Larry Berestka's amazing Worcester County trophy ranks No. 1 in the state for archery non-typicals, and he took it with a recurve bow! Here's his story. (August 2006)
Larry Berestka's amazing Bay State 10-point buck has main beams over 24 inches and an inside spread of nearly 18 inches.
Photo courtesy of Larry Berestka.
Larry Berestka is an old-school archer who shoots recurves with feathered arrows, no sights and lots of confidence. He stays focused on patterning deer, hunting under the right conditions and setting up killer stands.
Archery has evolved into owning the best equipment and knowing how to tune it. But to traditional archers like Berestka, bowhunting is about confidence in your ability to make a shot when it counts. You certainly can't argue with his results: This past season, Berestka arrowed the new Massachusetts archery record non-typical buck!
This modest 61-year-old archer has been hunting for more than 35 years. When he was a young boy in the Connecticut River Valley area, his parents owned land near an American Indian village. He developed an interest in their ways and admired their hunting abilities. He began to emulate their style at a young age and started making his own bows. He hunted birds with stick bows and later, as his proficiency grew, he began hunting deer.
Berestka shot his first deer in his late 20s. Over the years, he has taken more than 50 deer, over half of them with a traditional recurve bow. He once actually tried hunting with a compound, but had a bad experience and never tried again.
He has shot a bear with his recurve and has killed some nice bucks, but never anything as impressive as the monster that crossed his path in 2005.
THE STORY UNFOLDS
Berestka has been hunting the woods of Worcester County, Massachusetts, for many years. He spends time in the woods all year hunting sheds, patterning deer, constantly observing and scouting.
For the last decade or so, he has been focusing on a specific patch of woods. It is a mix of conifers and hardwoods that produce a steady crop of acorns. It has streams going through it and several swamps -- ideal deer habitat.
Berestka has taken many deer in this little honeyhole. He rarely sees other hunters, which gives him a chance to pattern the deer. About five years ago, he came across a deer that was worth patterning, a real nice buck that was chasing some does.
That was the first of many encounters with a buck that would dominate his thoughts in every waking moment. Berestka hunted that big buck from that day forward, and had several close encounters with his quarry. He was as close as 40 yards to him on a few occasions during bow season, and jumped him once during blackpowder season. He kept tabs on the deer before the season as well, but never did get a shot at the buck.
Well, at least not until this year . . .
One thing that Berestka learned over the years is patience. He is meticulous about choosing a stand site and hunts it only when conditions are right.
On October 29, 2005, he decided it was time to climb into the stand he had hung specifically to hunt this buck that had been eluding him for years. The buck had created many fresh scrapes under some apple trees near the stand.
The woods were quiet, with no wind, as Berestka arrived at 3:30 p.m. for his afternoon hunt. The scrapes were all fresh. It was obvious that the big buck had been working the area hard. Berestka was ready, filled with anticipation. It wasn't long before all that anticipation turned to raw adrenalin!
At 4:15 p.m., Berestka heard a deer coming and saw movement from about 75 yards away. The hunter was perfectly positioned with a favorable wind as the deer continued on the trail leading to the apples. The deer finally got close enough for Berestka to recognize it as The Buck!
Berestka's heart started beating wildly as the old monarch came out of the pines and fed on apples at about 25 yards. There was no shot to be had at this point, so Berestka waited as the big buck worked his scrapes. Finally, the big buck came back to feed on apples. His empty stomach led him to within 15 yards of the waiting hunter.
As the buck turned and offered a perfect broadside angle, Berestka raised his 52-inch Bear 50-pound recurve, drew and let fly. The shot was true and penetrated well, with about two inches of turkey-feather fletching sticking out. The buck bolted away, running below Berestka's stand for about 60 yards and into a thicket.
Berestka's whole body quaked with the "after-shot jitters." But he collected himself and waited for about 30 minutes, then came down from the stand with great hope and anticipation.
He found good blood sign at the shot site and followed it for about 50 yards, passing no fewer than 10 fresh scrapes as he trailed! Suddenly, he heard the one sound a tracker hates to hear -- the big buck got up and took off!
For a moment, Berestka worried that the buck was not mortally wounded and that he might lose him. But as that thought crossed his mind, he heard a loud crash. It sounded like the buck was down for good.
Berestka followed the trail another 75 yards and found the great buck --dead.
It may be difficult for non-hunters to understand the feelings that raced through Berestka's mind as he stared at the object of his hunting obsession for the past several years. Lying there on the ground, the great buck looked even bigger than his pursuer had imagined.
Berestka called his wife and son-in-law, Paul Allard, and grandson Christopher to let them know that he had finally shot The Buck. Paul and Christopher came down to help him drag the monster out.
It took the men 3 1/2 hours to drag the 240-pound (dressed) buck a half mile. They checked the buck in at Archery Plus in Spencer, and the event created quite a stir. The owner of the shop told Larry to contact the Northeast Big Bucks Club to get it scored for the record books.
AN AMAZING DEER!
The Berestka Buck is the new Massachusetts state record for archery non-typicals. It was officially panel-scored by Northeast Big Buck Club scorers Lonnie Desmarais, Bob Fontaine and Jeff Brown at Watkins Taxidermy in Millbury, Massachusetts. All potential NBBC state records require a panel of at least three senior scorers to validate the final score.
The buck's rack is impressive in many ways. It is a massive 10-point typical with four additional abnormal points, one of which is an awe-inspiring hooked point near the right base. The beams are both over 24 inches long, forming an inside spread of just under 18 inches.
The rack has great mass, with bases of 5 7/8 inches and 5 4/8 inches. The longest tines are 11 inches on the right and 9 5/8 inches on the left.
The final gross score of this amazing rack is 178, with a net score of 166 7/8 non-typical, edging out the former No. 1 in this category by just over an inch! Mark Manoogian shot a 176 7/8-inch 16-pointer in Worcester County in October 2003, and that buck held the top spot until this year.
Over the past few years, the top-ranking archery typical and non-typical spots have been re-established several times. That suggests ever-increasing trophy potential in this state and continued growth in the popularity of bowhunting, even for "throw-backs" like Larry Berestka!
For more information about the Northeast Big Buck Club, visit their Web site at www.bigbuckclub.com. Check out the photo gallery, where you'll find many of the largest bucks taken throughout the Northeast in 2005.
You can write to them at NBBC, 390 Marshall Street, Paxton, MA 01612; call them at (508) 752-8762; or e-mail them at email@example.com.
In fall 2006, the club will publish its fifth record book detailing more than 5,000 of the Northeast's best bucks of all time. Contact NBBC on how to reserve your copy.