By Tom Wheeler
I started out the day late, it was cold and very windy (25-30 degrees with 25-35 mph winds). Conditions like that made it hard to get the ambition to get out of the house, just to go sit in a tree stand and freeze my butt off. But, I did manage to get out around 6:45 am.
I went out toward my stand, but one of the guys that I hunt with was in an old stand 50 yards from the one I was going to get in. So, rather than bother, him I doubled back to a patch of pines and found a pine with a 3 foot diameter for protection from that terrible hurricane like freezing wind. I was sure glad that I didn’t get in the tree stand.
I got in a field of thicket and noticed it was very calm and quiet in there. The freight train sound was still "whooshing" through the tree tops 150 yards away. I headed down the power line right-of-way, and saw that the guy who was in the tree stand was on the other side of a large pond. I thought I would swing down below the pond and perhaps kick something towards him. Then, I noticed a fresh deer track going deep into thicket and briars. This was the only sign of anything that I had seen all morning, so I had to follow it.
I knew that I could not get a shot at anything in this mess, but I might get something to run out to the woods to where the other guys were. I started pushing through and low and behold, a deer jumps up 30 yards ahead of me. I could not see it, but I did see the tips of the antlers and I knew it was a nice buck with tall tines.
Twenty years ago I chased a big buck around thicket like this for what seemed like an hour. I’d jump it, see it for a second, then hear it go about 30-40 yards and then no noise. I would go in that direction, jumped it, see it for a second and couldn’t get a good shot. I did this 4 or 5 times until it finally let me walk by. So knowing this I went in the direction that I last heard the deer, which was near a lone pine not far from the big pond. I snuck the best I could to within 30-40 yards and, you are going to love this, I picked up a dead stick about 2 feet long and threw it on the other side of the pine.
From the spot that I last heard the deer, that buck came crashing through that thicket back by me about 40 yards out and jumped a little creek right beside me. Now, I saw the buck had a really big rack! It went toward the pond and stopped by a few poplar trees where not only could I see it, but I could actually get a good shot. I quickly took aim and shot. BANG!! AND IT WAS GONE!!
What the heck? That is not possible. It must have dropped right there, somehow I didn’t notice. I ran up there, but there was no deer to be found. I saw one set of fresh tracks by the pond and then nothing. I threw some sticks in the thicket below me, nothing. I circled feverishly to cut a fresh track, hair, blood, any sign of where this buck went. Nothing! This was impossible I have been tracking deer since I was 12 years old; I am very good at tracking. The only possibility left was that the buck swam the pond. I would have thought that I would have heard splashing if he went that way, but I did not hear
anything after the shot.
I walked the pond edge, which is red stick and thicket laden all the way to the other side. I could not believe my eyes; I cut a fresh track coming out directly across from where I last saw the buck. Fresh tracks and some blood, WOOHOO!! I hit it, I have fresh tracks and it has to be close. Then reality sunk in, oh no, that is not much blood. Then it got worse, no blood, no tracks, and no deer. How could this happen to me? I checked every spot that a wounded deer would lay, still nothing. I started talking to the lord and my guardian angels and I said, "Ernie, if you have any pull on the other side, I sure could use your help now. You know I can not let it get away wounded."
I worked my way near some woods, thick with thicket and I’ll be darned, I cut fresh tracks again. I looked at the sky and yelled, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" Then, don’t you know, that buck was 30 yards ahead of me and it took off through that brush. Well, I was not letting this one get away, so I went full sprint right behind it. I was hoping to at least get another shot.
I came out on a pathway; fresh running tracks went to the left. I went full sprint 30 yards, then the path went to the right. I got to the turn just in time to see the buck turn down the path to the left, I was too late. So a full sprint again, but I could not make it to the corner. I bent over, hands on my knees gasping for air, yelling at the top of my lungs, "HOLY CRAP!!! IT’S GETTING AWAY!!" Then, one last sprint 10-15 yards to the turn and I saw the buck 40 yards or so turning another corner. I pulled up and shot, it dropped. I dropped back to my hands on my knees gasping for air, and at the same time watching that buck to make sure it didn’t get back up. There was no way I could run another step. As it was, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it... WOW!! I got a big buck, man I am out of shape.
I walked toward the buck and the horns just kept growing! Then I got to it and OH,NO! My heart started pounding so hard again, I got a Big Buck Club trophy size rack. HOLY CRAP!!!! I got an old "moss back", swamp buck. I was still out of breath, heart pounding out of my chest. I got on the radio and said, "I got a monster buck, somebody come get me."
Brenden replied, "Where are you?" I replied, "I don’t know, but you got to get over here and find me I’m not leaving this deer."
I paced around that buck waiting for help. Brenden went to get a utility vehicle. I paced until I heard the vehicle, and then talked him to me via radio. I pulled out my tag, but I had lost my pen during the run and he didn’t have a pen either. So, he went back to the house got a pen and came back. I filled out my tag; we loaded the buck and took it back to my mothers place. We weighed it; it was 200 pounds live weight. We took some pictures. I took it back out to the field to dress it out. Then, put it in the back of the truck, leaving the tailgate down so everybody could see it. Although, even with the tailgate up, the antlers stuck up over the box catching everyone’s attention.
I pulled the truck in my driveway so the buck was facing the main road. As I got in my truck to leave, I saw a truck go by with 2 guys checking out my trophy. I pulled out of my driveway and they had turned around and were waving me to stop. I pulled to the side; they jumped out, came to the truck, and wanted to get their picture taken with it. I told my story, they took some pictures and I was headed to town to pick up Brenden. He was going with me to get the buck scored.
I pulled in his driveway and suddenly every car that passed was stopping. They took pictures of the buck, me with the buck, and some of them sat on the tailgate and had their picture taken with the buck. I didn’t mind, but it was getting hard to get out of the driveway because every time we tried to leave somebody would see the buck and block us in so they could check it out.
Finally, we got going and took the buck up to "Edge of Time Trading Post", on Main Street in Prattsburg, to get it scored and show it off. The owner Steve, called Paul Daniels, Jr., an official big buck measurer. By now, this buck had gone cell phone viral. Everybody in Prattsburg was talking about it. Paul measured it, and it had scored 181 gross green score!! Minus 31 inches for broken and uneven tines, leaving a 150 net green score!!
This was still incredible to me. It fell out of Boone & Crocket, which has a minimum 170 net, but it is still high enough to get on the books with New York Big Buck Club and Northeast Big Buck Club. Paul recommended I enter this buck into both the Big Buck Clubs. He also told me that had the horns not been broken, this buck would have possibly become the new, New York State Record Big Buck. Wow, that was incredible news to me. Paul also recommended getting some good pictures of this once in a lifetime buck before we took it to the taxidermist.
We finally had to break up the crowd and take the buck to Bath, to Louie’s Gun Shop to show Rick the buck. Rick owns the property where I hunt. I have hunted there with Rick and his gang for many years, what a great bunch to hunt with. Rick was happy for me, and just as amazed as we were. This buck was wreaking havoc for traffic here also. Everyone had to stop and see the buck. I had some young guys say they saw the buck and turned around; they just had to check it out. Then, one of them said, "Hey are you Tom Wheeler?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Holy cow, I already have pictures of this buck on my cell phone." I thought that was pretty funny and a sign of the times. Half of Bath and the neighboring towns already knew about, and had pictures of, this incredible buck.
So finally, we got back on the road and took the buck to a nice location to take a whole lot of pictures before it got to dark. Then we took the buck to Scott Samolis Taxidermy in Hemlock, NY. Scott caped it out and I had him age the deer. He could not believe it. It looked as though it was 2 - 2 ½ years old, which would be unusual for a deer that age to have a rack that big. He recommended I take the jaw bone to DEC in Avon and have them age it.
The following Friday I took it to Avon. Two guys came out, checked the jawbone and said that it was light wear on the teeth but it was about 2 ½ year old deer. They asked if it was a buck or doe and how big? I said a big buck, then I showed them the pictures. They both laughed a little bit and asked if I was from Prattsburg area? I said I was and they said that they already have pictures of this deer on their computers. They also said that, had this buck survived to be 4 - 5 years old it most likely would have been a new white tail deer world record!!! I got the potential world record white tail big buck!!
You can bet I will have a story to tell my grandchildren!! I just can not wait to get this one hanging on my wall! How could it get any better than this? I would like to thank everybody that helped and had a hand in this whole event. THANK YOU ALL!!
Note: Tom's buck was officially scored by the NYS Big Buck Club as a non-typical with a gross score of 182-3 and a net score of 166-6 B&C.