Sportsman Ed McCay puts Monmouth County back on the map with the largest bow kill from last season. Here's his story!
This shot on the day of the harvest shows Ed McCay with his high-racked 16-point non-typical bow kill. It would have been an 18-pointer if two tines weren't broken off. Photo courtesy of Ed McCay
By Gary Caputi
It might be hard to imagine, but there are still a few real outdoorsmen in New Jersey. I don't mean avid hunters or fishermen; there are lots of those. I'm talking about someone who knows and loves the woods, fields, lakes, streams, bays and even the beaches - and has devoted his career and all of his private time to being in them. I know they still exist because I recently had the opportunity to meet such a person to learn about an impressive buck he took this past bow season.
Ed McCay's love of the outdoors is a legacy passed on to him from his father. Unfortunately, Ed McCay Sr. is suffering with Alzheimer's disease and is confined to a care facility. So last season was the first in 34 years that the father-son duo could not hunt together. As a result, Ed McCay did not even plan on going hunting until his wife, Lorraine, gave him a gentle push. She even went so far as to scout out areas near their home, including the place where he took the buck.
Ed and Lorraine both work for the New Jersey Parks Service and are currently posted at Allaire State Park. A native of the small town of Tabernacle, Ed has only lived in Monmouth County for the past three years, but he has hunted all over the state and in New England. When asked how many deer he has to his credit in New Jersey, he provided a loose estimate of somewhere around 70.
Prior to the institution of the zone permit system, hunters were allowed one deer per season with a bow and one with a shotgun. Most years Ed hunted with both. When the new system went into effect, he took approximately seven deer per season; and over the past three years, Lorraine has taken her share of whitetails, too.
Lorraine and Ed make the perfect outdoor couple. She is the resident naturalist at Allaire. They live in a house right across the street from the main entrance to the park. No long commutes for this pair. Lorraine loves to hunt and fish and is quite a shot with a bow. She is an accomplished tracker and can read deer sign with the best.
"We spend most of our time in the woods all over the state," Ed commented. "We are always tracking herds, looking for sign. In late winter, we search the woods for dropped antlers, which may provide clues to where we might find a trophy buck the next year. When I'm not out, Lorraine is. In fact, she was the one who picked the area I was hunting when I came across the big buck."
The deer we discussed over coffee was a huge 16-point non-typical buck that dressed out at 184 pounds. Ed's trophy is the largest deer in its class taken with a bow in New Jersey in 2002. It will rank high in the all-time classic standings for archery.
"What about the hunt?" I can hear you say as you look at the pictures of the deer on the adjoining pages. Well, let's start off with where it didn't take place and that consists of all the more remote wooded areas in the southern and western areas of the state better known for producing big bucks. This deer was shot in Zone 16 in the town of Howell in Monmouth County. Lorraine scouted the area because it was close to home and it didn't take long before she found signs of some very respectable bucks. In fact, the day of the hunt, Ed went there to try and bag an 8-pointer that they had both seen. That was the intended target on the eventful day.
"I left the house early the morning of Nov. 20 so I could be in the woods and in position before first light," he said. "I brought along my climber tree stand, even though it makes a little noise getting up into the tree. I used to worry about the racket, but in years past I've had deer walk under the stand within minutes of getting it in place, so I don't think it's a problem.
"The stand was set about 20 feet above the trail where Lorraine had seen an 8- or 10-pointer with a high, white rack. She had shown me the spot and encouraged me to go there, even though I really didn't have my usual desire. Having my father in a care facility in South Jersey, running to see him as much as I can and taking care of work and other obligations had been wearing me thin. Lorraine thought it would do me good and she was right," he remarked.
"I was sitting above the trail for about half an hour when the buck with the white rack came crashing out of the woods onto the trail well out of range. Its nose was in the air testing for does and he apparently was hot on a trail because he didn't turn toward the tree I was in. He crossed the trail and disappeared on the other side."
Ed was starting to think he had missed his chance that day and sat quietly hoping that "white rack" would make another appearance. About 15 or 20 minutes later, another large buck came out of the woods onto the trail and turned in the direction of the stand.
"I couldn't make out if this was the same deer at first because it was pretty far away. Then it started coming slowly down the trail, getting closer with each step. It was a big buck, bigger than the white rack, and as it got closer I did a double take. I was looking at what was probably the largest rack I'd ever seen! Once, during shotgun season a lot of years ago, I saw a deer that might have been bigger, but I never got close enough to confirm it. This one was right there and walking toward me.
"Then, just to complicate things, a second buck came out of the woods onto the trail. It appeared to be another 8-pointer, but not the white rack, and it fell into line right behind the big one. They were both shuffling warily down the trail right toward the tree where I was sitting and the spot I had selected as the kill zone," Ed said.
"Now I've been hunting a long time and shot a lot of deer," he remarked, "and I thought I was over buck fever; but when I was finally able to clearly see the size of the rack on the lead deer, I started to get a little shaky. I had to force myself to turn away, take a few deep breaths and then slowly turn back. I kept my eyes on the big one as I carefully rose to my feet for a shot. He didn't seem to notice, but the 8-pointer behind him sure did. His ears went up and he looked right at me! I was sure he was going to spook and scare the big one in the process.
"But the smaller buck didn't spook and stood its ground as the big one walked into my line of sight," Ed explained. "I raised the bow
, an old compound that has seen a lot of time in the woods, and nocked a graphite shaft fitted with a retractable broadhead. I don't shoot with a release, just a glove. It's less to worry about when you're trying to stay calm and get off a shot. The deer took a couple more steps right to where I wanted it for a solid heart-lung shot and I let the arrow fly!
"I heard it hit and the deer dropped its head and took off like a greyhound. I thought I had hit it through the vitals, but was so shaken by the size of the animal that I just sat in the stand for a while to calm down. I probably sat there for half an hour, reliving what had happened. Then I gathered my stuff, walked out of the woods to my truck, picked up the cell phone and called Lorraine," Ed said.
"When Ed called, he said he thought he shot a 14-pointer. I was skeptical and asked him if he was sure. I had seen what appeared to be an 8- or 10- pointer there, but nothing that big," remarked Lorraine McCay.
"I drove home to get her to help me track the buck. She was excited; I was excited. We got back to the tree and started in the direction in which the deer had run. A short distance away we picked up a few blood drops, but nothing like I thought we should see if I had gotten a solid hit on the animal. I stopped on the first drops to hold the location and Lorraine walked ahead looking for the next. When she'd find more drops, she'd hold that position and I'd leapfrog ahead to look for more.
"About 100 yards from the tree, I found my arrow. The deer must have turned and pulled it out. From there the blood trail got heavy and then, suddenly, there was nothing. I found tracks, but no more blood. I began questioning whether I had hit the deer in the chest like I thought."
Looking for more signs, the pair kept walking around the area, which consisted of mixed hardwood trees, scattered brush and blow-downs, when Lorraine stopped, looked into some fallen branches and said, "O-h m-y G-o-d!"
"I couldn't believe my eyes," she said. "I didn't see the deer's body at first, just a massive rack sticking up from behind some branches. The deer lay dead, the victim of a perfect shot through both lungs. It had run a total of about 300 yards, collapsed and died quietly.
They field dressed the trophy buck and then packed it out of the woods to the truck, still stunned by the size of the rack on the deer. Ed counted out 16 points with two additional tines broken off, which would have made it an 18-pointer. The spread was enormous at 21 0/8 inches. Its longest tine measures out at 12 0/8 inches. His deer officially scores 161 2/8 as a non-typical and it is the largest non-typical whitetail taken in the state last year. A.J. Neilsen scored the big buck. But the story doesn't end there.
Ed was once again in the woods in Monmouth County in mid-December, only this time he was on a small stretch of public land off Hurley's Pond Road in Farmingdale. It was muzzleloader season. Rather than his own rifle, he was carrying his ailing father's .50-caliber Hawkins Renegade as his way of having him along, if not in person, in spirit. Once again, he was in the right place at the right time when he bagged a beautiful 8-pointer that dressed out to a respectable 170 pounds. This deer has a large, symmetrical rack that, while somewhat dwarfed by the 16-pointer, will still look good in his collection.
When asked if they had any tips or pointers they might pass along to their fellow hunters, Lorraine spoke up right away.
"I used to get winded by deer pretty regularly," she said, "and it was frustrating. After all the work to find them, set up and be ready, to have a deer pick up your scent, turn tail and go the other way is disappointing. I hit on a new kind of camouflage called "Scent Blocker" that has a charcoal liner. It holds in and filters human scent and it is wonderful. I got Ed a set, too, and he loves it. A deer hasn't winded me since I started using it, but you have to follow the instructions. Don't bring it in the house or car. Take it off in the woods and put it back in the special bag it comes with. Every third or forth outing put it in the dryer to reactivate the charcoal, too. If you go to the trouble of doing it right, it's a great help."
The three of us talked a little more and then Ed and I went out back so I could shoot a few pictures of him with his trusty compound bow and his father's Hawkins. As we walked onto a trail with tire ruts located between the back of their house and the woods behind it, two deer sauntered out of the woods about 75 yards down the path.
I took a couple of quick shots of Ed with the live deer in the background. When the deer had wandered off into the woods, I had to laugh as Ed smiled and looked at the animals with a genuine affection for the gifts nature has given us. Ed McCay (and Lorraine) holds an appreciation of these animals that comes from the understanding of a true outdoorsman who has learned their ways and their incredible ability to survive and thrive, even in the most populous state in the country. He isn't just a hunter, but someone who nurtures those gifts so they can be passed on to youngsters coming up into the ranks behind us.
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