Last season, three Bluegrass sportsmen had their trophy-buck dreams come true by being at the right place at the right time. Here are their stories!(December 2007)
Rick Gosser took this massive 20-pointer, scoring 202 1/8, on opening weekend of the firearms season in Pulaski County. Taxidermy by Jimmy Barnett.
Photo by Bill Cooper.
For many families across the Bluegrass State, the opening of the November gun deer season serves as a special social gathering. This was certainly the case for Rick Gosser of Somerset and his son, Mitch, who always spend the first weekend of the season hunting with Rick's dad, Gene, on his farm in eastern Pulaski County. Last year was no different, except that on opening day, the rainy and windy weather somewhat limited their time spent in the woods.
Before daybreak on the second morning, Mitch dropped off his dad near the stand he would be hunting, and then continued on to his hunt location.
Rick's stand was positioned on a hardwood ridge where a number of trees, damaged by an earlier fire, had been cleared with a bulldozer. Grass had been sown in the cleared areas around the scattered trees that remained.
After sitting for about an hour, Rick suddenly spotted a doe about 150 yards farther down the ridge. As he continued to watch the deer, a large-racked buck abruptly stepped into view a short distance behind her.
"I had to turn almost completely around in the stand to get into shooting position," Rick said. "But fortunately, the buck remained standing where it was, its full attention directed toward the doe.
"When I fired, the buck jumped into the air and took off running, disappearing into the thicker woods that bordered the cleared area."
Feeling somewhat confident of his shot, the hunter left his stand and walked to where the buck had entered the woods line. His search proved to be quite short, as the huge deer had fallen just a few steps into the woods.
Rick knew that the buck was big. But up close, the size of the massive antlers seemed almost unbelievable.
After he used a cell phone to contact Mitch and his parents, everyone arrived on the scene fairly quickly. Following congratulations and several examinations of the huge rack, Mitch helped his dad field dress and load the big deer.
Officially, the rack has 20 scorable points, but the giant 10-point typical frame is truly awesome. Measurements include 30 0/8 and 28 2/8 inch main beams, an 18 6/8-inch inside spread, paired G-2 tines that tape 13 7/8 and 13 6/8 inches, followed by 11 2/8- and 10 2/8-inch G-3s.
In regard to scoring, the 10-point frame grosses 182 5/8 and nets 176 0/8. After adding in 10 abnormal points totaling 26 1/8 inches, the final non-typical Boone and Crockett (B&C) score is 202 1/8. This qualifies the deer for B&C's Awards and All-Time record books.
The Pulaski County buck ranks as the No. 2 non-typical of the 2006 season. Last year's top non-typical, a 19-pointer scoring 246 3/8 B&C, was taken on Pennyrile State Forest by Dan Miller of Horse Cave.
BART BERTRAM'S CUMBERLAND COUNTY MONSTER
Named for the wild and scenic river flowing through it, Cumberland County is located along the Tennessee border in Kentucky's Pennyroyal region. While the predominant landscape can be characterized as gently rolling, the river corridor includes several rugged areas of densely forested ridges and hollows.
Wherever there is sufficient acreage, the adjacent bottomlands are utilized for pasture and row crops.
Having grown up in neighboring Clinton County, Bart Bertram has hunted deer in this area of the state all his life. Three years ago, he -- along with his father-in-law, Johnny Pickens, and Pickens' two brothers -- acquired hunting access to several hundred acres of farm and woodlands along the river.
This included nearly 100 acres of bottomlands in pasture and row crops, primarily corn and beans. The remaining acreage is mostly forested, with high hardwood ridges, narrow brush-choked ravines and scattered pockets of cedar thickets.
"Although there was never a problem seeing deer in the river bottom fields, we decided to establish a wildlife opening in one of the hollows well away from the river," Bertram said. "Basically, we planted approximately two acres in a mixture of milo, clover, and beans."
Not surprisingly, this new supplemental food source was an immediate hit with the local whitetails. From the hunters' standpoint, the opening became an excellent additional location to scout and observe deer in late summer and early fall.
"During the summer of 2005, a bachelor group of three large bucks began using the opening," Bertram noted. "The biggest buck in the group was the easiest to identify, due to the presence of a long drop tine on the left beam. Unfortunately, none of us saw the buck that fall while we were hunting."
Although they sighted a couple of big deer in midsummer of 2006, the buck's antler growth had not advanced to the point of developing an identifiable drop tine. After the buck remained a no-show through the remainder of summer and the first several weeks of the early-fall bow season, the hunters began to believe that something must have happened to it.
Another very realistic possibility was that the drop tine could have been a one-time event. The deer might not have regrown that particular antler characteristic.
But in mid-October, Bertram's father-in-law quickly ended all of those theories.
On a Friday scouting trip, prior to the opening of the two-day early muzzleloading season, he was making his way along a narrow creek bottom when suddenly a giant buck bolted from a nearby cane thicket.
Only yards away, the hunter had a clear view of the deer's massive rack, which happened to include a long drop tine.
Realizing that the buck had never been sighted during the 2005 hunting season, Bertram had no reason to believe that 2006 would be any different. Nevertheless, just knowing the big deer was somewhere in the area greatly heightened his anticipation of the November gun season!
For opening weekend, Bertram had invited a young local hunter, 16-year-old James Dyer, to camp out and hunt with the group. James' dad, a longtime family friend, had unfortunately lost his battle with cancer the previous yea
Well before dawn on opening morning, Bertram and James climbed into a two-man ladder stand, positioned along the woods line bordering the wildlife food plot. During the night, a steady rain had begun falling, triggered by a strong cold front moving through, which also drastically dropped temperatures.
Sitting in the early-morning darkness, the hunters felt the rain droplets intermittently changing to sleet.
"The weather was absolutely miserable, but on the other hand, it makes for great hunting," Bertram said.
"Just before daybreak, we heard a deer on the opposite hillside, apparently heading in our direction. Eventually, the deer walked close enough for us to hear it breathing, before trotting on up the ridge. The deer was obviously big-bodied, judging from its dark outline in the opening.
"I hated that James didn't have a chance to see it in daylight."
After continuing to sit in the cold, wet weather until 10 a.m., the hunters decided to return to camp to warm up and have something to eat.
Around noon, after James opted to do some still-hunting with one of the Pickens brothers, Bertram walked to a stand he had located earlier along a high hardwood ridge.
Positioned in a large cedar, 30 yards out from the crest of the ridge, the hunter had an excellent view of the hillside, plus two saddles along the ridgetop. In the hollow directly below his location, 300 yards away, was the wildlife opening where he and James had sat that morning.
Although the earlier steady rain had now tapered off to a drizzle, strong north to northwesterly winds made the chilly temperatures seem a great deal colder.
About an hour after Bertram had settled in his stand, a sudden flash of movement farther down the ridgeline attracted his attention. Within seconds, he spotted a buck -- a very large buck -- in a fast walk, about 100 yards away and moving through the timber directly toward him!
"One glance, even at that distance, and it was immediately obvious that the deer's rack was huge," Bertram said. "From that point on, my only focus was being able to get a decent shot opportunity at the buck."
Having hunted whitetails for a number of years, Bertram could tell from the deer's deliberate stride and quick pace that there was little chance of it stopping.
Another important consideration was the property boundary, which happened to be less than 100 yards behind his stand, in the same direction the buck was heading.
"I knew I would be in trouble if the buck somehow managed to get past me," Bertram said.
"However, in spite of the brisk wind, I was locked into a pretty steady shooting position. And as the deer passed into a clear area on the hillside, 60 yards away, I fired."
Located near the top of the ridge and from 20 feet above the ground, the hunter's shooting angle was sharply downward. As a result, the bullet struck high on the buck's back, near the spine, dropping the big deer instantly.
"As the buck fell, its head flipped backward. That was when I noticed the big drop tine for the first time," Bertram noted. "I was excited to the point that I'm still not exactly sure how I got out of the tree. But I know I was on the ground within seconds."
Bertram made a quick call on his cell phone to request help. Within 25 minutes his father-in-law arrived on the ridge. After taking a long look at the giant whitetail, Pickens smiled and said, "Now, this is what dreams are made of."
Later, the rack's official measurements put his comment into perspective. The exceptionally long main beams tape 28 inches and the inside spread is 21 5/8 inches.
However, tine length is what places this buck in a special class. For example, the brow tines measure 10 2/8 and 9 2/8 inches, followed by paired 15-inch G-2s, and G-3s of 10 6/8 and 9 4/8 inches. Antler mass is impressive throughout the entire rack.
The basic 8-point typical frame grosses an amazing total of 183 4/8 and nets 179 3/8. If the rack had no abnormal points, this score would rank the buck as Kentucky's biggest 8-pointer ever. However, there are six abnormal points, including a 7 6/8 inch drop tine, that total 18 inches.
This brings the deer's final non-typical B&C score to 197 3/8, qualifying it for B&C's Awards and All-Time record books.
Interestingly, the buck's "signature" drop tine is on the right antler, while the big buck sighted in 2005 had a long drop tine on the left antler.
Whether or not this is the same deer is a question that could be answered during the 2007 season!
While Bertram was elated at having taken the huge whitetail, he was also disappointed that he hadn't been able to produce a deer for James.
That situation was solved early the following morning when the two hunters climbed the ridge and sat underneath Bertram's stand at the base of the big cedar. Shortly after daybreak, the young hunter took an impressive 6-pointer on the same trail the big whitetail had followed.
"At that moment," Bertram said. "I don't believe there were two happier hunters in the state of Kentucky."
AARON KIRK'S CALDWELL COUNTY 15-POINTER
With whitetail hunting, sometimes a last-minute decision ends up placing a hunter in the right place at the right time.
Last year, during the second week of the season, Aaron Kirk was running late for an afternoon hunt in Caldwell County. Instead of driving through deer-inhabited terrain to reach the stand he had planned to use, Kirk parked his vehicle and sat down in a nearby tree-lined fencerow bordering a 40-acre grown-up Conservation Reserve Program field.
Previously, while on his way home from another evening hunt in the same general area, he had briefly glimpsed a buck as it was leaving the field. Although he'd never actually hunted that particular site, he now decided to give it a try.
"After sitting there for about an hour, I stood up to stretch my legs," Kirk said. "As I did, I immediately spotted a large buck about 120 yards away, thrashing a small tree sapling with its antlers."
The deer was standing in a low depression in the field. As the hunter looked on, he suddenly spotted a doe between himself and the buck.
Realizing there was no way he could make an offhand shot of that distance, he decided to wait and hope the buck would move in his direction, toward the doe.
"That's exactly what happened," Kirk said. "As t
he buck walked out of the low area, I could gradually see its rack, its head, and then the top of its back above the field grass. I had my rifle braced solidly against the fence. And when I could clearly see the deer's body, I fired. After running a short distance, the buck went down."
The big whitetail's rack includes 15 points, 12 of which make up the basic typical frame. The antlers exhibit exceptional mass, with all eight circumference measurements falling between 5 6/8 and 4 5/8 inches.
Beam and tine length are also impressive. After grossing 188 0/8, the rack nets a final non-typical B&C score of 180 1/8.
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