Jim Manni enjoyed the hunt of a lifetime as he passed on a doe and grunted in what turned out to be his state's new record typical blackpowder buck.
By Jeff Brown
It may surprise some New England hunters to find that the little state of Rhode Island produces more muzzleloader record-book deer each year than any other state in the Northeast. In fact, of the 225 muzzleloader entries in the Northeast Big Buck Club's record books from all of New England, more than half have fallen to little Rhody's smokepole hunters.
Why does the smallest state produce so many primitive arms bucks? Simple - the muzzleloader season is timed perfectly with the November rut. Other state blackpowder seasons in the Northeast run in late December.
Armed with this information, it should come as no surprise that the biggest typical buck ever killed in "the littlest state" would be taken with a muzzleloader, and that is exactly what happened during the 2002 hunting season!
Jim Manni, a Rhode Island State Police corporal, entered the woods on the afternoon of Nov. 26 in hopes of filling his freezer with more venison. He had already taken one deer and was hoping for an encounter with a trophy buck.
Manni was hunting the property of a friend in South County, a place where he had seen many deer during the hunting season. It was a cold, quiet afternoon with clear skies and the promise of fresh snow on the way. The rut was in full swing, with several days still left before it would begin to wind down. Conditions were perfect. What more could a hunter ask for?
Jim Manni's huge Rhode Island muzzleloader trophy boasts 26-inch main beams and an inside spread of nearly 20 inches. Photo courtesy of Jim Manni
Manni is a veteran hunter with 25 years of experience and some 100 deer harvested! On this day, he decided that grunting and rattling would be his strategy of choice as he set up in his ground blind at the base of a venerable old oak tree. This is one of Manni's favorite strategies, and he added some extra punch by using some doe-in-heat scent. Manni hunts with a .50-caliber muzzleloader that he won in a raffle in 1995.
With great expectations he executed his rattling and grunting sequences hourly, beginning at 2 p.m. Even in quiet conditions with sound carrying far and wide, Manni had not seen a deer as the clock passed the 4 p.m. mark. But, as is often the case when hunting whitetails, things were about to change.
At 4:10 p.m., Manni decided to try a bleat call. That turned out to be a very good decision! He was surprised when a big doe responded immediately to his call and ran in front of his position. He watched the doe for a moment and decided to let her wander off. This proved to be another good decision. The silence was soon broken again by the unmistakable sound of a grunting buck. Manni pinpointed the noise to a point roughly 100 yards in front him, where the grunting buck had stopped. One quick grunt from his grunt call and the buck was on the move again, coming "on a string" right to his stand.
Manni focused on the kill zone behind the deer's shoulder, trying to keep his eyes off the rack, following the buck in his sights until the monster finally came to a stop just 12 yards from his ground blind, facing straight at him.
The buck turned and walked over to one of the six scent rags Manni had placed around his stand, giving the hunter the opportunity for a close broadside shot.
Manni's aim was true and his muzzleloader performed flawlessly. The surprised buck bolted in a cloud of smoke as Manni's heart pounded with excitement. He felt good about the shot, but being the experienced hunter and woodsman he is, he decided to wait a full 30 minutes before taking up the trail.
Replaying the details of the shot in his mind while waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, the 30 minutes were up and Manni found himself following a very good blood trail. After a very short tracking job - no more than 80 yards - Jim walked up on the biggest buck he had ever seen.
Manni dressed the phenomenal buck and called his hunting partner and brother-in-law, Marc Pappas, for some help in dragging the big-bodied buck out of the woods.
The pair took pictures and dragged the huge buck out of the woods. The next morning they took the buck to a tagging station, where it tipped the scales at 190 pounds field dressed! The reactions of hunters hanging around the check station convinced Manni that he needed to get this buck scored, so he later brought it to a Northeast Big Buck Club measurer in East Greenwich, who green-scored the buck and informed Manni that he might have a state record on his hands!
Later, Manni made plans for the official panel scoring after the required 60-day drying period. The NBBC requires that all potential state-record bucks be panel scored. When the scoring was done, Manni was told he had shot the new Rhode Island state-record typical whitetail buck!
With a final score of 172 1/8 gross and 163 5/8 net Boone and Crockett points, Manni's trophy is easily Rhode Island's highest scoring typical whitetail ever! The Manni buck has 11 scoreable typical points (6 on the right, 5 on the left) and a 12th abnormal point on the right side. The inside spread is 19 2/8 inches, with very impressive main beams of 26 5/8 inches and 26 3/8 inches. The right side is much stronger than the left, with 10 7/8-inch and 9 7/8-inch G-2 and G-3 measurements, matching up with 8 5/8-inch and 8 7/8-inch points on the left. The mass is very strong on both sides, with bases of 5 inches and all circumference measurements over 4 2/8 inches.
Manni's buck is easily Rhode Island's best typical whitetail ever! It replaces Stephen Burchett's 165 2/8 gross (160 4/8 net Pope and Young) 10-pointer taken in Washington County in 1996. The Burchett buck weighed in at 220 pounds and still is the No. 1 archery typical buck in Rhode Island. The No. 1 typical muzzleloader entry record for the state had been Fred Chiarini's 159 2/8 10-pointer taken in Washington County in 1999.
How does Manni's buck stack up to other great muzzleloader bucks taken in New England? Well, it might surprise some hunters to learn that, according to NBBC records, the Manni buck is the third-biggest typical whitetail ever taken by muzzleloader in New England! The leader is the Kenneth Zerbst buck from Maine, taken in Oxford County in 2000. The Zerbst buck scored 174 1/8 gross and an even 170 net B&C points. Right behind Zerbst's buck is the Whipple buck from Massachusetts,
grossing 173 0/8 as a 10-pointer, also shot during the 2000 season.
The biggest muzzleloader non-typical buck from New England is Henry Konow Jr.'s 206 3/8 19-pointer taken in New London County, Connecticut, in 2000.
In Rhode Island, the largest non-typical buck taken by muzzleloader was downed in 1998 by Mark Ericksson and scored 172 3/8.
All things considered, Manni's big buck from this little state is truly one of the finest deer ever to fall to a New England muzzleloader hunter. It would not be a surprise if the next monster muzzleloader buck also comes from Rhode Island!
"November 26 was the most exciting day I have ever had in the woods," Manni said. "To grunt this buck within 12 yards of my ground stand was an experience that I have dreamed about since I was a kid. I wish that every deer hunter could experience the same feeling I had when I walked up on this monster after I shot him. The pictures are nice, but they don't begin to do justice to what I saw the moment I walked up on him!"
To see photos of many of the biggest bucks ever taken in the Northeast and to learn more about the Northeast Big Buck Club, visit the club's Web site at www.bigbuckclub.com. If you have or know of a big New England buck, call (508) 752-8762, or write to the NBBC offices at 390 Marshall Street, Paxton, MA 01612.
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