Bluegrass sportsmen completed another banner season last year. Here are several of Kentucky's largest archery bucks. (July 2010)
Greg Gill arrowed his 13-point velvet buck in Ohio County. Its rack netted 158 3/8 P&Y points.
Photo by Bill Cooper.
Many people today regularly include outdoor activities as part of their normal recreational agenda. However, for Greg Gill of Rainelle, West Virginia outdoor recreation is not merely a passion, it is also his profession. During the spring, summer, and fall, he guides kayakers on the New and Gauley Rivers, while in the winter he works at Snowshoe Mountain as a member of the ski patrol.
Additionally, Gill is an avid bowhunter. But prior to 2009, he had never fulfilled his dream of taking a big record class whitetail. Last fall, with this goal definitely in the back of his mind, he decided to take advantage of an opportunity to bowhunt a friend's property in western Kentucky.
"I became acquainted with the landowner and his son a couple of years ago during one of the summer kayaking trips," Gill said. "Once they learned of my interest in bowhunting, they immediately extended an invitation to come hunt their farm. Being well aware of Kentucky's reputation for producing big whitetails, I readily accepted their offer. However, my hectic work schedule seemed to always interfere with making the trip. Last year, I made the bow hunt a top priority."
After arriving a day prior to opening weekend, Gill made a quick stop to purchase his non-resident license before heading out to meet with the landowner and check out the hunt area. Having a very limited amount of time to do any productive scouting, he decided to follow the farmer's guidance and placed his stand in a large oak located on a fence line between two grown-up fields.
"I had planned to hunt two or three days," Gill said. "I figured if this spot didn't work out, there would be plenty of time to check out other locations on the property. To be honest, my expectations were not terribly high on this initial outing. My plan was to familiarize myself with the terrain and general deer movement patterns, so I would have a better idea of where to hunt on a later return trip."
The following morning, Gill was situated in the big oak well before the eastern sky began to brighten. Approximately a hundred yards to the hunter's left, a hardwood drain bordered the lower end of the two fields, while directly in front of the stand there was a small 1/4-acre food strip planted in corn and beans.
"I really had little confidence in seeing anything that morning," Gill said. "The weather was very warm and there was a full moon, which happened to be setting just as the sun was rising -- a definite negative factor in regard to deer activity. At least that's what I had always heard. Additionally, I had never bowhunted an area that was so completely wide open. My primary hope was that a deer might come to the food strip."
Shortly after daybreak, the he detected a flicker of movement out in the high vegetation, and seconds later, spotted a coyote trotting along an old field road, carrying an ear of corn in its mouth. Gill immediately stood up in the stand, thinking the animal might pass within bow range. However, the coyote never got closer than about 65 yards and eventually continued on through the planted strip and out of sight.
"I remained standing, bow in hand, watching the surrounding field when I suddenly heard a distant noise down toward the creek drainage," Gill noted. "As I glanced in that direction, an impressive 8-pointer stepped into view approximately 80 yards away and began walking in my direction."
The buck continued to slowly advance toward the big oak and the concealed archer. Finally, only 20 yards away, the deer paused momentarily before veering off on to the old field road bordering the food strip.
"The buck was definitely the biggest whitetail I ever had within bow range," Gill said. "However, the farmer had explained their long range deer management plan and his only request was that I not take a buck with antlers measuring less than 140 inches. While there was no doubt in my mind the velvet 8-point rack would qualify for the Pope and Young record book, I was pretty sure the gross score would not top the magic 140 mark. I watched the buck walk away, mentally second-guessing my estimate of the rack's size."
Moments later, Gill's frustrations suddenly vanished as he glanced back toward the foggy creek bottom and spotted a much bigger buck. Amazingly, the big whitetail appeared to be following the same path the 8-pointer had taken.
"To say I was shocked, would be an understatement," Gill noted. "I really didn't have much time because the deer was closing fast. However, in this instance no decision was necessary as to whether or not the buck was a shooter. In fact, my focus was entirely on making the shot."
At 20 yards, the buck paused, just as the 8-pointer had done, and the hunter brought his Matthews bow to full draw. As the buck stepped to its left to continue along the old field road, Gill released. The arrow hit the deer slightly high, dropping it in its tracks. As the buck struggled to get up, he quickly shot a second arrow and his hunt was over.
Walking to where the big deer had fallen, the hunter knelt down and examined the huge velvet antlers. Everything had happened so fast, the moment seemed almost surreal.
"I was elated beyond words," Gill said. "Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined taking such a big whitetail. On the other hand, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed that my hunting was over so quickly. However, considering the circumstances, I was able to adjust fairly easily."
The rack of Gill's buck has 13 scorable points, 10 of which comprise the basic 5x5 typical frame. Tine length gives the rack an appearance of great height, with paired G-2s that measure 12 6/8 and 11 4/8 inches, followed by G-3s that tape 11 6/8 and 11 2/8 inches.
In regard to scoring, the 10-point typical frame grosses 171 2/8. Following side-to-side asymmetry deductions, plus three abnormal points, totaling 5 2/8 inches, the rack's final typical P&Y score stands at 158 3/8. It's a great trophy whitetail by any measure, but particularly unique with the antlers still being in velvet.
Many hunters still don't realize that the Pope and Young Club, unlike Boone & Crockett, does accept velvet antlered whitetails in the record book. However, these velvet entries are grouped into a separate listing and not ranked with the regular "hard-antlered" entries. The same minimum score requirements applies and there is no difference in the entry p
TERRY DRIVER'S 18-POINTER
On opening morning of the 2009 bow season, Terry Driver of Scottsville was positioned in a tree stand on a small point of land near the intersection of a narrow wooded ravine and a large hardwood bottom. He had hunted this particular Allen County farm site during the previous three seasons and was quite familiar with the surrounding terrain and deer movement patterns.
"Directly across the bottom was a nearly impenetrable 40-acre thicket of cedars and briars," Driver noted. "The thicket is commonly used as a bedding area and I was located along a natural funnel, or travel corridor, deer often utilize to move in and out of the area."
That morning, a small buck and a few does were the only deer that passed near the stand. After a short midday break, the hunter resumed his position on the point. For most of the afternoon, deer activity was non-existent, with only a small 9-pointer making an appearance. However, shortly before dark, Driver spotted a larger buck heading in his direction. The deer's velvet rack was tall with numerous "kicker" points coming off the beams and antler tines.
"I moved into shooting position as I watched the buck slowly approach," Driver said. "I was in the process of drawing my bow when I suddenly detected additional movement out of the corner of my eye. When I glanced in that direction, I saw a much bigger buck walking about 25 yards behind the first deer!"
Driver immediately relaxed his pull on the bowstring and allowed the smaller buck to pass. By this time, both the hunter's heart and nervous system were approaching a rather severe stress level.
"I get excited just seeing a deer, so the second buck really tore me up," Driver said. "But two years earlier, at the very same location, I made a bad shot on the biggest buck I have ever had a chance to shoot and I never recovered the deer. That experience, bad as it was, has made me a better hunter. I always rethink every shot opportunity before releasing an arrow."
At 19 yards, Driver watched the shaft's fletching disappear behind the big whitetail's shoulder. The buck whirled and quickly ran out of sight. However, the hunter was confident the deer would not go very far.
Driver remained in the stand until dark, which not only gave his nerves a chance to calm down, but also provided an opportunity for him to contact his hunting companions. Later, the group returned with lights and quickly located the big deer on the opposite side of the ravine, approximately 60 yards away.
The buck's awesome 18-point velvet rack exhibits a great combination of tine length and antler mass. After grossing 151, the 10-point typical frame nets 146. The eight additional abnormal points, totaling 24 4/8 inches, brings the final non-typical P&Y score to 170 4/8.
JOSH RIORDAN'S TROPHY
A couple of years ago, Josh Riordan of Pendleton decided to add bowhunting to his regular fall hunting agenda. During that period of time, he passed up several shot opportunities at does, hoping for a chance to take a buck. Unfortunately, the right situation never materialized.
"Last fall, I developed a new archery game plan, which included shooting the first deer that got within bow range," Josh said. "I also made the decision to try some early season hunting in areas I previously had hunted only during the November gun season."
The hunter initiated his new plan on opening weekend when he opted to hunt an Oldham County farm that he usually hunted only during the November rut. His stand location was near a well-used creek crossing just below a ridge top bedding area.
Unfortunately, his first morning at the site didn't exactly fit the game plan as not a single deer was sighted. The afternoon hunt was a near repeat of the morning until a few minutes before dark.
"I heard what I thought was a deer cross the creek and stop just behind my stand," Josh said. "I was afraid if I stood up and turned in that direction the deer would immediately spot me, but I also knew that I was rapidly running out of time. Finally, I readied my bow and slowly rose to my feet. As I turned, I immediately spotted a buck standing about 25 yards away and staring directly at me."
Never hesitating, Josh quickly drew, aimed, and released, all in one motion. After hearing the arrow hit and watching the buck spin around, he managed to get a glimpse of the shaft's fletching sticking out of the deer's body.
Hurrying to where the buck had been standing, Josh immediately discovered blood, and after following the trail a short distance he marked the location and returned home, not wanting to take a chance on jumping the deer in the darkness. Early the following morning, the hunter found the buck approximately 75 yards away.
"I was really shocked at the size of the buck's velvet rack," Josh said. "I had no idea the deer was that big, but considering the circumstances, my total concentration was on making the shot."
The buck's impressive 10-point rack, which includes an 18 4/8-inch inside spread and four tines measuring between 10 2/8 and 8 inches, grosses 158 1/8. Minor asymmetry deductions, plus one sticker point drops the final P&Y score to 152 4/8.
DARRELL BASHAM'S BUCK
The opening of Kentucky's 2009 bow season was particularly meaningful to Darrell Basham of Brownsville. For several days in late August and early September his trail camera had recorded numerous photos of the biggest 8-point buck he had ever seen. However, a number of days passed before the right combination of wind direction and his work schedule provided an opportunity to hunt the location.
Knowing the buck had never been photographed at the site before two o'clock and not wanting to take any unnecessary chances, the hunter climbed into position around noon. The afternoon was uneventful until about six o'clock when two does appeared in the wooded draw.
"As I was watching the deer, one of the does suddenly jerked her head up and began staring off through the woods," Darrell said. "At first, I didn't see anything, but then I began hearing the sounds of a deer walking and within seconds the big 8-pointer walked into view."
After maneuvering into shooting position, the hunter waited until the buck closed to within 30 yards and released. Darrell's arrow was on target, but darkness prevented recovery until early the following morning
The giant 8-point rack is truly amazing, with a 22 3/8-inch inside spread and long 26 1/2-inch beams that hook sharply downward near the tip. The paired G-2 tines measure 13 and 12 3/8 inches, while the G-3s tape 9 6/8 and 8 6/8 inches.
Trail camera photos had confirmed that the big deer was in full velvet less than 24 hours before it was taken. In regard to scoring, the rack grosses 162 1/8 and nets, after minor deductions, a final P&Y score of 155 2/8.