Talk about a deer management success story.
After a dozen years of patient supervision, Jim Twiggs and his tight-knit group of family and friends can say they have revitalized their once-struggling deer plot into one that is regularly producing trophy bucks.
And the one Twiggs harvested in early October with his crossbow may have been the crowning achievement of their diligence.
Twiggs’ massive buck, which he took on Oct. 7 on a farm not far from his home in Springfield, Ohio, is one of the adult leaders in the Harvested Non-Typical Bow Division of the Outdoor Channel National Deer Contest powered by Buckscore (nationaldeercontest.com).
It had 24 scoreable points, an inside spread of 19 3/8 inches and a greatest spread of 23 6/8 inches. It has been scored by Buckscore at 204.32. Twiggs estimated its weight to be in excess of 300 pounds.
|Jim Twiggs was humbled to take this deer on property he manages in Ohio. (Courtesy Jim Twiggs) |
“That buck was 6½ years old, but it was 12 years in the making, really,” said Twiggs, 53, who owns an insurance agency. “I was really humbled by it.”
The plot, one of several Twiggs uses, is a small, 16-acre wooded area situated in the middle of a 640-acre farm where wheat, corn, alfalfa and soy beans are grown. For years, the farm owner had rarely limited hunting on the plot and by the time he entrusted it exclusively to Twiggs 12 years ago, it was in poor shape.
“But we’re really fortunate to have lots of nice deer in our area,” Twiggs said. “So we felt like we could revitalize the area with a little bit of work and patience.”
For starters, no bucks were taken from the plot for five years. The area’s hunting is restricted almost exclusively to Twiggs, his son Josh, his good friend Ted Galbreath and Ted’s son Ben. The rule is everyone must kill a doe before taking a buck, and no more than three bucks are taken per year.
“We take care of the area … remove any trees or large branches that may fall and things like that,” Twiggs said. “We have food crops and feeders, but we never hunt off the feeders.”
Typically, Twiggs and his group cannot hunt the plot until the farmer completes his grain harvest in mid-October or later. But this year, the combines had completed their work by Oct. 1.
On Oct. 7, Twiggs and Ted were in the plot, rebuilding Twiggs’ favorite stand, which had been crushed by a tree in a wind storm. When the work was completed, there were still several hours of daylight remaining, so they decided an evening hunt was in order.
Twiggs went to the Poison Ivy Stand, aptly named for the vines growing on it. But it is also built on a thorn tree, and Twiggs found thorns growing through the seat. So he quickly decided to pick another.
Not long after settling in, a doe approached his stand and walked directly below it -- “Could have dropped a pebble right on her head,” Twiggs said. The wind was perfect, he said, blowing into his face through a cut cornfield. The activity soon picked up.
Fifteen minutes later, four young bucks – a 6-point, a 4-point, a spike and another with a broken antler – moved in. Soon, more deer joined them and Twiggs was enjoying the show, videotaping the group of about 10 deer with his smartphone.
Then a 9-point buck stepped into view and moved within shooting range of Twiggs.
“I was trying to decide whether to take it,” he said. “We try not to take any bucks until they are 4 ½ years old, and I knew this was probably right at that.
“Then I saw another deer in the corner of my eye.”
Twiggs saw four points up on one side of the rack – a 10-point, he figured – and its antler mass was considerably larger than that of the 9-point. It was 35 to 40 yards away. He drew aim with his PSE TAC 10 crossbow.
“I whistled, and it slowed almost to a stop,” Twiggs said. “When it put its front foot down to start again, I grunted and it stopped. Then I shot. It was probably 10-15 seconds from the time I saw it until I shot.”
The arrow entered at the last rib on the left side and exited at the right front leg, taking out both lungs.
Twiggs texted Ben that he gotten a nice one. “A 10-point, I think.” He waited on the stand until almost 7:30 p.m., nearly dark. The only light he could find in his truck was a pen light. “We hadn’t really planned on hunting,” he said, laughing.
Ben arrived with a better flashlight, and they soon found the buck lying in the edge of the cornfield. The side of the rack that Twiggs had previously seen was sticking up. He was not prepared for what he found on the other side when he lifted the buck’s head from the corn stubble.
“I said, ‘Holy cow. This thing is a monster,’” Twiggs said. “There was a turkey foot on one of the eyeguards and there was mass everywhere. I couldn’t believe it.”
The right antler had 10 irregular points, in addition to the main ones. The main beam was 28 inches.
In recent years, the area had produced several nice deer. Twiggs took a 9-point in the 140-score range last year. His son had killed one scoring in the 170s with a shotgun the previous year.
“But I had never seen this deer before in my life,” Twiggs said. “Not in any of my time over there. Not on any of our trail cameras. The man who owns the farm, his wife is a bit of an amateur photographer and she is always taking pictures of the deer. She had never seen it.”
One of the adjacent farms, where horses are raised, doesn’t allow hunting.
“My best guess is he was from over there and was just moving through,” Twiggs said.
It was soon taken a local taxidermy shop. But after a bit, the taxidermist called to ask Twiggs if he could return to get the antlers. It seems word had gotten around and hunters were coming to just to see the huge rack – even in an area known producing huge bucks.
“It’s definitely the buck of a lifetime,” Twiggs said.
Twiggs’ buck and many others from across the United States can be found at NationalDeerContest. The contest is the first-ever, national white-tail deer scoring and photography competition. It is free to enter and has categories for youth and adult hunters, as well as in archery and firearm – with typical and non-typical divisions for each.