Kentucky's Top Bow Kills: Part 2
October 04, 2010
Here are five more of our state's best bow season bucks from last year, starting with John Oldham's fine typical trophy.
Bowhunters John Oldham (left) and Kirk Murphy stand by their two outstanding bucks. Oldham's buck scores 161 5/8, while Murphy's scores 158 0/8. Taxidermy by Dale Wilson. Photo by Bill Cooper
By Bill Cooper
Considering the fact that John Oldham and Kirk Murphy grew up in the same small farming community in southern Graves County, it is hardly surprising the two men share a number of common threads from the past. Both of their fathers were in the same graduating class at Wingo High School and both have known each other since their early teens. Additionally, Oldham and Murphy had worked together for several years.
However, what the two men accomplished last year will link their names for some time to come, especially among the region's hunters. Specifically, during Kentucky's 2003 early bow season, both hunters arrowed outstanding whitetails that not only rank at the top of the county's list, but also place high on last year's state list of top bow kills.
THE JOHN OLDHAM BUCK
For John Oldham, the season had a less than auspicious beginning. He had planned to hunt an area adjacent to a bean field where he had previously sighted a big buck feeding. Unfortunately, the opening day of bow season coincided with the harvesting date for a nearby field of tobacco.
"I realized cutting the tobacco wasn't going to overly disturb the local deer, but I was pretty sure it would alter the buck's regular feeding routine," Oldham noted. "Since I had other places to hunt, I decided that was a spot I might check later on in the season."
For several days, Oldham tried hunting a number of different areas, but the only deer sighted were does and small bucks. Throughout this period, he purposely stayed away from one particular site.
"There was one ideal location where two hillsides sloped into a narrow bottom, lying between a dense brushy thicket and a bean field; essentially, it was a perfect deer travel corridor," Oldham said. "One hillside was wooded, while the opposite side was CRP (Crop Reserve Program) acreage, covered with high weeds and grass. My only option was to position my stand in a tree on the wooded slope, and that meant the ravine could only be hunted with a southwesterly wind. Unfortunately, during the season's first two weeks, the wind never shifted in that direction."
Finally, one afternoon in September, a weather front began moving through the state, which stirred a steady breeze out of the southwest. By 4:30 p.m., Oldham was situated in a climbing stand near the bottom of the ravine.
"It was a warm afternoon, with the temperature in the 70s," Oldham noted. "After sitting for two hours without seeing a single deer or anything else, I had about decided to write the evening off as just one more unproductive hunt."
Minutes later, the sportsman suddenly spotted movement, approximately 80 yards away, in the direction of the thicket. Easing to a standing position, Oldham immediately made out the form of a buck walking along the woods line, and it was heading in his direction.
"I remember thinking to myself, That's a good deer," he related. "A month or so earlier, I had gotten a glimpse of a 10-pointer in the nearby bean field and I assumed this was probably the same buck."
The big whitetail rapidly closed the distance between itself and the concealed archer. Coming to full draw, Oldham tracked the buck as it continued moving toward him.
"The buck paused momentarily in a small opening 43 yards away, and I released," the hunter said. "Other than whirling around and quickly running out of sight, the deer gave no reaction to being hit. I initially felt pretty good about the shot, but as time passed, I began to second-guess myself and wondered if the arrow had even hit the buck."
Shortly before dark, Oldham left his stand to check the opening where the deer had been standing. To his relief, he quickly found his arrow, covered with blood. He also located a small but clearly visible blood trail leading off into the brush. Unfortunately, the batteries in his flashlight gave out and he decided to wait until daybreak to continue the search.
The following morning, the deer was quickly found a mere 20 yards farther down the trail. Oldham was also excited to find that the buck was much bigger than the 10-pointer he had previously seen. The impressive rack had 13 typical points, which matched up almost perfectly from side to side.
Later, official antler measurements included 24- and 23-inch main beams, plus seven tines, including the brow points, which taped between 8 6/8 and 7 inches. Antler mass was also very good, with all eight circumferences measuring 4 inches or more.
After grossing 168 7/8, minor asymmetry deductions, plus one small sticker point, reduced the final Pope and Young (P&Y) score to 161 5/8. Additionally, this qualifies the buck for Boone and Crockett's (B&C) Awards record book. Within Graves County, the buck stands as the top typical whitetail ever recorded.
THE KIRK MURPHY BUCK
Less than 1 1/2 miles from where Oldham took his big deer, Kirk Murphy was also hunting a similar layout of small acreage wood lots, interspersed with agricultural fields and CRP land. As September turned into October, the hunter's attention turned to one particular 15-acre strip of hardwoods, surrounded by bean fields and grown-up CRP drainages.
"The entire wood lot was basically a hardwood ridge that extended out from a series of brushy ditches and ravines," Murphy explained. "Prior to October, this spot is really no different than many other similar areas, but when bucks begin moving and looking for does, the ridgeline becomes a regular travel corridor."
A prevailing north wind was needed to properly hunt the ridge, but a combination of unfavorable weather conditions and Murphy's work schedule kept him out of the area for most of the month. Then, in late October, a cold front, accompanied by strong northerly winds, moved into western Kentucky.
By midafternoon, the hunter was positioned in a hickory tree, 17 feet above the ground, overlooking the ridgetop. Not long after getting situated, two does and a young 6-pointer meandered up the ridge and eventually moved out of sight. Later, several does and another small buck entered the woods from one of the bean fields, passing within 50 yards of the stand.
Late evening light had begun to fade within the woods when Murphy sudd
enly got a quick glimpse of a buck as it moved through the trees, approximately 90 yards down the ridge. Picking up his bow, the archer moved into a standing position.
"Darkness was now coming on pretty quickly," Murphy noted. "When the buck came over a slight rise in the ridgeline, the distance was less than 40 yards. One quick glance at the deer's rack was all I needed to see he was a definite shooter; from that point on, I concentrated only on making the shot."
As the buck closed to 20 yards, the hunter aligned the sight pin on the deer's shoulder blade and released. At the shot, the buck bounded straight ahead for about 10 to 15 yards, stopped and then lay down.
"Initially, I thought, Great, it's over," Murphy related. "But, after three or four minutes, I could see the deer still had his head up, and that worried me. By this time, it had gotten pretty dark and I decided the best thing to do was leave the deer alone."
That evening, Murphy called Dale Wilson, a local taxidermist and fellow bowhunter, to request his help in the morning. Shortly after sunrise, the two men arrived at the hunt site and saw that the buck had moved from the spot where it had been lying.
Understandably concerned, the hunter's stress level was quickly eased as they found the big deer only 40 yards away in a tangle of vines and brush. The buck's rack was wide and heavy and, except for a forked back tine on the left beam, had a near-perfect 5x5 typical frame.
Official antler statistics include long main beams of 27 and 26 inches, an inside spread of 18 2/8 inches and great tine length; all six tines, beyond the brow points (G-1s) measure between 11 6/8 and 8 3/8 inches. Amazingly, the rack grosses 168 5/8, only 2/8 of an inch less than the gross score of Oldham's buck. Following deductions, primarily from two abnormal points, the final P&Y score is 158 0/8.
These great bucks are the top two typical bow kills ever recorded in Graves County. Additionally, they still rank first and third when both gun and bow kills are combined. Ranking second is a 10-pointer, scoring 160 7/8, taken by Stephen Lyell in 2000.
Another super whitetail was taken last season in Butler County by South Carolina bowhunter Dennis McElhannon. Each fall, McElhannon travels to the Bluegrass State to hunt with his long-time friend, Kevin Covington of Bowling Green, and last year he hit the jackpot.
On a foggy morning in mid-October, McElhannon was positioned in a tree stand near the edge of a dense hilltop thicket, the site of a logging operation years earlier. During the first couple of hours after daybreak, the hunter saw several does and yearlings, but no bucks appeared. Around midmorning, he began to alternately blow a grunt call and used a bleat can every 15 to 20 minutes. However, this produced no results either, and after an hour or so, he put the calls away.
"Around 11 a.m., I was watching two turkeys on the hillside just above the stand, and when they moved on off, I decided it was time to get down," McElhannon related. "Thinking I would take one last look around, I glanced down the hill and got the surprise of my life; approximately 40 yards away was a huge buck walking straight toward me."
Turning and raising his bow into shooting position, the hunter came to full draw as the buck approached to less than 30 yards. Unfortunately, only seconds later, the big deer stopped behind a wall of limbs and leaves, and McElhannon eventually had to let the bow back down. As a possible test of the hunter's nerves and patience, this same scenario repeated itself again, with the buck stopping only 12 yards away.
"I had no sooner let the bow down for the second time, when the buck stepped forward onto an old logging road," McElhannon said. "I instantly drew the bow again, and as quick as I could move the sight pin behind the deer's front shoulder, I released."
At such close range, the arrow covered the distance to the target in an instant. Whirling around, the buck ran down the hill and disappeared.
"I called Kevin on my cell phone and told him about shooting the deer," the hunter noted. "He arrived at my location within minutes, and after waiting a short while longer, we began following the buck's trail."
After a relatively short 100-yard walk, they found where the big whitetail had fallen. The excitement displayed at that particular moment made it difficult to tell which man had taken the buck.
However, one look at the deer's massive rack and their exhilaration becomes quite understandable. The very symmetrical 10-pointer has an awesome antler spread of 21 5/8 inches outside and 19 6/8 inches inside. Additionally, the main beams exceed 24 inches, the back tines (G-2s) are over 12 inches long, and the G-3s are 9 inches. After grossing 166 7/8, very minor deductions drop the final typical P&Y score, only slightly, to 163 7/8. This score also qualifies the buck for B&C's Awards record book and ranks it as the biggest typical bow kill ever recorded for Butler County. Statewide, this buck is one of the top bow kills of the 2003 season.
THE PAUL DUNBAR BUCK
Larue County produced a great buck last season for bowhunter Paul Dunbar, who was hunting on his cousin's land near Sonora. Dunbar took the buck on his second morning in the woods, after experiencing somewhat of a misadventure the previous morning.
"On my way to the hunting area, I realized I had left my bow at home," he admitted. "I called my wife, who graciously agreed to meet me halfway with the bow, but by the time I reached the farm, it was already daybreak. Then, while walking to the stand, I jumped several bucks that were bedded down in a nearby field."
To the hunter's credit, he took the adversity in stride, returning to the same location the following morning to arrow a huge 10-pointer. The rack's 25-inch main beams, 18 3/8- inch inside spread and four 9-inch tines contribute to a great P&Y score of 156 6/8.
The state's wildlife management areas (WMAs) produced a number of trophy bucks for Bluegrass hunters last season. Bob Hayes of Hustonville used his somewhat unusual method of bowhunting from the ground to take a great 10-pointer on Green River WMA. The buck had a 20 6/8 inside spread and scored 152 2/8 P&Y.
Although the Pope and Young Club does not recognize whitetails taken with crossbows, one buck from last season deserves mentioning. Seventy-year-young Lester Roy of Dunnville used a crossbow to take an awesome 9-point buck in Casey County. The rack, which had an outstanding inside spread of 24 6/8 inches, grossed 169 3/8 and netted a final B&C score of 159 0/8.
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