A Middle Tennessee Backyard Buck
October 04, 2010
After spotting a giant whitetail in his own back yard, Jerry Crawford had to spend 190 hours in his stand before the buck made a critical mistake.
Jerry Crawford's long quest for his backyard buck finally yielded this beast. The buck's rack had 17 scorable points and under the B&C system grossed 175 1/8. Photo courtesy of Jerry Crawford.
Jerry Crawford has traveled halfway around the world to pursue a wide variety of fish, fowl and furred critters, the evidence of which is represented by more than a hundred mounted specimens that cover the walls of his south Nashville home.
But this story began July 2007, when the retired financial planner first laid eyes on the buck of a lifetime -- and he didn't have to travel to see it: The buck was in his own back yard in Brentwood. His self-proclaimed obsession with the big non-typical would continue for more than four months and account for 190 hunting hours in his stands. Calling on his hunting experience alone wouldn't be enough.
"I had people at church praying for me," he confessed. "Every Sunday and Wednesday night my friends at church would ask if I got him yet." During his many hours on stand, he read the entire New Testament and started on the Old Testament of the Bible. In his quest for a once-in-a-lifetime buck, Crawford called on all his luck, experience and welcomed a little Divine Intervention, too.
During the four-month period, Crawford took several photos of the buck.
"I first saw the big buck July 25 and took his photograph while he was still in velvet," he said. "I told my wife, Janice, wouldn't it be something if that buck stayed around until hunting season." When he placed a digital trail camera in his back yard and got 40 photos of the buck the first night, it just fueled his enthusiasm. The buck hung around for more than a week but vanished just as quickly as he first appeared.
About a week before the late September archery season opener, the buck reappeared. "I became obsessed with hunting this buck," Crawford said. "I have a couple of red oaks on my place and they were loaded with acorns, and that's where I saw him the evening before the bow season opened."
But during a final practice session with his Excalibur crossbow on the eve of the bow season, a limb cracked, putting the bow out of commission.
"I had to sight the new bow in at 10:30 that night," he recalled.
Crawford's location is ideal for intersecting the travels of a mature buck. In addition to his three acres, he has permission to hunt his neighbor's adjoining woods, too. The small five- to 10-acre parcels connect with a larger 100-plus-acre wooded area. Across the road from his house are more small wood lots and brushy fields that connect to a large wooded ridge that offers more ideal habitat. For a big buck, the suburban setting offers little hunting pressure combined with ample food sources, good soils and escape cover, which is one of the reasons Davidson and Williamson counties have produced a high number of Tennessee Deer Registry bucks over the past several seasons.
Dawn was still a few minutes away as Crawford donned his camo, sprayed down with scent killer and walked 100 yards to his stand.
"That morning I didn't see anything," Crawford said. "That evening, the big buck came through the woods with a doe and two 6-pointers and they began sparring. The big buck stepped clear of some limbs at 28 steps. I held the 20-yard cross hairs high behind his shoulder and pulled the trigger . . . and that's right where the arrow hit."
Several minutes later, the two 6-pointers and the doe walked back out to feed on the plentiful red oak acorns. "When I saw the deer come back, I thought that maybe he's down." When Crawford climbed down to inspect the location of the shot, he found the bolt had passed through the buck. "There was blood all down the arrow and one of the fletchings was torn off." He followed the blood trail for 100 yards before he lost it later that night.
"The next morning I was back on the trail at daylight," Crawford recalled. "I found 20 more yards of blood sign before it ran out." On Monday, the forlorn hunter started widening his search, and by the next day, he had a friend bring his Labrador retriever in to try one more time. After that, Crawford would begin his days with the same ritual: drive to McDonald's and order breakfast with a friend. Then, they would drive to a high vantage point near Crawford's home to slowly munch on their fast food and watch for circling buzzards.
Crawford's search continued for two weeks for the big buck to no avail. "I walked out on the back porch one evening and there he was standing in the back yard again," the dedicated hunter revealed.
His hopes renewed, Crawford hunted every morning and evening in various stand locations surrounding his home.
"I saw all kinds of things while I was hunting," Crawford recalled, "from coyotes to watching a squirrel spend two weeks building his nest. I watched bucks sparring. I made mock scrapes and watched both bucks and does come in and work them on a regular basis. When I killed a big 10-pointer Nov. 15, it was a big letdown. I thought I had killed the big one.
"During the juvenile hunt weekend, when hunting was closed, I saw the buck standing in the back yard with a 6-pointer," Crawford said. "The Monday after the juvenile hunt I had just climbed into my stand and was hanging up my bow when I looked and saw the big buck staring at me. He walked off and disappeared like a ghost."
By Nov. 30, Crawford had logged 187 hours on stand in pursuit of the big buck. That afternoon at 2 p.m., he climbed the hill behind his house to a white oak that was worn slick from so many trips up and down with a climbing stand. "I sat there reading my Bible till 3:30 and put it down to get ready," Crawford said. "About 4 o'clock, I saw him to the right of my stand." The buck was following a doe, but was in thick cover. "I stood up in the stand and had to squat back down to see under a limb to put the scope on him," he said. "I didn't like the setup and I thought I had waited too long to blow it again, so I passed the shot."
The buck continued following the doe toward the road, broke out of the wood lot, and meandered through Crawford's yard in front of his house and onto another neighbor's property. Suddenly at 4:40 p.m., Crawford looked to his left back toward his house and watched the doe streak across his back yard with the buck in hot pursuit. "I put the scope on him and swung through to his shoulder and pulled the trigger when I got on him," Crawford said.
By the time Crawford was ready to trail his
buck, a crowd of seven friends has assembled at his house to help. He stepped into the edge of the woods where the buck had sped by an hour before. A couple of his friends picked up the blood trail, too. Confident of the shot, Crawford stood back to watch his friends follow the blood trail . . . backwards. He stood there in the dark with a smile on his face and kept quiet, savoring the moment. When they came to the end of the blood trail, Crawford finally told them that their blood sign ran out because that was the spot where he shot the deer. They all had a laugh and were turned around in the right direction. The tracking job didn't last long since the buck had only gone 40 yards into the thick brush.
The .270 Winchester Short Magnum did its job, with the bullet entering the point of the onside shoulder and exiting behind the off shoulder. Upon later examination, Crawford learned that his shot the opening day of bow season wasn't that far off the mark. Apparently, the buck's onside shoulder was far forward at the shot, with the broadhead entering the front of the shoulder and exiting behind the offside shoulder, but missing the vitals in the process.
The Crawford buck is a contender for the Tennessee Deer Registry, with its 17 scorable points grossing 175 1/8 points on the Boone and Crockett scale. It is a basic 10-point typical, with five non-typical points on the left antler and one on the right. According to preliminary measurements, the buck will net score approximately 170 points as a non-typical. Four additional non-typical points barely miss the 1-inch minimum for scoring purposes, and account for the buck's earliest fame in the Tennessean newspaper as a 21-pointer.
Crawford said finally killing the buck had its downside, too. "A reporter did a story about the deer in the Tennessean and made a mistake when he wrote that I killed it at night," Crawford recalled. "I was duck hunting in Arkansas when I heard about it, so I called him and I straightened him out. Then people got on the Internet and started saying all kinds of crazy things about me. He printed a retraction, but the damage was done."