Keith LeVick had no idea a 200-class buck was nearby, but trail cams tell no lies! Here's the story of the biggest buck taken in the Northeast last season.
Each season, New England's hunters shoot whitetail bucks that challenge existing state records. Often these massive bucks come within inches of breaking the record, and sometimes they edge out the old state record by mere fractions of an inch.
Keith LeVick's amazing 22-point Niagara County non-typical posted a gross score (before deductions) of 231 2/8 inches.
Photo courtesy of Keith LeVick.
Just to ensure that the measurements are exact, scoring organizations convene special panels of very experienced scorers to rescore these giant and complex racks.
This can be a gut-wrenching process for any hunter, who anxiously waits to see the final score.
Sometimes, of course, there just isn't any drama at all. For instance, if a hunter shoots a deer that will beat the current state record by about 40 inches, there aren't a whole lot of anxious moments at the scoring table!
That's exactly what happened this past season, when Keith LeVick shot a monster 22-point non-typical with his muzzleloader in Niagara County, N.Y.
THE TRAIL CAMERA
LeVick is a serious hunter who has taken many impressive whitetails. In fact, he's shot 14 bucks that gross- score between 120 and 160 Boone and Crockett points.
Many of those came from New York State where he and his wife Jackie hunt together. Primarily a bowhunter, LeVick prefers shooting big bucks with his bow. But in 2007, it would be his muzzleloader that put him in the record books!
The relationship between Keith and his great buck began on June 22, 2007, when he set up a trail camera in a bedding area off a bean field.
LeVick generally places his cameras around summer food sources where deer are concentrated at that time of year -- given that the area has apples, corn, soybeans, acorns and hardwoods. (Continued)
On June 27, he first checked the camera and discovered that he had over 200 hundred photos on file! He was roughly halfway through reviewing pictures of does and smaller bucks when he saw it for the first time -- a giant non-typical that had walked right in front of the camera.
LeVick, who lives where there is heavy hunting pressure, was in shock. He couldn't get to Wal-Mart fast enough to print up 20 or so photos of this monster!
From then on, Keith, Jackie and their hunting buddy, Mike Wasik, put all their time and effort into that deer. Carefully they set up stands around bedding areas and funnels where they thought the monster would venture.
At the end of July, they put out the camera again, under an apple tree this time. After three days, LeVick rushed home with the camera to view the pictures. On the card, there were over 300 photos!
He was very excited. However, the first 200 pictures were of does and a few nice bucks -- but not "the buck."
Scanning through the rest of the pictures, he began to worry that they would never get another picture of the buck in velvet.
He continued to scan through the rest of the pictures. Near the end of them, his fears were erased, and his heart began to race. He couldn't believe it when he saw seven more pictures of the giant, from all different angles. It looked as though the buck's rack had "exploded" into a 200-class non-typical.
THE 2007 SEASON
For LeVick, the summer couldn't go by fast enough. Finally fall arrived, and the trio was ready to hunt.
The first time they bowhunted the area was on Nov. 1, but the day was uneventful. The three hunters sat all day in different stands, trying to play the wind properly. Jackie and LeVick saw a few small bucks, but no sign of the big one.
This pattern would repeat itself all during the first week. It wasn't until the afternoon of Nov. 8 that LeVick finally saw the giant buck. It was on a doe, running at 45 yards away, and never stopped for him to get a shot.
Although he was saddened that he was not able to shoot, LeVick was excited that at least he had seen the big deer during daylight hours. He continued hunting for the buck, but there were no further sightings during bow season.
Because LeVick doesn't do a lot of gun hunting, he decided to wait to hunt the big buck hard during the late muzzleloader season. However, rather than wait until the late muzzleloader season, he decided to hunt with his muzzleloader during the gun season, primarily in hopes of shooting a doe -- but meanwhile, keeping his eyes open for the big guy.
That turned out to be a very good choice!
A GOOD DECISION
On Tuesday, Nov. 20, with gun season in full swing, LeVick decided to hunt a wheat field with hopes of shooting a doe for meat. He had been in his stand for about two hours when he saw a doe coming out of a thicket, heading for the wheat field.
While calmly preparing for the shot, he noticed some movement behind her -- and focused on a huge drop-tined buck.
Keith LeVick's great buck will be 2007's largest gross-scoring buck not only in New York, but also in the entire Northeast.
LeVick could not believe it. This was the buck he had been waiting for!
With his heart now pounding out of his chest, he cocked the hammer and fired. The shot was only 30 yards, but with all the smoke, at first LeVick wasn't sure what happened.
When the smoke finally cleared, he beheld the most amazing sight -- there was the big buck, struggling on the ground. With adrenaline coursing through his veins, LeVick felt cold and excited. It seemed like forever until he could reload.
Finally he shot the monster again, and it was all over.
Climbing down, LeVick examined the deer and found that his first shot hit the buck in the spine. The buck that he had spent months dreaming about was now firmly in his hands.
It seems he got very lucky. Countless hours in the stand while bowhunting and muzzleloading had paid off.
THE LEVICK BUCKLeVick's buck posted a non-typical net Boone and Crockett score of 221 inches. Its gross score (before deductions) was 231 2/8 inches, making his buck the largest gross-scoring muzzleloader buck in the Northeast Big Bucks Club records -- by a lot!
The previous muzzleloader record was Andrew Carney's very impressive 16-pointer that gross-scored 187 3/8 inches, taken in Allegheny County in 2004.
The New York State Big Buck Club (which ranks antlers by net score) had Don Hayton's buck as No. 1, with a net B&C score of 181 1/8.
But no matter how you rank them, the LeVick buck is New York State's new No. 1 muzzleloader non-typical -- by a wide margin.
Everything about the LeVick rack is impressive. It has a 19 3/8-inch inside spread and main beams of 26 and 25 6/8 inches. The longest typical tines are an amazing 14 and 15 3/8 inches. The bases are both over 5 inches. There are 13 abnormal points that total a whopping 48 1/8 inches.
This rack has everything a serious trophy hunter could ever want.
LeVick's great buck will be 2007's largest gross-scoring buck not only in New York, but also in the entire Northeast. In fact, it's the largest gross-scoring muzzleloader buck of all time in the NBBC's records, topping the Henry Konow Jr. buck (206 3/8) from Connecticut in 2000 and the James Kenney buck (206 1/8) from Maine in 2003.
This world-class buck would be a great trophy, no matter where it was killed and no matter how it was harvested. But the fact that LeVick took this buck with his muzzleloader here in the Northeast makes it that much more exciting.
Don't think for a moment that LeVick and his wife are satisfied. They recently moved to Wisconsin so that they could hunt big bucks on a regular basis!
For more information about the Northeast Big Buck Club, visit the club at www.bigbuckclub.com.
There you'll find the featured "Buck of the Month" from the Northeast, plus a photo gallery of the best bucks taken in 2007.
Copies of the latest edition of Northeast Trophy Whitetails, the club's annual record book, may be purchased in the online store, or call the NBBC at (508) 752-8762 for more information.