These five trophy typicals are anything but ordinary! Here are the details on each hunter's good fortune in their favorite deer woods. (December 2008)
Last season, Jonathan Armstrong bagged the state's top typical gun kill while hunting in Henderson County. His big buck scores 178 4/8. Taxidermy by Velma Smith.
Photo by Bill Cooper.
Along with "age" and "genetics," the one word synonymous with big whitetails is "agriculture."
In Kentucky, this automatically refers to the state's western end. Certainly near the top of the list would be the Ohio River bottomlands around the Henderson area.
Len Stovall lives and farms in Henderson County. Like many local hunters, he's addicted to hunting big whitetails. During the summer and early fall of 2006, trail cameras on Len's farm recorded several photos of an exceptional whitetail. Because its rack was so recognizable, with very long tines on both its right and left antlers, the buck was assigned the nickname of "Hightower."
Later, during the November gun season, Len diligently hunted the area with Jonathan Armstrong, a good friend and frequent hunting companion. They concentrated their efforts near those locations where the buck had been photographed. But the season ended without an encounter.
Understandably, both hunters anxiously looked forward to the fall of 2007 for another opportunity to hunt Hightower. But as August, September and October passed with no sign of the buck, their plans gradually evaporated. Especially discouraging was that during this period, they'd positioned trail cameras at the same farm locations where the deer had been photographed the year before.
"Our natural assumption was that something had befallen the buck," Len said. "Certainly we considered the EHD outbreak within the state. However, we had not seen any evidence, nor heard of any deer loss in our general area.
"I thought there was a possibility that the buck might be staying on an adjoining tract of land referred to as 'the Sanctuary,' where no hunting is allowed.
"An earlier storm had blown down a number of large oaks on the property. The resulting was a huge, nearly impenetrable thicket of briars, honeysuckle, saplings and brush. Even so, it seemed reasonable to assume that the buck would show up occasionally at night in the same areas where the previous photos were taken."
On opening day of the 2007 gun season, Hightower remained missing. But two other impressive bucks did show up. On opening morning, Len's 9-year-old daughter Emma took a great 8-pointer with a 20-inch spread.
And that afternoon, from the same stand, Len himself dropped a superb 140-class 8-pointer.
While Jonathan was helping Len drag his buck out of the woods, he remarked that he'd seen the same buck chasing a doe that morning, but hadn't been able to get a shot at the deer. That would turn out to be the most fortunate missed opportunity of the hunter's life!
Before daybreak on Sunday morning, it had begun raining. By midday, it had gradually lessened to a steady drizzle. Shortly after noon, Jonathan returned to the same stand location he had hunted the day before, positioned in a fence line bordering a large cut cornfield.
That rainy afternoon was uneventful until shortly before dark, when Jonathon spotted a buck walking along an overgrown fence line across the cornfield, approximately 300 yards away. Despite the distance and the dim light, he could see that the deer had a sizable rack.
Quickly maneuvering the rifle into a solid shooting position, the hunter carefully aligned the crosshairs of his Zeiss scope and squeezed the trigger.
At the shot, the buck instantly fell to the ground. Within seconds, it struggled back to its feet.
Still watching through the riflescope, Jonathan fired a second time, dropping the deer again.
This time, the buck stayed down.
After hurrying across the wet field, Jonathan was stunned at his first close look at the buck's huge rack, which he identified instantly. Except for the antlers' slight increase in size, they were a near-perfect match to the 2006 trail camera photos of Hightower.
The buck's wide 10-point typical frame includes long main beams of 27 4/8 and 26 5/8 inches, plus an inside spread of 20 2/8 inches. The nickname of Hightower was certainly appropriate, with paired back tines (G-2s) of 13 2/8 and 12 6/8 inches, followed by G-3s that exceed 11 inches.
After the rack grossed a grand total of 183 4/8, deductions for minor asymmetry, plus two small sticker points, reduce its final typical Boone and Crockett score to 178 4/8. This qualifies the buck for B&C's Awards and All-Time record books.
Additionally, it ranks the deer as Kentucky's top typical gun kill of the 2007 season.
Within Henderson County, it stands as the second-biggest typical whitetail ever recorded.
BRANDON HALL'S ESTILL COUNTY GIANT
One of the great side benefits of deer hunting is the social camaraderie the sport can generate among friends and family. Ever since Brandon Hall first began deer hunting, his usual companion has been his grandfather, Freddie Ashcraft.
Over the last several years, they have shared some great moments and a few not so great. But their times together in the woods have always been special. However, it's not likely that the two will ever top the hunt they experienced last November.
Only a few days remained in gun season. The two hunters rose well before dawn and drove their truck to an Estill County farm located along the Kentucky River.
After parking, they followed an old farm road downhill to a large hayfield near the river. There they positioned themselves in a small patch of brush under the limbs of a big tree at the edge of the field.
Days before, a trail camera near the field had recorded the image of a huge whitetail.
This outing was Brandon's first opportunity to hunt the area.
"Hunting the river bottom in the middle of November was a little strange," he noted. "Normally, most deer would have already moved to the oak ridges near the top of the mountains, which is where we usually do most of our hunting.
"But there was a poor acorn crop in 2007. Deer really weren't concentrated in any specific area."
Shortly after daybreak, the two hunters began hearing distant rustlings in the leaves and an occasional twig snapping from just beyond the opposite wood line.
Something -- most likely a deer -- was moving along the wooded bench that paralleled the riverbank.
"Eventually, the sounds seemed to turn toward the field, in our general direction," Brandon said.
"Assuming it was a deer, I picked up my rifle and got ready."
For several minutes, the hunters listened as the animal moved slowly, less than 60 yards away, but still out of sight. However, no amount of time would have prepared them for their first look at the huge whitetail that eventually stepped into view.
"I glanced at my grandfather, and he looked at me. I don't think either one of us could believe what we were seeing," Brandon recalled. "I immediately recognized the buck as the same one on my trail camera.
"For some reason, I'd assumed the photo had probably made the buck look bigger than it really was. But instead, the exact reverse was true.
"In fact, I'd never imagined there was actually a buck of that size anywhere around here -- much less that I'd be lucky enough to get a shot at the deer."
Brandon tracked the giant whitetail through his riflescope as the buck continued out into the open field, 40 yards away. Once the deer was completely in the clear, the hunter bleated softly, causing the buck to stop abruptly. The rifle's report echoed through the river bottom.
The hunters watched the big deer drop, practically in its tracks.
"Until I pulled the trigger, I was okay," Brandon said. "But by the time we walked to where the buck had fallen, my legs were shaking so bad I had to sit down.
"I'm not sure which of us was the most excited, but my grandfather was also pretty shook up. I just sat there staring at the antlers, not believing that I had really shot a buck that big."
One look at the massive rack, and Brandon's comments are quite understandable.
The 5x5 typical frame exhibits a great combination of height and width, including main beams that exceed 25 1/2 inches, a 20 4/8 inch inside spread, and four tines that measure between 13 4/8 and 10 inches. Antler mass throughout the rack is exceptional, with six of the eight circumference measurements taping 5 inches or more.
The rack grosses 181 7/8. After minor asymmetry deductions and one small sticker point, it nets a final B&C score of 176 3/8.
In addition to qualifying for both B&C record books, the buck ranks as the biggest typical whitetail ever recorded from Estill County.
RICKEY CAMPBELL'S PULASKI COUNTY 12-POINTER
On opening weekend of gun season, Rickey Campbell of Somerset was hunting a hillside tract of big timber in eastern Pulaski County.
He was positioned in a permanent stand that he had built in a large oak the year before, overlooking a ground covered with fairly thick brush under a stand of big hardwoods.
"While walking in to the stand that morning, I jumped a deer. But immediately after daybreak, there wasn't any activity at all," Rickey noted.
"Around 8 a.m., I began hearing a slight noise in the brush ever so often. Eventually, I attributed it to squirrels moving about. But a short while later, suddenly I saw a deer walk through a narrow opening. And I managed to see part of a rack with two or three antler tines."
Rickey still wasn't sure of the buck's size. He continued to watch as the deer moved through the thick understory. The buck walked several yards up the hillside, then stepped into a small opening in the trees, letting the hunter see its entire rack.
Rickey said, "I didn't have to look twice. I immediately got the deer in my scope and shot. Luckily, the buck fell right where it was standing."
Its 12-point rack includes main beams that exceed 25 inches, an 18 6/8 inch inside spread and six tines that measure between 11 and 8 4/8 inches. After grossing 180 2/8, the rack nets a final typical B&C score of 172 5/8, qualifying for both B&C record books.
TWO OLDHAM COUNTY MEGABUCKS
Within a period of 10 days last November, Brandon Sullivan and Stanley Huckaby, both of Crestwood, took the two biggest whitetails ever recorded from Oldham County.
Over the years, Oldham has produced a number of wallhanger whitetails, including several impressive P&Y trophies and three B&C Awards book bucks. But none is quite in the class of these two deer.
While scouting in late August, Brandon sighted two huge bucks moving through a 40-acre tract of woods. That small woodlot had been selectively logged three years earlier, and the entire acreage was overgrown in thickets of vines and saplings.
"The area serves as an ideal funnel for deer to travel through," Brandon said. "I hunted the location numerous times during bow season and saw some smaller bucks. But the two big deer never reappeared."
On opening morning of the November gun season, he returned to his stand location. But there was very little deer activity. Around 10:30 a.m., the hunter decided to leave.
While preparing to lower his rifle, suddenly he heard something running through the woods in his direction. Within seconds, he spotted a doe.
"The doe went on under my stand and kept going," Brandon said.
"About 75 yards behind the doe came a buck. The instant I saw the deer, I recognized it as one of the two big bucks I had seen in August.
"I immediately fired and dropped the buck where it was standing."
Brandon's near-perfect 10-pointer grossed 175 4/8, with long and very massive 26 1/2 inch main beams and an inside antler spread of 18 3/8 inches. Deductions drop the final B&C score only slightly, to 172 2/8.
A week or so after Brandon took his huge buck, Stanley Huckaby climbed into his stand for an afternoon hunt. He scanned the surrounding field, which was grown up in broom sedge and high weeds.
Sticking above the sedge was a small tree that he couldn't recall seeing before. A short while later, that tree's "branches" suddenly turned into the antlers of a giant whitetail, running away across the open field!
Grabbing his rifle, Stanley f
ired several quick shots at the fleeing buck. Fortunately, he ran out of bullets at approximately the same time that the buck went down.
The big whitetail's 11-point rack is truly awesome. Exceptionally long main beams tape 29 7/8 and 29 5/8 inches, with an inside spread of 24 inches and great antler mass. Equally amazing is that at least two of the hunter's .30/06 bullets struck the right main beam, the right brow tine, and completely penetrated the right (G-2) back tine. Yet the rack remained intact! It grossed 180 6/8, but asymmetry deductions plus two small burr points drop the final typical B&C score to 171 1/8.
Both of these great Oldham County bucks qualify for B&C's Awards and All-Time record books.