking quickly and Riddell knew it was only a matter of seconds before the deer would be across the 10- to 12-yard-wide right-of-way. Jonathan’s rifle was in his lap, under the backpack and deer jerky.
“I could see that Jonathan was never going to get his rifle up in time,” Riddell related. “At the last second, I raised my 7mm magnum and fired just as the buck reached the opposite woods line. The deer dropped in its tracks.”
The entire sequence of events happened so quickly neither hunter was fully aware of the buck’s actual size. The two remained in the stand for several minutes just to make sure the deer was down for good.
“After climbing out of the stand and walking down the right-of-way toward where the deer was lying, the buck seemed to get bigger and bigger with each step,” Riddell noted. “When Jonathan reached the deer, he said, ‘Dad, this buck is big as an elk.’ I knew it was a pretty decent deer when I shot, but up close the buck’s size was a little overwhelming. We counted the antler points several times and came up with over 20, although neither of us was really sure if a couple were long enough to qualify. At that time, the actual number really didn’t matter very much.”
A short while later, when Brian arrived on the scene, he, too, was astonished at the buck’s huge size. Even after field dressing, the deer was still so heavy that it took the men over two hours to drag it approximately 100 yards to the edge of the woods.
“Dragging the buck was pretty tough, but loading it into the back of the pickup took one heck of an effort,” Riddell said. “The plan had been to hunt the entire weekend, but everyone was so excited about the deer we decided to drive back home. It would be an understatement to say the buck attracted a lot of attention on the highway.”
The following day, Riddell took the deer to a local processor in Irving where it was weighed at 242 pounds. This means that on the hoof, the giant whitetail easily topped the 300-pound mark.
Following the required 60-day drying period, Riddell carried the massive rack to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife’s main office in Frankfort. There, Boone and Crockett (B&C) measurer Norm Minch officially taped the antlers.
Measuring results include a total of 20 scorable points, 10 of which make up the basic 5×5 typical frame. Particularly impressive features include 26-inch main beams, six tines that measure between 11 1/4 and 8 inches, and outstanding antler mass. Consider, for example, that five of the eight circumference measurements are between 5 and 6 inches.
The 10-point frame grosses 174 1/8 and nets, after minor asymmetry deductions, 169 2/8. After including the rack’s 10 additional abnormal points, which total 36 4/8 inches, the final non-typical B&C score is 205 6/8.
In addition to qualifying for both the Awards and All-Time record books, Riddell’s great whitetail is the first B&C buck ever recorded for Trimble County and ranks as the top non-typical of the 2001 season.
“My hunt should have been over then and there,” Givens said. “The buck was 60 yards away, feeding in an open field with three does, but I could not get my muzzleloader to fire. Prior to that moment, I had never experienced any problem with the rifle, so to say the least, I was pretty frustrated and disappointed.”
Job responsibilities had severely limited Givens’ bowhunting opportunities last year. However, he took a week off to hunt the farm during the November gun season. As the days passed, the hunter continued to see a number of does and young bucks, but the big whitetail he was hoping for another chance at seemed to have vanished.
“My vacation time ended on the weekend and Saturday afternoon was going to be my last opportunity to hunt for the season,” Givens noted. “Earlier in the week I had found a large scrape near a deep hardwood hollow and I decided to make my final attempt in that area.”
Positioned in a tree stand on a timbered point that overlooked the hollow, Givens had an excellent view of the surrounding hillsides. Just as the sun was beginning to sink below the western horizon, a young 6-pointer ambled into view and passed near the stand on its way down into the hollow. The buck was barely out of sight when the hunter suddenly detected additional movement down the hillside to his right.
Turning in that direction, Givens immediately spotted the same big buck he had seen during muzzleloading season. The deer was approximately 70 yards down the hill, walking along an old logging road.
“The last rays of the setting sun happened to be shining down through that particular section of woods and the sunlight highlighted the buck’s rack in such a way that it seemed there were antlers sticking outward in every direction,” Givens related. “Not wanting to take a chance on shooting through limbs and branches at a moving target, I hollered sharply to stop the deer. The technique worked, except that the buck stopped right in the middle of a small clump of brush and saplings. Luckily, I could still see the outline of the deer’s body and I fired.”
Amazingly, the buck exhibited no reaction to the hunter’s first shot, other than to turn and begin walking up the hill. Givens quickly fired a second round and the huge deer crumpled to the ground.
“I’ve killed a number of deer in the past and I seldom ever get nervous, but I had a good view of the buck where it had fallen and I started to get the shakes,” Givens related. “I remained in the stand for several minutes, trying to relax and calm down, but when I finally walked to where the deer was lying, I had to delay the field dressing task because my hands were still shaking so bad that I was afraid I would cut myself.”
One look at the giant 14-point rack and the hunter’s statement becomes quite understandable. The word “exceptional” could be used to describe most of the antler measurements. These include main beams of 27 and 29 inches that hook widely outward to form impressive spreads of 23 5/8 inches outside and 21 2/8 inches inside. The tine length is simply amazing, with brows (G-1s) that tape 9 7/8 and 9 3/8 inches, followed by paired G-2s of 13 7/8 and 11 2/8 inches, and G-3s of 12 1/8 and 13 4/8 inches.
The 5×4 basic typical frame grosses a remarkable 185 3/8 and nets 174 2/8. This is a particularly impressive total because a 9-point typical is technically scored as an 8-pointer since the unmatched extra point is subtracted from the final total. If there were no abnormal points present on the rack, the buck would be the highest scoring 9-pointer ever taken in the state.
However, in this case, the antlers have five additional abnormal points, totaling 23 5/8 inches, which converts the rack’s classification to non-typical with a final B&C score of 197 7/8. Givens great buck brings Hardin County’s all-time total of B&C whitetails to seven; four of these are classed as non-typical.
Hunting a remote section of forested rocky-topped ridges, Angel was watching a hillside thicket he and his son had discovered, where a buck had literally destroyed a number of small trees and bushes. The hunter spotted the big-antlered buck shortly after daybreak on opening morning and managed to drop the huge deer with a single well-placed shot.
The buck’s awesome rack totals 18 points, 10 of which comprise the basic 5×5 typical frame. Most impressive are 26-inch main beams, 9-inch brow tines and tremendous antler mass throughout the entire rack. For those who think a rack must have great antler spread to make the record book, take note that the inside spread on this buck is only 13 6/8 inches. After netting 170 2/8 for the typical 10-point frame, 25 7/8 inches of abnormal points brings the final non-typical B&C score to 196 1/8. Angel’s huge whitetail ranks as the biggest non-typical ever recorded for Whitley County.
Needless to say, the buck’s unusual antler growth, which includes 28 points, certainly made all of the effort worthwhile. Although the rack’s basic 9-point frame nets only 134 5/8, there are a whopping 58 4/8 inches of abnormal points, which makes the final B&C score 192 2/8.
The 10-point typical frame grosses 184 4/8 and nets 177 3/8, well above B&C’s 170 minimum for the All-Time record book. Unfortunately, the rack also includes eight small abnormal points, totaling 15 inches, which must be added to the score, but sets the final figure just below B&C’s All-Time book non-typical minimum of 195. Nevertheless, Yancosek’s great buck ranks as the highest scoring non-typical ever taken in Knox County.
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