Galen Halteman's first archery-killed buck may also turn out to be the biggest buck taken by bow in Pennsylvania last season. Here's the story behind his exciting Montgomery County hunt. (August 2009)
The state of Pennsylvania is well known for its great deer-hunting tradition. More deer are harvested here each year than in most of the rest of the northeastern U.S. combined.
Galen Halteman's typical 10-pointer grossed 159 7/8 and netted 154 1/8. The inside spread was impressive at 22 7/8 inches, with main beams of 25 and 24 2/8 inches.
Photo courtesy of Galen Halteman.
And in recent years, this state has also gained respect for its trophy whitetails. In 2007, a batch of fantastic trophy bucks fell in the state during all hunting seasons -- archery, firearms and flintlock. Again in 2008, some phenomenal bucks have been taken, including a great archery typical that just might be the biggest from last year! To make the story even more interesting, the great buck was an 18-year-old's first bow-killed buck!
EVOLUTION OF A TROPHY HUNTER
Galen Halteman of Lederach is now 19 years old and has been hunting whitetails for about seven years, since the tender age of 12. He was a relative novice bowhunter heading into the 2008 season, having taken five does during his three years as a bowhunter.
While he had not taken a buck with his bow leading into the 2008 season, Halteman had become a fairly accomplished hunter. He had taken several other deer over the years with a rifle, including two bucks.
His experiences before the 2008 season had led him to transition from a deer hunter to more of a trophy buck hunter. He felt he had gained enough experience and skill to set his sights on a mature buck. And, as he would find out later, he had the persistence required to make his dream a reality.
In fact, during the 2007 season, Halteman saw a 10-pointer during the doe-only season that was big enough to haunt his dreams and cause him to focus on shooting a buck that big.
During his scouting efforts the next summer, he saw the big buck again. He now knew the deer had survived the winter, and he set his sights on this buck. He just had to figure out how and where to hunt him.
In an attempt to draw the deer out of the timber and into an open field, Halteman decided to plant some late-summer food plots. He could then set his tree stand about 20 yards back off the field in an attempt to ambush the buck as he headed to the field to feed.
Once the season began, Halteman had some proof that the trap would work. In October, he had an opportunity to take a beautiful 8-pointer, but he let the deer pass. Halteman was focused on the 10-pointer, and was filled with hope that this monster was still out there, and if he was out there, Halteman would get him! (Continued)
A NOVEMBER ENCOUNTER
According to Halteman, the morning of Nov. 1 looked to be a perfect morning in Montgomery County in southeastern Pennsylvania. It was clear and cold, and bucks were finally starting to chase does. But, as is often the case on these "perfect days" for hunting, things started off uneventfully.
Later in the day, Halteman saw a good buck chasing a bunch of does through some thick brush. That was all he needed to see. He knew the rut was on and that he was in the right place. He hoped that the big one would be doing the same sometime soon. He just had to be patient!
Halteman's patience paid off around 9:30 a.m. when a mature doe came walking down the edge of the field. Halteman looked behind her, and saw the giant 10-pointer was following closely behind the hot doe! He had only one thing on his mind, and that just might give Halteman the chance he needed.
Halteman ranged the doe in the first of two very small openings at just over 25 yards. He came to full draw and waited for the buck to hit the opening.
The young hunter stopped the unsuspecting buck with a grunt, and then let his arrow fly. He knew right away that the shot hit back a little farther then he would have liked. The big buck ran into the field, stopped, and then started walking slowly into a thicket on the other side of the field.
All Halteman could do now was wait and hope.
He decided it would be best to back out of the stand and leave the wounded giant alone for a good eight hours.
Halteman showed great judgment and patience, and at 5:30 p.m., he just couldn't wait any longer! So, he got some help and headed back to the woods with a plan to find the buck. Halteman and a buddy would head into the thick woods while Halteman's dad got in position to watch the field in case they jumped the big buck.
Of course, Halteman entered the woods slowly, with high hopes of finding the buck dead. Shortly after they entered the thicket, the two men heard a deer jump up and crash through the brush . . . and Halteman's heart sank.
Wrestling with disappointment, Halteman and his buddy talked it over and decided it would be best to first look for the buck's bed and then just back out for the night.
They found the deer's bed, but it was not at all encouraging. They found a little hair and just three drops of blood. They were crushed, and knew their chances of finding the buck were slim at best!
The night of Nov. 1 was one tough night for the young hunter, as he kept replaying the shot in his head, over and over, again wishing that he could have that moment back again.
A SECOND LOOK
Early the next morning, Halteman and his buddy went back to scan the woods where they had last seen the buck. There was little hope but, to their credit, they kept up the search.
After about 20 minutes of searching, Halteman turned into a small opening and came face to face with the monster Pennsylvania 10-pointer!
The big buck had run only 80 yards from the edge of the field where Halteman had last seen him.
"It was only by the grace of God that we found this buck, my first buck with a bow, and it couldn't have been scripted any better," Halteman said.
THE HALTEMAN BUCK
Jim Hale, a Northeast Big Buck Club scorer, scored the buck after the 60-day drying period. The NBBC is a regional scoring organization that includes Pennsylvania, New York and the New England states.
The club uses the Boone and Crockett scoring system, but ranks deer by the gross score (before deductions) rather than the net score (after deductions).
The Halteman typical 10-pointer grossed 159 7/8 and netted 154 1/8. The inside spread was impressive at 22 7/8 inches, with main beams of 25 and 24 2/8 inches.
Several tines were over 8 inches long, with the longest on each side at 8 7/8 and 9 5/8 inches. The bases were just a hair less than 5 inches each, and the mass was good throughout.
Overall, this rack was very impressive! And so was the body size. The deer dressed out at 179 pounds -- a great first buck for any hunter!
MORE GREAT BUCKS
Many other good bucks were arrowed across the Keystone State in 2008. NBBC scorers also measured a Chester County buck taken by David Kochel in October. Kochel's buck scored 151 1/8 gross and 142 2/8 net as a 9-point typical.
In 2007, Adam Stout arrowed a Mifflin County typical 12-pointer that had a gross score of 170 5/8 and a net of 165 3/8. This buck was among the top five archery typicals killed in all of the northeastern U.S. in 2007, according to NBBC records, demonstrating that the Keystone State is on the verge of producing some of the region's best bucks.
While many other great bucks were taken during the 2008 season in Pennsylvania, Halteman's stands out because it continues the trend of outstanding archery trophy bucks taken in the state. Since 2002, several 200-class non-typical bucks have been arrowed by compound and crossbow hunters. And archery bucks scoring between 180 and 195 gross B&C have been taken in Lehigh and Schuylkill counties.
Given the monster bucks that the NBBC has scored from the last several years, it appears that the Keystone State is headed toward more consistent production of outstanding trophy bucks. Can it be that former Pennsylvania Game Commission biologist Gary Alt's long-term plan is finally working?
Certainly, the results from 2008 are encouraging!
For more information about the Northeast Big Buck Club or to get your buck scored, visit the club's Web site at www.bigbuckclub.com.
If your buck has already been scored by another scoring entity, you may still enter it in the NBBC record book by sending a copy of your official score sheet and $25 to: NBBC, 390 Marshall Street, Paxton, MA 01612.