Greg Reinhardt of Alexandria has spent the past several deer seasons bowhunting a forested tract of hills and hollows in Owen County, located in the state's Outer Bluegrass region. During the 2009 season, one of Reinhardt's hunting companions, Rick Bird, began getting trail camera photos of an exceptionally big non-typical buck. By all indications, the huge deer's movement pattern was exclusively nocturnal, since no one had ever sighted the buck and all of the photos were recorded two to three hours after midnight.
"We thought that possibly the rut, weather conditions, or some other factor would eventually initiate a change in the buck's movements," Reinhardt said. "But that didn't seem to be the case; the season ended without the deer ever being seen."
Understandably, there were pretty high expectations for the 2010 bow season. However, as the weeks passed, from late summer, through September and into October, there were no sightings or trail camera photos to confirm that the big deer was still in the area. In fact, the buck seemed to be a phantom.
On November 1 Bird's trail camera, positioned at the same location as in 2009, recorded another photo of the huge deer. The photo was taken during the middle of the night.
"Although the hillside and creek bottom near the trail camera's location was hunted during the remainder of the week, the buck was not spotted," Reinhardt said. "On Friday afternoon, I decided to hunt a site across the creek on the opposite hillside, approximately 500 yards away.
Reinhardt climbed into position around 3 o'clock. Although there were numerous big oaks that covered the finger ridge, the under story was fairly open and he had a good view of the surrounding terrain.
Shortly before 6 o'clock, the hunter saw a doe walk out of the thick creek bottom about 100 yards away. Ever so slowly, the deer began moving along the hillside, pausing occasionally to feed on the numerous acorns that covered the ground.
"The doe came on up the hill and was about to walk directly behind the tree where I was located," Reinhardt said. "Since there had been no indication that another deer was anywhere in the vicinity, I decided this would be a perfect opportunity to put some meat in the freezer."
With his bow in hand, Reinhardt carefully stood up and turned slightly to look for the doe. At the same moment, he glanced over his left shoulder and what he saw literally took his breath. Down the hillside, only 60 yards away, the giant non-typical was walking directly toward him.
"My nerves were a mess," Reinhardt said. "Fortunately, I was already in standing position. As the buck continued to advance, I decided to wait until the deer was about to pass the stand so I would have a broadside shot But at 25 yards, the buck suddenly stopped and came to full alert. I'm not sure what happened, but when the deer cautiously took two steps backward, I knew there were no longer any options."
The buck was standing in a front-quartering position, which allowed the hunter just enough of an angle to aim behind the shoulder. At the shot, the big whitetail whirled around, bounded several yards down the hillside, paused briefly and then slowly walked out of sight.
"Initially, I felt good about the shot and fully expected to see the deer fall," Reinhardt said. "But when the buck walked out of sight, I immediately began second-guessing myself. At that point, I was shaking so bad that I had to sit down."
Not wanting to take any unnecessary chances, Reinhardt reluctantly decided to wait until the following morning before attempting to trail the deer. After a nearly sleepless night, he was joined by his father-in-law, Dan Schabell, and Rick Bird to assist with the search.
"We immediately picked up a good blood trail and after following it around the hillside, we spotted the buck lying just ahead through the woods," Reinhardt said. "Obviously, the deer went down shortly after disappearing from view. I'm sure the people in the next county could have heard us hollering."
One look at the buck's rack and it becomes quite easy to justify a reason to celebrate. Official antler measurements, taken after the required 60-day drying period, include 20 scorable points, 12 of which comprise the basic typical frame. Long main beams exceeding 26 inches, four tines that tape between 12 and 10 4/8 inches in length, and an inside spread of 18 4/8 inches, contribute to a great gross typical score of 187 4/8. Minor asymmetry deductions reduce the net figure to 182 4/8. After including the eight additional abnormal points totaling 26 1/8 inches, the rack's final non-typical Pope and Young score is 208 5/8. Reinhardt's buck is the top non-typical bow kill of 2010 and the deer ranks No. 4 on the state's all-time list of non-typical archery kills. Within Owen County the impressive whitetail stands as the biggest bow kill ever recorded.
DALE PRATHER'S 17-POINTER
During the first two months of the 2010 season, long-time bowhunter, Dale Prather of Somerset couldn't quite figure out the right formula; or for that matter the best location to concentrate his hunting effort. Splitting his time among several different sites, the hunter was seeing plenty of deer, but nearly all were does and small bucks.
"The last week before the opening of gun season, I decided to return to a new area that I had hunted a couple of times in early September," Prather said. "There were two travel corridors deer were utilizing to move between a wooded hollow and a big valley. On both of those early outings I saw numerous does, but no bucks. Nevertheless, while scouting, I had found several impressive old rubs from the previous year, so I was confidant that a few mature bucks were in the area."
Prather returned at daybreak on Thursday morning. The wooded hillsides had been logged a couple of years earlier and much of the terrain resembled a jungle, with pockets of brush, sapling thickets and sawbriars.
"There was no way to maneuver through the thick vegetation in the dark, particularly carrying a portable stand," Prather noted. "The going was pretty rough even in daylight, but I managed to get positioned in my stand by 8 o'clock."
Approximately an hour later, Prather heard a noise on the hill behind him, and just as he turned to look, a big doe popped over the edge of a small finger ridge and began walking along the steep hillside. Although the hunter was 30 feet above the ground, the doe was only slightly below the level of his stand, about 25 yards away on the adjacent hillside.
"I didn't know if another deer was behind her, but I went ahead and stood up in the stand," Prather said. "After walking a few more steps, the doe suddenly stopped and looked back. When I glanced in that direction, there was a huge buck standing at the edge of the ridge."
The doe immediately jumped and bounded off down the hillside. The buck also started running, but eventually stopped at nearly the same spot where the doe had been standing, less than 25 yards from the hunter's stand.
"There was no way I could shoot an arrow through the maze of limbs and leaves between me and the deer," Prather noted. "I assumed the buck would continue on down the hillside, but evidently he was uncertain which way the doe had gone. After a few seconds, the deer bounded about 10 yards farther up the hillside and stopped behind a cedar. At this point, the buck was now nearly on the same level as the stand. But all I could see was its head and antlers, which were actually even larger than I had initially thought."
The hunter saw that there was a small opening in the brush just a few yards in front of the buck. Still at full draw, he slowly eased the bow in that direction and waited.
"Just as the deer began to leave, I grunted loudly with my mouth," Prather said. "The buck abruptly stopped and turned in my direction; for a split second we were staring eye to eye at 20 yards."
The big whitetail had stopped just beyond the main opening; however, there was a much smaller hole in the vegetation that revealed most of the deer's chest area. At such close range, the opening was more than adequate for the archer's arrow.
"When I shot, the buck instantly took off down the hillside, running through or over everything in its path," Prather said. "A few seconds after disappearing from view, I was fairly certain I heard the deer fall."
Realizing he was going to need help, Prather immediately called Rick Mounts, a frequent hunting companion, and Randy Thompson, his brother-in-law. He knew both men were hunting on other nearby farms. After listening to a brief account of the hunt, both men readily agreed to assist with the search.
"We waited about an hour before walking up the hill to where the buck had been standing," Prather noted. "By this time, I was so nervous and excited that I let them do most of the trailing. For the first 50 yards, there were just a few drops of blood, but then we found where the buck had fallen and from that point on anyone could have followed the trail. The deer only traveled an additional 50 or 60 yards, but vines and other vegetation were so thick that it was impossible to see any distance. Even so, we were practically running down the hillside. Once we got our hands on the buck and Rick and Randy saw the rack, we did some real celebrating."
The buck's 17-point rack includes a basic 10-point typical frame that exhibits an outstanding combination of antler mass and tine length. The exceptionally long main beams exceed 28 and 27 inches, the inside spread is 20 3/8 inches, four tines tape between 12 4/8 and 10 7/8 inches in length, and six of the eight circumference measurements exceed 5 inches. After grossing 189 6/8, asymmetry deductions reduce the net typical score to 184 5/8. The seven additional abnormal points, totaling 23 4/8 inches, brings the final non-typical P&Y score to 208 1/8.
For 2010, that placed the buck second by just a whisker, behind the big Owen County non-typical. On the state's all-time list of non-typical bow kills, it ranks No. 5.
AN 18-POINT LBL GIANT
On an afternoon in early November, bowhunter Clay Ryan of Murray was positioned along the border of a picked cornfield and cedar thicket on the Land Between the Lakes. Several well-used trails meandered through the thick cover and along a shallow creek drain. Nearby, a number of small pines in an old field site had been freshly rubbed.
"I occasionally did some rattling and tried a bleat call a few times, but there was no response until right at dark," Ryan said. "I could hear the buck walking in the thicket and detect movement from time to time, but it was just too dark to clearly see."
About a week later, the hunter returned to the location for another afternoon hunt. In this instance, he moved his stand a little farther through the thicket to a point where the cedars gave way to hardwoods and several fresh scrapes were scattered through the woods. However, in spite of the impressive buck sign, not a single deer appeared.
"From all indications, I was convinced there was a big buck in the area," Ryan said. "I returned two days later and climbed into my stand around 3 o'clock. After going through three or four sequences of using a bleat and grunt call, I heard the sounds of a deer walking down the side of an adjacent ridge, heading in my direction."
The hunter's big buck theory was more than validated by his first glimpse of the deer. As the buck continued to approach, Ryan slowly rose to his feet and came to full draw. At 18 yards, the buck stopped, looking for the other deer it had heard.
"The buck was standing in a front quartering position," Ryan noted. "For a second or two I considered waiting to see if the deer might turn and offer a better shooting opportunity, but with the buck so close, I decided that was too big of a risk. I released the arrow."
Official antler measurements qualify the hunter's accomplishment. The impressive mahogany-colored rack has 18 scorable points, 12 of which form a very symmetrical typical frame. Tine length is easily the most outstanding feature, with eight tines measuring between 10 2/8 and 7 inches. After grossing 196 6/8, minor deductions drop the final non-typical score to 190 3/8.
However, a recent ruling by the Pope and Young Club said racks must have 15 inches of abnormal points to be considered non-typical. In this instance, the total inches of abnormal points is 14 3/8, therefore the buck must be entered in the typical category with a score of 161 5/8 P&Y.
ANDY STACHON'S 18-POINTER
One additional, great non-typical was taken last season by Andy Stachon of Winchester. Stachon had gotten numerous trail camera photos of the big deer on his Jessamine County farm, and in late September his hunting efforts paid off.
The buck's massive 18-point rack includes main beams that exceed 27 and 26 inches, four tines that exceed 10 inches, and eight circumference measurements that average nearly 5 inches. After grossing 197 5/8, the buck nets a final P&Y non-typical score of 188 3/8.