Jackson County's Andy May decided to go bowhunting on his birthday last fall. He was surprised by a present bigger than he ever imagined. (July 2007)
Andy May's 11-point buck had a final score of 158 7/8 net typical inches. It was the highest-scoring bow-killed typical known taken in Michigan last year. Photo courtesy of Andy May. Andy May's 11-point buck had a final score of 158 7/8 net typical inches. It was the highest-scoring bow-killed typical known taken in Michigan last year.
Photo courtesy of Andy May.
The autumn of 2006 was a memorable one for Andy May of Jackson when it comes to deer hunting. Last fall, May killed his best bucks ever with a bow and with a firearm in Michigan. In addition to those deer, May also arrowed a trophy whitetail in Illinois last year.
The highlight of May's 2006 season was his highest-scoring Michigan bow kill. The fact that he put an arrow through the record-book buck from a spur-of-the-moment stand setup made it special, and because it was May's 29th birthday, it was extra-special.
If the big 11-pointer May arrowed on the afternoon of Nov. 5, 2006, isn't Michigan's No. 1 typical bow kill for last year, it will be a surprise because nobody brought a higher-scoring typical rack to our state's spring deer shows. The rack has a gross score of 168 7/8 typical inches, but because of lack of symmetry from one beam to the other, it netted 158 7/8 inches. Tines on the left beam are much longer than those on the right side. Differences in tine lengths of matching points count as deductions in the Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett scoring systems. The rack has 1 non-typical point, which is also a deduction on the typical rack. Even with 10 inches of deductions, the May buck only falls 1 1/8 inches shy of qualifying for B&C's awards program. It easily qualifies for listing in the national bow-and-arrow records maintained by P&Y (125-inch minimum) and the state records compiled by Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (100-inch minimum).
Jackson County is one of our state's best big-buck producers. A total of 11 typical racks scoring more than 170 inches -- the minimum for all-time listing in B&C records -- are in state records from that county, including the current state record and four bow kills. May's birthday buck ranks 10th among bow kills for Jackson County, according to the seventh edition of Michigan Big-Game Records.
The 11-pointer May arrowed in 2006 was not the only book buck he has killed with archery gear in Michigan. In fact, May has done amazingly well for only having bowhunted for 10 years. He has seven bucks in state records, and five of those also qualify for P&Y records. Most of them have been taken in Jackson County, but one came from Hillsdale County and two were taken in Kalamazoo County. His best buck before last fall was an 11-pointer he arrowed in Hillsdale County on Oct. 1, 2003, netting 147 inches. He has also dropped whitetails during bow season netting 137, 135 and 125 inches.
"I hunt a lot," May said, while trying to explain his success. "I have a job that allows me to get out every evening."
May does a good deal of scouting, which enables him to pinpoint spots where he thinks he has a good chance of connecting on mature bucks. Some of his time involves seeking permission to hunt private property. Once he obtains permission to hunt a parcel, he examines the terrain on maps, aerial photos and on foot. May said he does a lot of scouting in the spring when buck sign made the previous fall is still visible. He often positions tree stands at that time, too, based on the sign he sees. However, when he killed the 11-pointer in Hillsdale County in 2003, he wasn't able to put a stand up until summer.
Upon seeing the two bucks, May pulled his bow back up to himself without alerting the deer. One of the pair of whitetails was walking directly under his stand as he untied the rope from the bow. The second buck was 10 yards away when May put an arrow through its lungs.
May put that tree stand in a funnel of woods between two corn fields that led to an alfalfa field. He figured it would be a perfect travel route for whitetails to use between bedding and feeding areas, and he proved to be correct.
On the evening May took the buck that scored 147 inches, he had actually lowered his bow and arrows to the ground on a rope when he suddenly saw a pair of "shooters" coming toward him from 50 yards away. Even though there were about 10 minutes of shooting time left, there had been a lull in deer activity and May was planning on trying to get out of there without spooking any whitetails, so that's why he lowered his bow to the ground. Upon seeing the two bucks, May pulled his bow back up to himself without alerting the deer. One of the pair of whitetails was walking directly under his stand as he untied the rope from the bow. The second buck was 10 yards away when May put an arrow through its lungs.
Although May has taken some mature bucks during Michigan's firearms season, their antlers have always been smaller than his bow kills. He said the genetics for antler development doesn't seem to be as good in the Jackson County location where he hunts during gun season. The 9-pointer he smoked with a muzzleloader on Nov. 15, 2006, for example, was aged at 3 1/2 years old, but its antlers only netted 118 inches -- his best gun kill. He shot another 3 1/2-year-old 9-pointer in the same spot in 2005 with a lopsided rack that would have scored much lower.
May said he saw the big 11-pointer he arrowed last fall on one occasion the previous year. He was bowhunting from a ground blind on Nov. 4, 2005, when the big buck crossed a road from a neighboring property. But when the buck saw May's truck parked on the edge of a field, the deer returned to where it came from.
Realizing how terrific the first days of November are for killing big bucks, May said he normally hunts all day during that period. However, the wind wasn't cooperating in the spot he picked to hunt during the morning of Nov. 5, 2006. He tries to be as scent-free as possible, including wearing Scent-Blocker clothing, but he still doesn't like it when the wind blows toward where he expects to see deer. So, May left that location and was scouting the property where he had seen the big buck the year before when he found some hot sign.
"I was scouting around noon when I found some huge tracks, fresh scrapes and four rubs on trees the size of my thigh," May said. "I could tell the rubs and scrapes had been made recently. I had been there a day or two earlier and they weren't there.
"The rubs and three scrapes were all in a 30-yard area at the corner of a 100-acre cornfield, an overgrown pasture and a patch of hardwood trees," May continued. "I carry an extra Lone Wolf stand and climbing sticks in my truck for when I find a hotspot like that.
I got them right away and set them up downwind from the buck sign. I thought the buck that made the sign was close. I usually carry a deer decoy with me, too. I set that up in the overgrown pasture. It's a Delta buck decoy with a little 8-point rack."
May moved into position as quietly as possible. He was ready for action 22 feet from the ground by 1 p.m. He sat quietly while waiting for something to happen. Then about 3:30, he decided to do some rattling.
"As soon as I rattled, I heard something coming in the corn about 100 yards away," May said. "I couldn't tell what it was, but it was coming fast, so I got ready. When it got closer, I could see the cornstalks moving.
"It proved to be the biggest buck I've ever seen," May continued. "As soon as he came out of the corn, he made eye contact with the decoy. He did some aggressive posturing and then started circling downwind. It was perfect. He gave me a 15-yard shot. When the arrow hit, he took off running into the hardwoods. His antlers became caught on a big limb that broke, and it sounded like a gunshot. When the limb broke, he did a somersault and went down for good."
May actually surprised himself with his coolness.
"I was surprised at how calm I was when I shot him," May said. "Only about 30 seconds elapsed between the time I rattled and the time I shot him. But after I saw him go down, I really started shaking."
May shot the whitetail with a Blackhawk Vapor carbon arrow tipped with an expandable Rocket Sidewinder broadhead out of his 70-pound-pull Hoyt Trykon bow. The bow is equipped with a three-pin Vital Gear sight. May shoots the bow with a Truball Release.
The buck had a dressed weight of 190 pounds, and its age was estimated at 4 1/2 years old. When May saw the buck in 2004, he thought the antlers would score in the 140s. Thus, in two years, the rack added over 20 inches of gross mass.
Editor's Note: For more reading on Michigan's trophy bucks -- including Jackson County's biggest racks -- refer to the four-book series of Great Michigan Deer Tales. Ordering information is available online at www.richardpsmith.com.)