Buck Tales 2023

Real Stories From Real Harvests

by Chris McCotter

Every season we hear about them and see the pics; the mountain monster, the cornfield ghost, the river bottom buck, the suburban secret buck, the first buck; the stories are as diverse as the hunters, and they are all special. 

  Deer hunting is a special tradition in the Old Dominion and the buck tales that accompany the seasons are worth sharing here in hopes of inspiring and entertaining you. Enjoy, and good luck for the rest of the season.

  Just a reminder: the annual Woods & Waters Big Buck Contest runs through January 31 – to enter just submit your photo to us either via our Facebook page or emailing it to us at woodsandwatersmagazine@gmail.com. First prize is a $50 gift card from our friends at Green Top Sporting Goods, plus a W2 cap and sticker.

The Long Buck

   Around the end of October Steve Long told W2 he was doing a little scouting on a friend’s horse farm just outside of Blackstone, Virginia. Long noted he came across a few scrapes, so he put out trail cameras to see what was making them. One particular scrape Long noticed was getting a nice buck, so he and his buddy hung a stand 30 yards downwind from the scrape. 

  On November 1st after work Long slipped in the stand with his PSE Revenge bow and got all settled in with squirrels all around him running through the leaves. 

  “We just had a full moon the past weekend and a cold front just moved through the day before, so I knew the conditions were in my favor to see him on his feet. That evening of my hunt it was calm and cool with just a slight breeze, and I sprayed down with Dead Down wind and had my Ozonics above me. It worked perfectly, as the buck never smelled me.”

  About 30 minutes after Long was on stand he heard footsteps coming from the right and as he looked, he saw the buck he was after. 

  “He walked straight in to me and stopped about 30 yards away and stuck his nose up checking the wind, but at this point I couldn’t move because he was facing me. Suddenly he turned and walked straight to the scrape that’s when I drew the bow back and was waiting for the perfect shot. The deer was pawing the ground and has his head all in the overhanging limb above the scrape. At this point I didn’t have a clear shot of his vitals; he needed to move just a little forward.”

  Long said the buck moved just enough forward and he pulled the trigger on my release and watched the arrow hit him just a tad back, but a good hit. The buck then took off out of sight.  Long called a couple of friends and they came over to help him look for him. 

  “I gave him an hour to start looking and he ran about 80 yards and fell. It was great to have my friends there to celebrate with me. This buck is a main frame eight, with a kicker on his left G2. His right G2 measured 10-1/2 inches long and he is 15-3/4 inches wide. It’s my biggest buck to date.”

Baker’s Outta Nowhere Buck

   Tina Baker was hunting with her husband and son per usual on opening day of muzzleloader season this year plus a 14-year-old youth hunter when she harvested a fine nine point. 

  Baker told W2 the week before the season came in, she and her crew were scouting to find a place to put her stand and chose a spot overlooking a creek. 

   “As I walked across the cornfield heading to my stand on that brisk chilly morning, I thought I had blown my chances of seeing any deer that day because I spooked a six-pointer and two does walking towards my stand. Then, to top it off since this was a new location for me, I panicked because I couldn’t find my stand in the dark! 

   I text my husband and after walking in the woods for nearly 20 minutes with daylight approaching, I finally caught a glimpse of my stand. I hurried in and got settled.”

  Baker said that after several hours in the stand and near the time to come out she heard a strange noise to her right even though her stand was facing left. She turned around and caught a glimpse of the buck’s rack. 

  “He was coming from behind me on a fast trot with his nose to the ground. I managed to get in position for a perfect shot at just 10 yards away. It all happened so quickly! This buck came out of nowhere. We have multiple game cameras and he had never been seen before.”

    Baker was able to harvest the nice nine-pointer measuring 17-1/4” inside with her 50 caliber Thompson Center Impact muzzleloader. 

JR Clate’s Fluco Buck

  JR Clate’s November 11 started late as he works 24-hour shifts and didn’t get off until 8 am. He had decided he wasn’t going to hunt that morning from being up all night. That changed when he got home, and his wife said she would like to go to the gun show in Richmond to purchase her first gun. He  agreed and told her as long as he was back in time to hunt the evening. 

  Fast forward to 3:45 pm as JR and the wife were pulling into the driveway, when she woke him from a nap on the way home saying if you’re going to hunt, you better go because it’s almost 4 pm. 

  JR grabbed a sweatshirt, threw on some pants, grabbed his gun and out the door he went. He used a four-wheeler to head out onto family property and stopped at the end of my driveway and thought “Where am I going to hunt?” 

  He took off across the field to where it is normally broom straw up to his neck and noticed that his neighbor had bush hogged.  JR also knew that the other side of the hill the neighbor normally leaves uncut; an area saved that for last week of season hunting to use to

jump deer making man drives. 

   “Well, when I crossed the hill and noticed that it all had been cut, my stomach dropped. I was mad as a hornet. I decide I was going to go ahead and hunt, so I parked the four-wheeler and walked to the bottom on a creek where I have a ladder stand set up overlooking the creek with heavy acorns all around me.  

 “I climbed up in the stand and kept questioning myself if I should even hunt since now it 4:15 and have an hour to hunt. I sat there, made a few grunts, and watched the squirrels and decided to play a game on my phone. After a few mins of playing, I stopped and made a few more grunts and happened to look to my left towards the bush-hogged field. To my surprise there was a deer about 500 yds away. There were large oak limbs with leaves blocking my view of the field, so I could only catch a glimpse of the deer as it passed through an opening.

  “I texted my wife and told her I had a deer somewhere around me that I would wait and see what it was, then I would come out in a few minutes. As soon as I sent the text a deer appeared to my left and I still couldn’t see the head, so I was trying to get myself situated to look that way, being quiet as I could be. I was disappointed to find out it was just a doe, which came in and ate acorns. 

  “I tried to sit back in the stand, ready to get down, and then all of a sudden I could see feet walking under those oak limbs blocking my view of the deer.”

  JR waited what seemed like forever and fiddled with his muzzleloader scope which was zoom all the way in. 

  “I move from the deer’s body to its head and was like OMG it’s the big six. I gotta get him!”

  By the time JR got himself turned around and ready to shoot the buck was standing 60 yds broadside with his head down.

  “I had the cross hairs in the right spot with my heart racing, arm shaking, so I take a deep breath hold steady and squeezed the trigger… nothing happened. I thought what an idiot, I forgot to pull the hammer back. So, I reach up, pulled the hammer back, found the deer and he was moving getting closer to the doe. 

  “I grunted; nothing. I whistled, nothing. The deer didn’t want to stop. Finally, I picked out a spot and when his shoulder hit that spot, I squeezed the trigger.”

    “Boooom! Smoke filled the air, and I couldn’t see anything. Then I noticed the buck running to my left down through the cut field and into some pines. My stomach dropped I just knew I missed. I got down from stand, reloaded and called my wife. 

   “She answered and all I said was I just shot the big six, but I need a flashlight and maybe my silver lab will track the deer like he will retrieve a duck. She said I’d have to wait because she had put a dress on and needed to change. So, while she was changing, I was talking to her telling her where I was and trailing blood. I looked up and saw the deer laying in a creek. I told her forget the flashlight and the dog, I found him but I’m going to need your help getting this thing back across the fence. She came down on four-wheeler in her PJs and I pulled the deer out of the creek. When I grabbed the antlers, I looked at it and shook my head and said 

‘OMG this isn’t the big six it’s the big 10 deer that I was leaving for her son to get.’ 

  “We were able to get the deer back after her yelling and cussing cause the briars and fence scratched her legs all up!”

The Atkins Buck

  Nick Atkins was hunting in Hanover County on November 4 around 9:30 am on a cool morning and had already seen several younger deer cruising prior to shooting light. Around 9:30 am he was ready to call the morning hunt when a 14-pointer came trotting through the timber around 50 yards from his stand.   

   “I made a quick shot through the heavy cover and the deer never bucked, kicked or fell. He took a 295 gr Barnes Expander and just kept running. My heart sank and I thought I had missed,” Atkins told W2.

  Upon climbing down, he realized the bullet made a clean pass through both lungs made obvious by the blood trail. Atkins trialed him 100 yards deeper into heavy cover before the deer expired. 

   “I knew he was a decent buck when he went trotting through, but once I located him, I realized he was the buck of a lifetime.”

  Atkins’ deer was 14 points total, including a unicorn horn growing from his brow. The rack was 19-1/2” wide, 16-1/2” tall, 8-1/4” diameter bases, 8-1/2” drop tine and a 4-1/2” drop kicker, and a six-inch unicorn horn.

Bellamy’s Two Big Buck Day

   On Sunday, November 5, John Bellamy climbed into his stand for a sit.  Three he saw three does in the cutover across from his stand and one had a nine pointer that he’d had on camera chasing that morning but across the property line.  

  Bellamy also noted he also saw a very nice, wide buck through the binoculars walking in the cutover then into the woods where he guessed it went to bed down.  

  At about 10 am Bellamy decided to get down and run to the store for a quick bite to eat before heading back up the stand at 10:30. He hadn’t seen any movement the remainder of the morning, so he started watching his youngest daughter’s softball game that was streaming.  

  “For no reason right around 12:30 I looked up and glassed the cutover once more without seeing anything and set my binos down and looked back up to see this nice 18” wide eight-pointer pop out of the cutover into the field I was hunting. “

  Bellamy told W2 he grabbed his Traditions muzzleloader but had forgotten to cock it. As he cocked it back, it made a loud click and the buck stopped dead in his tracks which presented the best opportunity for a shot.  

  “Boom! The buck turned and ran about 35 yards and crashed. I did a little celebratory dance in my stand then climbed down to go check.  It was a beautiful eight pointer that we didn’t have on camera. “

  Bellamy dragged the buck over into the nearby tree line and climbed back in the tree stand for the remainder of the day. He saw a few does moving on the property next to him about an hour before dark, then he noticed some movement just off to his right.  A small four-pointer had come out into the field at about 60 yards away.  

   “Since we set a rule for ourselves (my daughter and I have management over this property, and no one else can hunt it) that we don’t shoot anything less than eight points and no does until December 1, seven points or above and start with the does from Dec 1-15 and six points or better until the end of season, I was gonna just watch the four walk on across. Then I noticed a second buck somewhat behind some branches. I looked through my binos and realized it was another decent 18” wide eight pointer.  At that point I decided to take my second deer of the day.”

   The Bellamy luck continued on November 13 when his daughter, Leah decided she was going to hunt that morning.  She arrived at the property at just before 6 am and was in the hot stand by 6:10. Bellamy had to work that day, so he was showering his phone rang.  It was his daughter and she proceeded to tell him she thinks she got another big buck.   

  “Her story was that she had a doe come out in the field pretty rapidly and she could hear grunts, so she grabbed her muzzleloader and continued to watch the doe walk across the field toward the wood line. Then out of nowhere she turned and looked, and a beautiful buck busted out in the field chasing the same doe.  As she got set up to take the shot, the doe took off, but the buck just stopped and looked around.  She took the shot. 

  “The buck bounded a few yards away, stopped, looked around and proceeded to walk slightly over the hill. I told her on the phone to go ahead and reload and quietly climb down the stand and see if she could find some blood. Then she called me back about 10 minutes later and said she had walked over to where the deer was standing when she shot and found no blood.  Then she walked in the direction the deer went and stopped to look for it with our thermal scanner. She looked down and was standing in a puddle of blood. Not 20 yards from where she was standing was a beautiful 10 pointer.”

Peay’s Boxy 9

  Alex Peay pursues deer hunting with a passion. His buck tales have appeared here before. For his most recent triumph he told W2 he had three years of history with a buck he named the Boxy 9. Oddly, he’d had zero contact with the buck until the day he harvested him during muzzleloader season. He did have multiple trail camera pictures over the last three years.

  “This year was the most frustrating as the buck was winning the chess match each time I went in after him. With encouragement from family and good friends I stayed after it,” Peay told W2.

   On November 8 Boxy 9 finally showed up making aggressive rubs only 20 yards away from Peay’s tree stand at 4:45 pm on a calm, warm evening. The 20.5” outside spread deer was harvested in Caroline County with a CVA Accura muzzleloader. It had a green score of 155.

  “I am blessed to be able to chase these true giants.” 

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