Buck Tales

by Chris McCotter

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

These are the tales of triumph from readers hunting whitetail deer around the state.

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.

Baker’s First Muzzleloader Buck

On a warm November morning 18-year-old Austin Baker was in his tree stand hoping to drop his first buck with muzzleloader. The Louisa County resident had practiced with his Thompson Center Impact rifle and knew if he had a clear shot, he could hit the target. He, his mother, and his father had discussed which stand each would take that morning, and when he couldn’t decide, Mom decided for him.

“As we all climbed up in our stands November 9, within the first hour Austin’s Dad saw a small buck headed Austin’s way. He sent him a text message to let him know. Austin replied and said that he saw the deer but wanted to wait for something bigger. Twenty minutes after the text message we heard the gunshot!”

A nine-pointer had walked within 30 yards of the stand Mom choose for Austin and the young man had dropped it. Mom told W2 he should thank her!
“His smile was priceless!! We were just as happy for him as if we had shot the deer ourselves!” noted Tina Baker.

Hamilton’s Second Act

November 9 was a good day to be in the woods as our next Buck Tale also takes place on that fateful day.

Hunter Hamilton won last year’s Woods & Waters/Green Top Big Buck Contest with a 15-pointer he dropped in Rappahannock County.

He was back for the start of muzzleloader season this year looking for another wall hanger.

Hamilton told W2 his father, Russ, was in a ground blind all morning and he decided to join his dad that afternoon when the magic happened.

“I decided to come sit the evening with him I got set at about 1:40 pm and wasn’t sitting down for maybe five minutes and [the buck] came cruising through.”

Hunter said he took a 78-yard shot with a CVA Optima blackpowder rifle with a Simmons 4×12 scope.

He was using 150 grains of powder and a 200 grain Thompson Center Shockwave round. The deer ran about 50 yards and piled up. “I’d like to thank my dad and everyone else who introduced me to the outdoors,” Hamilton told W2.

LJ Knight’s Ghost Buck

LJ Knight’s Buck Tale started out in 2015 when he saw the first pic of the Rappahannock County buck he was to focus on for the next four years.

“The only thing special about this buck was that he had a split brow tine but I went the whole hunting season without seeing him,” Knight told W2.

In 2016 Knight noted the buck was even bigger from pre-season trail cam pictures and that he had triple brow tines on both.

The next season, 2017, Knight early awaited the trail camera pics to show this buck.

“The first time I checked, there he was, a stud with drop tines split brows again and stickers everywhere.”

But once again Knight went all season never seeing the buck in the daylight.

“I put in countless hours and shot many trophy deer but was hunting for this buck of a lifetime.”

So, onto the 2018 season and it started off the same way. Knight noted that year there was plenty of trophy bucks on the property and the big buck was out for fight to show he still ran the area. The deer showed himself during the pre-rut three different times. Once was when Knight was with his wife in tree stand with bow in hand. They let three bigger bucks than she had ever taken walk within 25 yards to maybe have a chance of getting the Ghost within range, but the field cleared and after some grunts and rattling that he never acknowledged, he cleared also.

The rest of the 2018 season he was a ghost, so onto next season they went.

Trail cameras went out in July 2019 and Knight was ready to see if the deer he had been tracking for four years was still that big.

“On the way to check the camera on the ATV I rode right up to the buck bedded behind my camera on the edge of the field. No more than 15 yards separated us. After all these years there he was, but there was no reaction! My thoughts are is he asleep? Is he sick? Five minutes passed and not a move but then finally he turns his head and I see his eye was glossed over, but then with a wrinkle of the nose, he turned his head the other way to then see me and then ran out of sight. This weird encounter left me thinking could this deer be deaf?”

Showing no response the previous year to any call or rattling and now riding the ATV within 15 yards of him made Knight come to this conclusion. And he thought maybe it was the year to make it happen.

“I deployed cell phone cameras and finally caught him jumping the fence into a pasture field after dark, and every day it was like clockwork besides a few minutes earlier every day, ‘till finally he entered one evening at last light.”

So here was the debate going on in Knight’s mind: “I was busy at work knowing this deer was gonna jump that fence in daylight, but I wasn’t gonna be there, so who should be there? Well, I made a phone call to my father telling him what was going happen, and I wanted him in my stand to hopefully be lucky enough to shoot that deer.”

“This man was always thrilled to see me shoot big mature bucks over the years, showing me all the steps along the way, so it was time for me to repay the favor.”

Needless to say, on December 16 the Ghost Buck jumped the fence and entered the field where LJ’s father, John Knight was setting armed with his model 700 Remington 6.5 Creedmore.

He had now laid eyes on his biggest buck to date and had to take the time to steady his aim and the shot was fired. Was it a hit ? The deer never flinched! The elder Knight quickly bolted another shell with the buck walking at 175 yards and squeezed off another round. Then the phone call was made to his son saying he had shot the buck, but he didn’t drop.

“I told him I was on my way as I had just clocked out. Upon arrival to the where he last seen the deer there was little blood, so I immediately called Nose-to-ground Blood Trailers of VA and they sent out a handler with dog. The dog battled high winds with a drifting trail in a tall sage grass field and lead us to the same corner in the field two times, but we saw nothing. The handler was set to return the next morning to continue the track but after a sleepless night my father couldn’t wait and was there waiting at daylight and walked to the corner of the field to see the deer belly up 25 yards away.

“Knight noted the deer was recovered with one shot through the lungs and the other through the shoulder. This deer had a will to live and scars to prove to it, but patience and the hard work and countless hours of hunting this deer had paid off.

“I couldn’t be happier that my father killed his buck of a lifetime that had 14 points, tipping the scale at 225 pounds and measuring 165 3/8 Boone & Crocket.

Kelly Charbono’s Old Grey Face

John Hoffmeyer had been watching a nice buck his crew nicknamed Old Grey Face all summer on his family farm along Tommahund Creek on the Chickahominy. Trail camera pics revealed a solid eight pointer with a wide spread. By October 5 though, Hoffmeyer’s cameras lost the swamp buck. The accomplished hunter was in the woods for 35 days of bow and the first week of muzzleloader season but couldn’t catch a glimpse of the buck during the day.

“My brother-in-law, Kelly, got him November 12. He was driving along the farm driveway and the buck was chasing does around a nearby pond. Kelly went home, grabbed his muzzleloader and snuck up to the pond. The does jumped up out of some weeds and the buck stood up about 70 yards away. Kelly shot him freehanded from the ground.”

Hoffmeyer told W2 they had pics of the buck for three years as an eight-pointer and this season he had added a lot of mass to the rack and weighed in at 200 pounds.

Klimtzak Buck

Tom Klimtzak enjoys spending time in the woods and on the water with this 16-year-old son, Aiden. While they live in Spotsylvania, then hunt a property in Culpeper County and were doing so November 6 around 7 am when Aiden dropped his first nice buck – a fine eight pointer. They were hunting out of an elevated box blind and Aiden was using a Thompson Center Triumph 50 cal. blackpowder rifle with 100 grains of 777 powder and a 240 grain Traditions Smackdown sabot.

This was the first Sunday of muzzleloader season and a rainy morning. They were hunting an oak flat with come cedar thickets intertwined.

“Around 6:45 Aiden spotted a deer coming through the thicket to our left. It ended up being a doe. He then caught a glimpse of a deer about 50 yards behind her. That was Aiden’s buck. It took roughly 10 minutes for the buck to follow where the doe walked. Once he gave Aiden a clear shot he took it. I watched the whole event unfold. The shot was roughly 45 yards. The buck traveled 125 and was piled up. There wasn’t any blood trail. We saw him standing about 100 yards away after the shot. After looking at the shot site and found no sign, we walked over to the last place we saw him. He was laying 25 yards from there. Aiden is becoming a great hunter and outdoorsman. I couldn’t be a prouder Dad.” 

Sullivan’s Spotsy Special

Noted tournament angler Nathan Sullivan also enjoys the thrill of the hunt and was set up on a Caroline County ridge top with plenty of dead falls and a briar thicket when his deer honey hole paid off again. He employed the use of a Traditions LT Pursuit 50 cal. blackpowder rifle and a Primos doe in estrus call to attract the attention of his big buck.

“This buck came sneaking off the ridge behind me, checking the scent and the sound he heard. As I looked carefully, I noticed he had something in his rack. I was committed to the shot when he stopped around 75 years then came straight at me. He turned at 27 yards and I took the shot.”

Sullivan told W2 the 120-pound, eight-point buck bolted straight back up the ridge and fell behind a large cherry tree. Close inspection revealed a branch stuck in the rack. Sullivan wanted to thank the late Tunney Sullivan for showing him the spot where he has hunted for years and has harvested a number of bucks.

Zack Robb’s Bow Season Giant

Two years ago Zack Robb made a memory he’ll never forget by harvesting a 154 point, Boone & Crocket, 10-point Boone & Crocket buck in Albemarle County.

Robb dropped the deer using a Darton LOBO 70-pound compound bow out of a Lone Wolf Custom Gear Dacquisto Series 1.0 tree stand. “I had been watching a buck grow for four years on a property that I hunted, and 2020 was his year. He had totally blown up into a non -typical monster. All gears shifted to target him and all was going to plan.” “September rolled around and I lost permission to the property due to a change in farm management. The deer ended up being shot on Youth Day, exactly where and how it should’ve gone down according to history with the buck. The young lady was blessed to have shot a monster!” Robb told W2 that having to shift gears in early September to find a new target was not an easy task, but he luckily managed to acquire a nearby property at the last minute and walked it, bumping up a dandy of a deer on the initial scouting of the property. While watching the deer, he tried to return to his bed. At this point Robb had the intel he needed for opening weeks of archery. He made a mock scrape and placed a camera on it just outside a travel path coming to/from his bed. After one check of the camera, his intel confirmed a plan and gave him the when and the why to be where he needed to be to bag the big buck. “I had one encounter on the second hunt of the year as I was putting my camera back in my pack getting ready to leave the stand.

The following Thursday evening, October 15, I left work in a mad dash to make it to the stand. I took my Lone Wolf Custom Gear 1.0 and my bow and ran into the woods. Walking with the wind in my face, as I created a hill, I blew out some does that heard the leaves crunching under my feet. I noticed in the distance a bigger deer slipping out of the small pines after the does. Immediately I pushed near that area and set up. I sat about 16’ up and started to put on face paint for good luck and sat down.

To my surprise I looked to my right and the buck was coming right back at 17 yards. I shifted the camera and grabbed my bow, readied and shot. The buck ran 30 yards and toppled over. I immediately called my wife, who brought the baby and helped me recover the deer!

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