Photo courtesy of Chris Jones
By his own words, 23-year-old Christian Jones of Norristown, Pennsylvania, lives and breathes deer hunting. He’s been bowhunting since he was 12. Last year, he decided to try his luck with a crossbow. (In 2004, the area where he hunts in Montgomery County was designated as a Special Regulation Area, where crossbows could be legally used during the deer season.)
In 2001, Jones missed two shots at a 2 1/2-year-old, 140-class 10-pointer with his compound bow, and believes the buck he missed eventually grew into the huge non-typical that he would later arrow in 2004.
THE QUEST BEGINS
Jones lives in a small community typical of rural Pennsylvania, where farms and numerous wood lots dot the countryside. During the summer of 2001, Mike Maniscalco, one of Jones’ closest hunting buddies, said that his brother had seen several nice bucks in his back yard on a regular basis. Maniscalco’s brother had several apple and pear trees in his yard, and the fruit from these trees was popular with the local deer herd. Jones soon learned about a trophy 10-pointer that frequently was seen eating apples.
During bow season that fall, Jones caught up with the big 10-pointer on a nearby 15-acre wood lot. However, he missed two shots at the buck, shooting over the deer’s back.
The following summer, Maniscalco’s brother saw the buck in his back yard on several occasions. By now the deer had grown several distinct non-typical points on its right antler.
“I didn’t see him at all that year, but we knew he was still around,” Jones said. “I believe he was 3 1/2 years old that season (2002), and he was starting to become very reclusive.”
In 2003, the non-typical points on the buck’s left side grew even longer and the rack was bigger than ever.
“During the summer he was seen all the time, but when the season rolled around in October, he disappeared into thin air,” Jones said. “It was a real mystery.”
IT ALL COMES TOGETHER
Once again in summer 2004, Maniscalco’s brother started seeing the buck at night in his back yard.
“He kept telling me I ought to come over and see the buck for myself,” Jones said. “I must have gone over there 15 times without seeing him. Finally, one night, there he was! He was a giant. I put out several trail cameras, and throughout July and August I got pictures of him almost every night. He stopped coming at the end of August.
“By early October, I honestly thought the big non-typical might be dead,” Jones said. “He hadn’t been seen in a while, so I started hunting another pretty good buck I knew about. A week or so later my dad’s boss got a picture of a giant buck on his camera phone from his truck. He owns some wooded property about three miles from where I live. The moment I saw the picture, I knew it was him!”
MOMENT OF TRUTH
“Soon the big buck was being sighted again all over the place,” Jones said. “Then, one day in early November, as I was driving home, I saw him standing in a field not far from my house. I decided to draw a big map of the area and put an X wherever he had been spotted. I had just moved into a new house, and the second night I was there, I saw him standing in my back yard!
“Early the next morning, I happened to glance out the window as he was going back across the road into a three-acre wood lot,” Jones recalled. “Between my own sightings and my map, I had a pretty good layout of the route he was running.”
Jones’ early-morning sighting had taken place on Friday, Nov. 5.
“I was fired up,” Jones said, “but I couldn’t hunt again until Monday morning, Nov. 8.”
Jones planned to hunt for several hours before work that morning with Steve Gatlos, another good friend. As Gatlos approached Jones’ house in the pre-dawn darkness to pick him up, he saw five does cross the road and enter the same wood lot that the big non-typical had entered Friday morning.
The two hunters entered the wood lot before daylight and set up in ground stands about 40 or 50 yards apart. Around 7:30 a.m., Jones saw a nice buck approaching his position. Just as he began to prepare for a possible shot, he looked over and saw Gatlos frantically motioning to him and making bleats with a can-type call. Eventually, the buck went the other way, and Jones remembers being annoyed that his friend had spooked a nice buck.
“But I didn’t stay mad for long,” Jones said. “Suddenly a doe came charging right toward me. Right behind her was a giant buck, the biggest deer I had ever seen in the woods!”
Unbeknownst to Jones, Gatlos had been watching the huge non-typical buck for several minutes. His frantic signaling was an effort to tell Jones not to shoot the smaller buck.
“The doe almost ran over me,” Jones said. “When the buck saw me at about 15 yards, he slammed on the brakes and dug in with his front legs. He was coming straight on, and all I had time to do was raise my crossbow, aim and fire. It was a 10-yard shot. The arrow hit just under the throat patch and went all the way in up to the fletching. He immediately turned and disappeared. I knew I had shot a huge buck, but I didn’t know it was the buck because everything had happened so fast.”
Now it was a matter of what to do next. Jones had to go to work shortly. Should he try to track the deer immediately, or should he wait?
Jones does contract work with his dad. He called his dad on the phone and explained the situation. His dad told him to search for blood. When Jones got down into the wooded bottom where the buck had run, he found plenty of blood. Then, looking over to the opposite hillside, he saw the buck.
“He was standing with his head down about 80 yards away,” Jones said. “I immediately backed out of the area.”
“He kept telling me I ought to come over and see the buck for myself,” Jones said. “I must have gone over there 15 times without seeing him. Finally, one night, there he was!”
Jones decided to go to work and give the buck plenty of time to die. The next few hours were full of worry and anxiety. Because the buck was in a very small wood lot, Jones was sure another hunter might easily spook him or find him. To add to the worry, a number of houses had been built adjacent to the wood lot, and Jones didn’t want his buck to end up in someone’s back yard. Needless to say, Jones didn’t get much work done!
About 4 p.m., he called Gatlos. The two hunters went back to the hillside where the buck had last been seen.
“He was lying on the ground,” Jones said. “He had only gone about 15 yards from the spot where I had last seen him.”
Jones was elated. The giant whitetail that had eluded so many bowhunters finally was his. For the 23-year-old deer hunter, it was the experience of a lifetime.
“I coach football and I had practice on Monday afternoon,” Jones said. “So Gatlos and I loaded the buck in my truck and I headed out to the ball field. He caused quite a sensation there. Later that night, 30 or 40 people came by my house. It was total chaos.”
The next day, Jones received a call from a taxidermist near Philadelphia saying that Michael Waddell of Realtree Road Trips and Cameron Hayes, editor of Eastman’s Bowhunting Journal, were in the area filming a commercial. They had heard about his buck and wanted to see it. So Jones again loaded his trophy in the truck and drove down to meet them.
Chris’ buck is a main-framed 5×5 with five additional abnormal sticker points. The tip of the left antler makes an abrupt downward curve, giving it a very distinct look. The right antler contains four abnormal points measuring 16 6/8 inches in length. The left antler contains a split G-2 and a 1-inch sticker point that could not be measured because its base is wider than its length. The buck is believed to have been 5 1/2 years old.
Even with 10 inches in deductions, the great rack netted 197 non-typical Boone and Crockett points. Had several broken tines been present, it easily would have netted over 200 points.
“The entire experience was a dream come true,” Jones said. “The year 2004 was definitely a good year for big bucks in our area. Thanks to the new antler restrictions in Pennsylvania, I saw more 120- and 130-class bucks than I had ever seen before. Judging from all the nice bucks we saw last year, 2005 ought to be even better!”