The trophy buck harvest has been booming in the Bluegrass State over the past decade or so. Hunters have had tremendous success bagging trophy class animals and the trend shows no signs of letting up. Kentucky has consistently been ranked in the top five states nationwide for producing Boone and Crockett bucks, oftentimes in the top three and at least once as the No. 1 state in the country. Last year proved to be yet another great year, with a total of 43 Booner registered bucks and several others likely not yet recorded.
Every person who is fortunate enough to harvest a trophy buck has a special story and memory to last a lifetime. Here are three of those stories from last season.
OGLE ARCHERY BUCK
Isaac Ogle got started hunting in North Carolina as a teen. He took his first deer when he was 16 years old. Later he joined the U.S. Air Force and had the opportunity to hunt in Texas.
"It is different terrain and game was abundant," said Ogle. "The deer were smaller, but plentiful. Texas is a hunter's paradise."
A friend then introduced Ogle to bowhunting. He moved to Kentucky in 1997 after leaving the Air Force and now predominantly bowhunts. He has taken several deer, but nothing compared to the success he enjoyed last season.
Ogle has leased a property in Estill County for the past five years and the property is known for producing giant bucks. The landowner has taken several nice bucks on the property, some going better than 170 Boone and Crockett. It is "awesome" habitat according to Ogle and there have been numerous big deer spotted and caught by trail cameras on the parcel.
Three years ago, a mainframe 6-point with kickers showed up on the radar, running with another monster buck that Ogle's kids named Maximus. They kids named the new deer Trashcan because of the "trash" on his antlers, and because they had a photo of the buck with soybeans wrapped around his rack. These deer were often seen in the summer, but once hunting season began, they seemed to go nocturnal.
Ogle does not often hunt in the earliest part of the bow season due to the heat, but last year on Labor Day weekend, an unusually cool morning sent Ogle and his friend John to the woods for an early morning hunt. They hunted about 250 to 300 yards apart and only planned to hunt until about 9:30.
Ogle sat in a lock-on stand overlooking a drain between two bean fields, while John sat a stand at the opposite end of the bean field along a tree line bordering the property. The friends had radios and agreed to alert each other of any activity.
Shortly after daybreak, Ogle spotted a coyote limping across the bean field to his left. Soon after John excitedly radioed, "I see deer," said John. "It's a buck. I think its Trashcan."
The buck came within 60 yards of John, but didn't offer a shot, before dropping in to a drain and heading toward Ogle. John let Ogle know what was happening.
"I sat patiently while time seemed to stand still," Ogle said. "I got ready, bow in hand, and tried not to think about it."
The buck slowly came into view swaying his head side to side as he made his way down the drain toward the waiting hunter. He came right underneath the stand. Ogle took aim and loosed the arrow. The downward shot struck directly in the spine and the buck dropped instantly.
Ogle said he called his friend then the rest was a blur. His mom was in visiting from North Carolina, so she, Ogle's wife and kids made the 25-minute drive to the farm to join the celebration.
"I was ecstatic at first and then a little overwhelmed to harvest such an awesome deer," said Ogle. "I was glad to share it with family and friends, and the landowner."
The big non-typical had 19 points, and was in full velvet. Trashcan ended up with a gross Pope & Young score of 195 7/8, netting 185 7/8.
FOGLE MUZZLELOADER BUCK
There had been a big buck showing up for the past four years on various parts of the Marion County property where Brad Fogle hunts. Fogle and six others hunt the 377-acre property that is mostly all woods. The hunters put out a few food plots and deer licks, along with some feeders to enhance the property and provide extra nutrition and incentive for area deer. The big buck had been seen in several of the food plots and caught on trail cameras, but had thus far evaded the hunting group.
On the first day of modern gun season last year, the big 12-pointer narrowly missed a trip home with Fogle's son, Nathan. The 25-year-old Fogle was watching a food plot and saw several bucks on opening morning. He ended up taking a nice 8-pointer that morning, with which he was quite pleased. However, trail camera photos later revealed that the big buck visited the same food plot about 45 minutes after Nathan left.
No one had another opportunity at the buck as the season was slipping away. December rolled in, bringing the late muzzleloader season. As the days passed, it appeared the giant buck was going to make through another season unscathed.
On the last weekend of late muzzleloader season, December 16 to be exact, Brad Fogle and two of his hunting partners hit the woods for an early morning hunt. They each went to homemade huts in different areas of the property. Fogle had little hope of seeing, much less harvesting, the buck this late in the year.
Fogle watched three does browsing, but otherwise the morning was uneventful. It started with temperatures in the low 30s and a western wind, so Fogle had the windows shut on his hut. As the morning passed the temperature slowly climbed, so he opened the right-side window.
The does fed for some 45 minutes when suddenly Fogle heard a twig break out the open window. The giant buck was right on him before he knew it and the hunter was shocked to see him standing 12 yards away. Fogle is left-handed, so all he had to do was ease the muzzleloader up, aim and squeeze the trigger, one of the easiest shots he'd ever made. The 50-caliber did its job and put the buck on the ground.
Fogle was elated as he called buddies to help him get the deer, and was beyond words during the celebrations with friends and family. He never thought he would get this buck, but believes trophy hunting in Kentucky is getting better every year.
The 12-point typical buck measured 178 5/8 inches gross. After 14 1/8 inches of deductions, it netted 164 4/8 Boone and Crockett. No one on the property had ever taken a buck that large. Fogle is not a big fan of shoulder mounts, so since he works at the Jim Beam distillery, he decided to do a skull mount on a section cut from a whiskey barrel. It definitely makes for a unique trophy and an extremely special memory.
COMBS RIFLE BUCK
Hurley Combs is no stranger to most Kentucky hunters, first catching attention in 2007, when he set a state record for velvet bucks with a bow. Two seasons later, Combs bagged another Boone and Crockett whitetail in Kentucky.
Later his fledgling elk guiding service (www.lostmountainoutfitters.com) began to take off and he gained a reputation by guiding clients to huge bull elk in eastern Kentucky.
But all has not been rosy for Combs. In February 2015, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Fortunately it was an acoustic neuroma tumor and not cancerous, but it was quite large and on his brain stem. He underwent a dramatic surgery at Vanderbilt, took a downward turn and was given only a short time to live. He spent 28 days in ICU, but pulled through, saying God was definitely on his side.
Combs made it out of the hospital and slowly began regaining strength and trying to get his life back. Permanently deaf in the right ear and with a shunt draining brain fluid to his stomach, life was certainly different but he felt blessed to be alive. One of the first things to get him back to his old self was guiding a hunter that fall to the first 400-inch bull elk taken in Kentucky.
Last season, the Combs family was camping and hunting in Casey County during the modern firearm season. They had a farm in nearby Laurel County, but they only pursued turkeys on the property. However, the family had placed a trail camera on the turkey farm in hopes of getting images of a bear that had been spotted on the farm. When Comb's father checked the camera, the photos revealed a massive buck.
Combs was actually in hunting in Hazard County for a few days, but returned later in the week to try for the buck on the Laurel County farm.
On Friday morning, Combs positioned his son, K.J., at the southwest end of the property in a hollow. Hurley and his father sprayed their boots with Buck Bomb doe estrus and split up, with the elder Combs heading to the top of a ridge on the west end of the property to watch a pasture field, while Hurley headed to the east end to scout for any sign of the big buck. He was not actively hunting the buck, only hoping to get an idea of his travel routine.
Combs reclined in a sandy area and began texting on his phone. Some time passed and he caught movement. He looked up and saw the huge buck only 30 yards away with his head down following the scent trail the hunter had made. Combs spooked the buck and it took off, leaving Combs to believe he was out of luck. Combs stood and checked where the buck disappeared. He tried his Primos can call and the buck eased back into view about 180 yards away. Combs shouldered his .308 Win., squeezed the trigger and watched his third Booner buck hit the ground.
The buck scored as a typical 5 by 5 rack with two abnormal points on the right base. It had an inside spread of 17 inches, with a gross score of 168 7/8. After 7 1/8 inches of deductions the buck netted a B&C score of 161 6/8.
Combs ended up calling the buck a "gift from dad," and dedicated it to the memory of his brother, who lost a battle to cancer at the age of 50. For him, it was a Godsend after his health issues and family loss.