Year after year Virginia’s deer hunters harvest some incredible whitetails that are the envy of sportsmen across the continent. We’re talking typical bucks in the 180s and non-typicals that continually threaten the magical 200-class. There’s no question that someone, somewhere, is going to kill eye-popping whitetails somewhere in the Old Dominion, but the magic and mystery is pinpointing exactly where the great event will take place.
In 2017, the common thread among Virginia’s top-end non-typical bucks was “the unexpected.” One huge buck fell to a public-land hunter who had never seen or heard of the deer prior to his hunt. Another had trail cam images and several visual sightings of the deer but not on the property where it was finally killed.
Our third monster rag-horn was not supposed to be where he ended up and in fact the hunter had already given up on him — had he not decided to stay home and have coffee with his dogs he would never have seen his personal buck of a lifetime.
The lesson learned is a simple one: Expect and prepare for the unexpected. With all this in mind, here’s a look at three of the most remarkable Old Dominion non-typical bucks taken in the state in 2017.
Joshua Collins Buck
The check station at Fort Pickett was full of hustle and bustle on the morning of Nov. 14, 2017, as Joshua and Alvey Collins showed up for a day in the woods and some deer hunting. Alvey Collins, age 68, has been carrying his son Joshua, now 36, along hunting since he was 5 years old.
Both father and son prefer to use public land because it allows them the freedom to do things their own way. They don’t even mind the 2 ½ hour drive from their hometown of Virginia Beach to Fort Pickett in Blackstone Virginia to do so. This federally-owned property provides about 28,000 acres of hunting land and few basic rules.
The Collins’ left their residence at 3 a.m. to give them time to check in and get to their destination. They were in the woods prior to daylight. Joshua prefers still-hunting because it allows him to cover ground and scout at the same time, but he carries a folding chair on his back in case he finds a suitable place to take a stand.
The morning hunt didn’t produce. As the pair ate lunch they decided to move to a different location in the same zone several miles away and hunt an area where they had seen quality deer sign back in 2016. Just after 2:30 p.m, they headed in. Joshua planned to go deep into the property and his father went about half the distance.
It was a fairly windy afternoon, which made it a bit easier for Joshua to slip through the woods. Around 3:30 p.m. Joshua came upon a spot that had some well-worn deer crossings and he decided to sit for a while. The wind continued to blow. He had his head on a swivel trying to pick up movement.
As the afternoon turned into the evening he heard a twig snap close to him. He turned slowly to check it out and a doe was standing just feet from him. Busted! Joshua decided to stick it out. Only 10minutes had passed when he noticed a deer coming out of the thicket that the doe had bounded into. Immediately Joshua spotted the deer’s amazing head gear.
The buck was moving with his nose to the ground, oddly enough back-tracking the very same trail the doe had taken on her escape. Joshua recalled his father’s advice over the years: stay calm, take a deep breath and move ultra-slowly.
The monster buck was approaching quickly, and then it angled off slightly, which ultimately gave Joshua the time to raise his CVA Wolf muzzleloader. The buck came to an opening at 30 yards and Joshua pulled the trigger.
As the smoke dissipated Joshua could see the beast moving fast into another thicket not too far away, and then he heard what he believed to be a crash. Joshua felt that his shot was a quality one, but with all the sudden action and the deer running out of sight into the thicket he couldn’t be sure.
Alvey arrived quickly after Joshua’s shot. The duo picked up the blood trail leading into the thick undercover. Alvey waited on the outskirts in case the buck jumped up as Joshua headed into the brush. He had traveled only 20 yards before he saw the buck lying on the ground.
Neither hunter had imagined such a deer existed on the property. The mainframe 12-pointer with a total of 20 scoreable points definitely had genetics on his side with 7-inch bases, 9-inch brow tines and 14-inch G3s. Its total gross score was 191 4/8.
Russell Haynie Buck
With just under 3,000 acres of land and some 100 different stands to hunt in Northern Neck, Virginia, Russell Haynie has a lot of options when it comes to deer hunting, but on Sunday evening Nov. 12, 2017, he definitely decided to hunt the right place at the right time.
Haynie was born and raised in Richmond County, Virginia. His family owns several hundred acres scattered across the Northern Neck region, but one particular 30-acre plot has always been open to extended family and friends and is hunted often. Haynie has also hunted this piece over the years, but usually prefers to spend time on the properties that he and good friend Brandon Dillistin own and lease.
In this region of Virginia, 10-point bucks are rare, but one buck Haynie saw on a trail camera in 2015 on those hard-hunted 300 acres struck his fancy. It never showed itself during shooting hours and Haynie had all but given up on the buck because it hadn’t been seen in a couple years.
On Saturday morning, Nov. 11, 2017 a friend named Brian Wallace who also hunts those 30 acres was on his way to his stand and checked the SD card in his game camera that he had not looked at since August. Wallace got to his stand and began studying the images. To his surprise there was the missing buck, although now he had put on a few points and extra mass; he was a true Virginia trophy.
Wallace sent the image to Haynie who was also on stand hunting on property. Haynie was awestruck and wondered how that buck could have avoided so much hunting pressure. After lunch that day, Haynie decided to go to the only food source on the property, which was a bean field, to freshen up a historic scrape site and hang a new camera over the scrape.
Sunday morning Russell spent time with his family before heading in to hunt the bean field that afternoon. Even as he was using his Summit climber to ascend a tree near the field he was doubting his chances of seeing the mysterious buck.
Settling in around 2 p.m. Haynie used his deer call to perform a sequence of doe bleats followed by some quick buck grunts. He continued to call periodically through the afternoon, but saw no signs of deer.
As light began to fade, he noticed a doe standing in the mock scrape Haynie had made the day before. The doe then moved into the field and began munching on beans. Haynie was watching the woods behind her and caught a glimpse of movement. He noticed some antlers and suddenly there stood the buck of his dreams.
Haynie steadied his custom-made .45 caliber CVA smokeless muzzleloader, centered the crosshairs on the buck’s vitals and gently squeezed the trigger. The buck dropped immediately as Haynie quickly reloaded and walked cautiously toward the buck, prepared to shoot again if need be.
As he moved in on the buck lying on the ground, Haynie was overcome with emotion. Standing 6 feet, 5 inches and weighing in at 270 pounds, Haynie said that he is typically not very emotional, but looking down at his buck and reflecting on the day’s events he felt moved and tremendously appreciative.
Haynie’s buck is a mainframe 10-pointer with kickers off both G2s and a total of 13 scoreable points. The G2s were just over 12 inches long and the G3s were just over 13 inches.
As you can see the buck fits the eye test for sure and has it all. A local taxidermist green-scored Haynie’s buck at 183 3/8.
Peter Sutphin Buck
Peter Sutphin of Halifax County, Virginia, and a Virginia Tech graduate considers himself blessed to have harvested the biggest whitetail buck in the county’s history. The buck earned the name “Willie Chappell” after having shed his antlers in two areas on a 2,400-acre property owned by Sutphin’s cousin known as “Willie’s Woods” and “Chappell Strip.”
Sheds from this great Virginia buck were found over the past three seasons within an 800-yard radius. The buck’s existence became known in the summer of 2014 by way of trail camera images. At that point the buck carried a 10-point rack with several kickers. He would do a lot of growing by the time the 2017 season rolled around.
Although Willie’s home range was primarily on his cousin’s 2,400-acre farm, the only live sightings by Sutphin were on his 60-acre plot on the edge of town 2.5 miles away a sanctuary because it has the key elements that deer need including quality cover, water, a food plot and minimal hunting pressure.
During 2015, Willie was only seen on trail cameras, and in 2016 there were no sightings or pictures. His sheds were found each year which kept the legend alive. The summer of 2017 was ending and still there were no pictures of Willie.
Then as fall approached a trail cam revealed that old Willie’s rack had put on mass and additional kickers to make him a true Virginia giant. Over the next few weeks, Sutphin had one mission and that was to put an arrow into Willie Chappell. He knew he was on a time clock with this giant, because Willie only visited the sanctuary for a short period of time before heading back to his home territory.
Over the two weeks Sutphin hunted only when the wind was right, never back to back and never from the same stand. After two weeks of hunting without any sign of Willie, Sutphin decided to take a break and sleep in.
The next morning he let his dogs out for a bit and when he went to let them back in there stood Willie Chappell some 85 yards away with the sun glistening off his majestic rack. Sutphin was awestruck for a moment but then quickly fetched his old .50-caliber Knight muzzleloader that he had fortunately sighted in just a week before.
When he returned Willie had disappeared. Sutphin mentally kicked himself for not hunting that morning. He decided to creep out the door and position himself behind the picket fence that surrounded the yard just in case Willie appeared. All kinds of thoughts entered Peter’s mind at this point, but most were of disappointment and discouragement that Willie had again escaped.
Sutphin said though it felt like an hour had passed when Willie re-emerged from the woods, but it was only moments. The deer was about 140 yards away and moving briskly with his nose tight to the ground. The distance was a bit long for the dated Knight muzzleloader but Sutphin wasted no time. He yelled, “Hey!” in hopes that Willie would pause and offer a shot.
The big buck froze and Sutphin focused the cross hairs and gently squeezed the trigger. When the smoke cleared the legendary Halifax County buck lay motionless. The hunt was finally over.
Willie’s official B&C score is 190 3/8, with an inside spread was nearly 20 inches. Both G-2s were about 10 inches long. When asked what meant the most to him about harvesting this great whitetail Sutphin said, “The real trophy was seeing this deer mature and evolve into the incredible Old Dominion giant he had become.”