Rhode Island's Monster Bow Buck
September 30, 2010
It's not very often when a Boone and Crockett-class buck is taken in the Northeast. But Steve Ponte did it the same season he coached his football team to victory. Here's his amazing story! (September 2007)
Steve Ponte's amazing archery buck ranks as one of only seven Boone and Crockett qualifiers in the state -- and the only such buck taken by a bowhunter.
Photo courtesy of Steve Ponte.
The Ocean State is smaller than some counties in New York. The total deer harvest for all seasons is less than most Northeastern states register on opening day of their gun seasons alone. But Rhode Island produces many big bucks each season, regularly leading New England in muzzleloader bucks that make the NBBC records. In fact, muzzleloader hunter James Manni accounted for the state's first Boone and Crockett qualifier back in 2002 -- a great-looking 172 1/8-inch gross-scoring 11-pointer that netted 163 1/8 B&C and made the awards book.
So it stands to reason that if this state were going to produce a hunter-harvested B&C buck, it would fall to a blackpowder hunter. Right?
And given that the Constitution state produces so many trophy-caliber bucks each year, it also stands to reason that such a buck would come from somewhere along the trophy-rich Connecticut state border. Right?
Wrong on both counts!
Rhode Island's most recent B&C buck fell in one of the last places you'd expect a trophy buck of this caliber to be found.
THE HUNT BEGINS
When archer Steve Ponte entered the woods on Nov. 24,2006, he had no idea he was about to make history. The odds were certainly against him. He was hunting in Newport County, a coastal region that has produced only 20 New England Big Bucks Club book entries, just 5 percent of the state's total. Most people in this part of Rhode Island hunt big striped bass from boats, not big-racked bucks from a tree stand.
In August, Ponte had passed on chances to go striper fishing in favor of scouting and glassing for archery deer. The first night out, with little more than 30 minutes of daylight left, he spotted a few deer meandering out of the woods into a hay field. The first was a small buck -- likely a 6-pointer. The next four deer were all nice bucks and they filed out by age and rack size -- all 8-pointers.
The last buck was a monster! Even with his unaided eye, Ponte could tell it was a big 10-pointer that would weigh close to 200 pounds and score at least 150 or better.
Another, older buck entered the field. While his rack was smaller, it was obvious he was the king!
Ponte's kept sighting the same five deer through the end of August. They were always coming into the field in the same order. In September, while hanging stands for the Oct. 1 opener, Ponte saw the bucks again, running with yet another 8-pointer. Ponte was excited -- six bucks in his hunting area, and only a few weeks to go until the season opened!
Although Ponte hunted a little in the October season, most of his time went into coaching high-school football -- something he has been doing for about 20 years. In November, he saw a few does, a spike and a 6-pointer. He could have shot any of them, but his mind was set on something bigger.
In the meantime, his football team qualified for the state playoffs -- which was great for the team but not so good for hunting.
The day after Thanksgiving, Ponte went out to hunt early in the afternoon, taking advantage of a rare opportunity, given his practice schedule. All the streams in the area were swollen from the previous day's rain, making it tough to hear sounds.
Ponte walked a semi-circle around his stand with
strous scent, hoping to catch one of the big bucks' interest.
He finally settled into his stand and, around 3:45 p.m., noticed movement to his left -- a buck was walking up the stream, nose in the air, in the stream right up to his chest!
There was a tree 3 feet wide between and Ponte, so he figured that when the buck got behind that tree, he would stand, take his bow off the hanger and draw.
The deer was still in the stream at 30 yards, which gave Ponte two windows to shoot through -- one within three yards of his next steps. The other was maybe six yards, if the buck continued in the same direction.
Just before the buck reached the first opening, he stopped, climbed the stream bank and started coming right at the hunter. But as big bucks often do, he figured something was not right. The deer stopped and backed off into the stream.
As the buck backed into his first window, Ponte was at full draw. He hesitated for a split second, and then let the arrow fly. The buck was perfectly positioned, quartering away, but Ponte heard a loud pop that sounded like a gut shot!
The buck sprinted down the stream without a hint of being hit. Ponte mentally marked the last place he saw the deer and settled down to rethink the shot. He waited half an hour till 4:15 p.m., and then got down and found his arrow -- with nothing on it.
Most people in this part of Rhode Island hunt big striped bass from boats with a rod and reel, not big-racked bucks from a tree stand
with bow and arrow.
Had he missed? Or had the running water washed the blood off? As Ponte went to the spot where he'd last seen the deer, he cautiously checked for blood along the banks as he. Following the hoofprints in the mud, he found three big smears of blood on some oak leaves. He knelt down and checked to make sure it was the real thing, and then stood up and let out a sigh of relief. OK -- he wasn't crazy, he had hit the deer!
Just then, the woods exploded as the wounded buck blasted away from just ten yards. This was not good. Ponte walked out of the woods, apprehensive of what the morrow would bring.
A LONG NIGHT
Football practice was from 8 till 11 a.m., and then Ponte headed into the woods and went to the last spot of blood. He slowly followed the deep hoofprints in the mud, and found more blood -- lots of it. He looked up, and about 10 yards away was a massive rack.
Ponte knew the buck was a good one but he didn't know it was "the buck" until that moment.
As it turned out, the shot had been perfect. The arrow had entered the last rib near the paunch and qua
rtered up into the deer's liver and lungs.
Ponte got the buck home and after weighing and tagging him, did a quick scoring job to come up with 163 5/8. He called his hunting buddy, who was in North Dakota hunting whitetails at the time, and left him a message about the big buck.
That evening, he called back and asked Ponte, "What the heck am I doing out here if you are shooting 160s back home in Rhode Island?"
THE FINAL SCORE
Ponte had arrowed a giant 10-pointer that scored an amazing 172 7/8 gross and 166 6/8 net Boone and Crockett points. The buck easily made the B&C typical awards entry level of 160 net, making it the first archery buck from Rhode Island to be entered into the B&C records.
The buck's main beams are 26 and 25 7/8 inches, respectively. The longest tines on each side measure 11 6/8 and 10 4/8 inches. The inside spread is just under 20 inches, and the bases are both just under 5 inches.
It is also a very symmetrical rack, with just 4 2/8 inches in side-to-side deductions, and a single 1 7/8-inch abnormal point.
Just how good is this archery buck? It beats the old Rhode Island archery record, Stephen Burchette's 165 2/8-inch 10-pointer from Providence County in 1996, by over 7 inches. It also grosses higher than Steve Tyrell's 169 2/8 non-typical from 1998.
In terms of all Ocean State bucks, this is the highest gross-scoring typical ever taken by a hunter, just ahead of James Manni's 172 1/8 muzzleloader record from 2002. It finishes just behind the 173 4/8 Washington County typical 10-pointer found dead by Donald St. Germain in 2001.
The Ponte buck is one of only six all-time bucks to gross over 170 in this state, typical or non-typical. In terms of all archery typicals from New England, Ponte's buck would rank No. 8 in that category for the entire region.
It should be noted that in the NBBC records, there are seven Rhode Island typical bucks that net over 160 inches. Ponte's was the first typical bow buck to garner that honor.
By the way, Ponte's football team went on to win the R.I. Division Four Super Bowl. I would call that a pretty good year!
For more information about big New England bucks, contact the Northeast Big Buck Club. To buy their latest record book, Northeast Trophy Whitetails V, visit the club's Web site at www.bigbuckclub.com, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write to NBBC, 390 Marshall Street, Paxton, MA 01612.