Here's a close-up look at some of the Commonwealth's finest trophy bucks from last year's excellent bow season. (September 2008)
Dennis Sharp of Brooksville arrowed this giant 23-point non-typical while hunting in Bracken County. His big buck scores 201 1/8 P&Y. Taxidermy by Lyle Fryman.
Photo by Bill Cooper.
Dennis Sharp of Brooksville began bowhunting with his dad and brother in the early 1980s. Over the years since, he has hunted several Bracken County farms and taken a number of whitetails during that time. Unfortunately, his rigorous work schedule in recent years has somewhat limited his amount of time spent in the woods.
"Last year, I was given permission to hunt a nearby farm owned by my wife's uncle," Sharp said. "Her Aunt Carol had also been an avid deer hunter, but sadly, she passed away a couple of years ago.
"I was grateful for the chance to hunt a new area, particularly since the property was located near my home. There was no doubt that it would provide me with a few more opportunities to bowhunt."
During the summer, Sharp made a couple of brief scouting trips to familiarize himself with the farm's terrain and to check for deer sign.
In late August, needless to say, the state experienced extremely hot and dry weather -- not the type of hunting conditions he had hoped for to begin the archery season.
"After deciding to hunt a ridgeline near one of the farm's hayfields, I carried one of my stands to the location the week before the season opened," the hunter said. "I'd noticed one of Carol's old stands in a big oak along a fence line near the field. I figured I couldn't go wrong by positioning my stand in the same tree."
Except for a brief unproductive outing on Labor Day afternoon, Sharp did not hunt for the first week of the season because of the continuing hot weather. Midway through the second week, however, slightly cooler air moved into the state, and Sharp took advantage of a late afternoon opportunity to hunt the farm.
Around 3 p.m., he climbed into position in the big oak along the ridgetop fence line.
The cooler weather was a welcome change, and the hunter hoped it would trigger some late-afternoon deer activity. But as it turned out, most of the uneventful afternoon passed quietly. His only sightings were of two hummingbirds flying around tree limbs near his stand.
Then with less than 30 minutes of daylight remaining, two young bucks suddenly appeared near the edge of the hayfield and began sparring.
"The bucks were less than 50 yards away," Sharp said, "and I decided to take a picture of them with the camera on my cell phone.
"During the process of getting a photo, I happened to spot two additional bucks, one of them a wide 8-pointer, about 75 yards off to my right. I quickly took out a grunt call and blew it softly one time. All four of the bucks immediately turned and looked in my direction."
Within seconds, Sharp detected a sudden flash of movement across the field. As he looked on, a large buck ran out of the brush and stopped momentarily in the open field approximately 80 yards away.
At nearly the same instant, the other four bucks all took off running.
"In the rapidly fading light, there appeared to be whitetails going in every conceivable direction," Sharpe noted. "Luckily, the big deer headed my way. Realizing my only chance for a shot was to stop the buck somehow, I waited until the deer jumped the fence and then hollered as loud as I could."
The sudden sound stopped the big whitetail in its tracks, 30 yards away.
"I was already at full draw," Sharp said, "but I had to maneuver the bow's position slightly to clear several nearby tree limbs.
"The buck was standing in a quartering-away position. I aimed at the top of the front shoulder, thinking if the arrow went a little high, it would hit the spine."
At the shot, the buck whirled and quickly disappeared in the dark woods. Sharp felt fairly confident about his aim and release, but in the late evening light, he hadn't been able to see the flight of his arrow. Not knowing where -- or if -- he had hit the buck was unsettling.
"Fortunately, everything had happened so quickly, I never had time to get nervous," he noted. "But after the shot, I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. Although I never took time to look at the buck's rack, I knew it was the biggest deer I had ever seen while hunting.
"While taking a few minutes to calm down, I called my wife and quickly related what had happened.
"Her reaction was, 'I've heard that story before. When I see the deer, I'll believe it!' "
By the time Sharp climbed out of the stand, it was totally dark. Having only a small flashlight, the hunter walked very slowly along the approximate path the buck had taken, hoping to find some indication that his arrow had been on target.
"Immediately upon entering the woods," Sharp said, "I heard a deer get up a short distance in front of me. Even with my small light, I could see it was the buck. I watched the deer walk a short distance, fall, get back to its feet and then slowly continue over the edge of the hill.
"After the buck was out of sight, I checked where it deer had been lying and found several pools of blood. At that point, I began to feel much more confidant. I decided to back off and give the deer some additional time."
A short while later, however, Sharp's sons, Brandon and Aaron, arrived. They too had been hunting that afternoon. And after arriving home to find out that their dad had shot a big deer, they immediately headed for his location.
After listening to his account of jumping the buck, seeing it fall again, and the amount of blood found, they both felt that the deer was probably dead. Fortunately, their hunch was correct -- they quickly located the big whitetail only a short distance from where he'd seen it last.
When the buck's head was lifted up so they could see entire rack, no one said a word.
"I'm not sure any of us could believe what we were seeing," Sharp said. "I knew the buck had a big rack, and I was pretty sure I had seen a drop tine. But all of the additio
nal antler growth was a complete surprise to me."
Several minutes later, after they had thoroughly examined the antlers, counted the points and viewed them from every angle, Aaron turned to his dad and said, "You don't realize what you've got!"
At that time, no one realized what the bowhunter had truly accomplished. Approximately two months later, however, after the rack's official measuring, it was learned that Sharp's great whitetail ranked as the state's all-time 5th biggest non-typical bow kill ever.
Specific antler statistics include 23 scorable points, nine of which make up the basic typical frame.
Tine length is impressive throughout the rack, including both typical and abnormal points. For example, two tines exceed 11 inches, two exceed 10 inches, and five tape between 8 5/8 and 7 inches.
The basic 5x4 frame grosses 15 6/8 and after significant asymmetry deductions, nets 130 3/8. However, its 14 abnormal points total a whopping 70 6/8 inches, which brings the final non-typical Pope and Young (P&Y) score to 201 1/8. This also qualifies the buck for Boone and Crockett's (B&C) Awards and All-Time record books.
All things considered, it's amazing that Sharp's buck was not the top non-typical bow kill of 2007. Actually, that honor goes to Hurley Combs, Jr. and his giant 18-point velvet antlered buck from Casey County that scores 205 6/8.
See the July 2008 issue of Kentucky Game & Fish for the story of the hunt and photos of this great buck.
LARRY MARCUM'S WAYNE COUNTY MONSTER
Throughout the summer last year, bowhunter Larry Marcum watched a bachelor group of 10 bucks regularly feeding in a bottomland hayfield on the Wayne County farm that he hunts.
At least three or four of the deer were big mature whitetails.
However, one stood out from all the others: a wide-antlered buck with very long tines.
"To observe the deer, I had positioned a small ground blind in a nearby creek bottom bordering one side of the field," Marcum said. "Without fail, the big-antlered buck would always be the first deer of the group to enter the opening."
To reach the field in most instances, the deer utilized a hillside logging road that had been bulldozed a few years earlier during a selective harvest of trees from a cedar thicket.
This thicket separates the hayfield from mature hardwoods farther up the hillside. Before the season, Marcum had positioned a tree stand near the junction of the road and field.
"Everything seemed perfect for the start of bow season," he said, "and then the big buck suddenly disappeared. During the first two weeks of the season, my son Michael and I hunted the field three or four times, but neither of us sighted the buck.
"I also have a trail camera located at the field, but it hadn't recorded a photo of the big deer since a week before the season. Having seen several other bucks from the original group, I naturally assumed something must have happened to the big deer."
In late September, the hunter decided to leave the field location and hunt a ridge of white oaks near the top of the hill. While making the uphill trek, he unexpectedly jumped a number of deer, but saw only a couple of does during his evening hunt.
Before leaving the farm, Marcum made his normal routine stop at the hayfield to check the trail camera. To his surprise, the memory card included a photo of the missing buck!
"There was a big acorn crop this year," Marcum said, "and the buck had obviously switched his feeding pattern from the hayfield to the oak ridge. I'm convinced the buck was in the group of deer I jumped that afternoon on my way up the hillside. After being disturbed, the buck merely returned to the field."
The next afternoon, the hunter's dilemma was whether to return to the oak ridge or the field. Realizing there was a chance of jumping the big deer again if he climbed the hill, Marcum decided to hunt the field stand.
"It was extremely hot that afternoon," he recalled. "Sweat was pouring off me by the time I climbed into position. But less than an hour later, I knew I had made the correct decision when I spotted the buck coming down the logging road toward the field."
Slowly, the big whitetail continued to close the distance between itself and the concealed hunter. When it was 20 yards away, Marcum waited until the deer turned in the opposite direction, before standing and drawing his bow.
"At the very last second," he said, "as I was touching the release, the deer turned slightly. As a result, the arrow hit high on the buck's back, angling forward toward the opposite shoulder. The problem was that it didn't get full penetration.
"After watching the deer trot across the field and disappear into the cedar thicket, I climbed down, returned home and called my son."
After discussing the situation, the two decided their best plan would be to leave the buck alone and return the following morning.
Unfortunately, the following day's search proved frustrating. The blood trail disappeared after 20 yards, and the thicket of saw briars and brush proved to be nearly impossible to walk through.
"After several hours of searching, I told Michael we might as well give up," Marcum said. "But as I squatted down in the thicket to rest, I saw the buck lying on the ground approximately 10 yards away, staring back at me. The deer attempted to get up, but couldn't. I hollered for Michael to run and get my bow."
Marcum walked a few yards toward the field to retrieve the bow from his son, nocked an arrow and returned to finish off the buck. To his amazement, the deer had vanished.
"I couldn't believe it," Marcum said. "I hadn't heard or seen a thing. Yet somehow, the deer had gotten to its feet and was gone."
For the rest of the afternoon and the entire next day, Marcum, his son Michael and two friends searched the hillside thicket unsuccessfully, without finding a trace of the buck.
The following day, Marcum and a friend drove back to the farm to continue the search. After parking their truck near an old abandoned barn, the two spent several hours tramping through the thick understory.
On their way back to the truck, Marcum happened to spot some deer hair in a patch of vegetation near the barn. Weeds and briars around the old building were over head-high. But after carving out a pathway to reach a door's narrow opening, they found the buck lying dead, just inside.
"The barn was only about 50 yards from where I had see
n the deer last," Marcum said. "There's no telling how many times we had walked by the building, never once thinking that the deer might be inside. It was certainly an unforgettable experience."
The hunter's great trophy could also be categorized as unforgettable. The wide 14-point rack includes an inside spread of 20 1/8 inches and four tines that tape between 11 and 9 3/8 inches. Its basic 10-point typical frame nets 158 7/8. With 22 inches of abnormal points, the final non-typical P&Y score is 180 7/8.
MIKE SALE'S WARREN COUNTY 11-POINTER
On a late-afternoon hunt in early October, bowhunter Mike Sale was positioned in a tree stand overlooking a fencerow that separated a cornfield and a pasture. Shortly before dark, two deer suddenly jumped the fence about 40 yards away.
Sale quickly rose to his feet and watched a doe and a yearling abruptly stop and begin feeding in the corn.
"As I turned to sit back down, I happened to glance downward," he said. "And standing directly under my stand was a huge buck.
"There wasn't time to think. I drew, aimed between the deer's shoulder blades and touched the release. The arrow penetrated the buck's chest cavity completely. After a short run, he went down in the field."
The buck's massive 11-point rack includes long brow tines of 7 3/8 and 6 5/8 inches, paired back G-2s that exceed 12 inches, and G-3s of 9 4/8 and 10 inches. After a net score of 147 5/8, 16 inches of abnormal points brings the final P&Y score to 163 5/8.
Sometimes a trophy buck will appear right under your feet! If it happens, you'd better react calmly and efficiently. Mike Sale did just that and closed the deal!