It was mid-afternoon on Nov. 13, 2009, and Gary Morris of Winslow, Ark., was heading south out of Iowa. Driven by a haze of internal frustration, he was headed back to Arkansas six days early. The last three years of planning, anticipation and excitement for his Midwestern hunt had been stolen by an encounter with a 170-inch behemoth buck and a blown 12-yard “chip-shot.”
Reaching the pinnacle of frustration, he called his bowhunting partner, Jaysen Evans, and said, “I am selling all my bowhunting stuff and I am going to buy a crappie boat. Those fish won’t be able to get to me like these big whitetails do. I just can’t take this.”
He was serious, but not serious enough. This is the story of the Garry Morris buck.
Gary, 61, is a taxidermist by trade and has devoted his life to whitetail hunting. The heartbreak Iowa buck was the latest in a long string of “bad luck” that had followed Gary for years. However, Gary’s bowhunting resume is impressive, with numerous Pope and Young-class bucks, several black bears, elk and wild hogs to his credit; he is no stranger to success. But, as Gary said, “I consider myself a good scouter, I position my stands well and I am fortunate on seeing quality bucks, but I have never been able to close the deal on a great deer.”
Somewhere over the course of the phone call with Evans, Gary changed his mind and decided to go back to Iowa. The next morning, out of the same stand he had blown the shot from two days before, Gary arrowed the biggest buck of his life at that time. A heavy horned 150-class Iowa brute. The tables seemed to be turning—little did he know how far they would spin.
It was two years after his fateful decision to turn north and continue bowhunting. Gary had access to a 340-acre farm in Crawford County, Kansas. It was the morning of Nov., 19, 2011, and Gary recalled, “Wind was blowing hard that morning. I didn’t like the feel of the day because I don’t like to hunt in the wind. By 10:30, the wind blew so hard, I actually thought it might take my tree down, so I got down and started doing some scouting.” The weatherman predicted sustained winds of 30 mph and gusts up to 52 mph and a high temperature of 70 degrees—a rut hunter’s worst nightmare!
As Gary hit the ground, he began scouting a part of the farm that he had never been on. Much to his surprise, he found some extremely large rubs that were fresh. With cell phone coverage strong, he called his good friend, Eric Burnett, to relay his find. Gary said, “Eric, if the sign is fresh, this buck is still alive.” Gary knew the property had been heavily hunted the week before.
After hanging up the phone, Gary continued walking and scouting. He was about 80 yards in the timber off the edge of a bean field. It was almost 11 a.m. and howling wind and warm temperature shot Gary’s hopes of a good hunt. Then, despite the moving trees and grass, he spotted the slow, steady movement of deer, walking along the edge of the field 80 yards away. As the deer came into an opening, Gary saw what he had been waiting for the last 40 years to see. It was a giant buck. “I immediately knew that it was the best deer I had ever laid my eyes on,” he said.
As if providence had prescribed it, the howling wind, which earlier in the day was his enemy, had now become Gary’s greatest ally. The wind was blowing directly from the deer to Gary, and he recalled, “I immediately knew that I could move on this deer. He was headed down the edge of the field and every time he would move, I would move.”
Instinctively, Gary knew that this wasn’t an ordinary stalk. The buck would walk for 10-15 yards and then stop. When the buck was walking, Gary was walking full stride en route to cut the buck off. With the blowing wind, the buck couldn’t pick up Gary’s movement. The buck was moving down the field edge and Gary picked an angle that he felt like would eventually get him within range of the buck.
“Within 10-12 minutes I closed the gap to about 30 yards.” Gary said. “At one point, the buck slipped through a small opening and I could have shot, but I wasn’t quite ready.” He remembers thinking he might have missed his only opportunity. Then the buck entered a small, 30-yard by 30-yard thicket on the edge of the field. To Gary’s amazement and disappointment, he watched as the buck began to turn circles, and begin to pat out a bed in the leaves. It was 11 a.m., and he knew the buck might not get up until late that afternoon, or even after dark! He had no shot through the thicket and all he could do was wait.
“I was standing 30 yards from the biggest buck I have ever seen and he was just about to bed down,” Gary said. “Then a huge gust of wind blew through and knocked a big limb out a tree that came crashing down and almost hit the buck!”
The buck jumped, and in a couple of leaps, he was broadside within 10 yards of Gary!
Instinctively, he quickly drew his bow. However, the close movement spooked the buck and he bounded out into the thick timber.
“The woods were thick and I thought I had missed my chance,” Gary said. “Then the buck stopped 35 yards out in the only opening around. I had a small hole that I could see his vitals through. He was quartering away hard, and I shot the buck for 30 yards.”
Gary watched as the arrow appeared to sail right under the giant buck! Gary thought another monster buck had slipped through his clutches! However, upon retrieval of the arrow he was encouraged to find good blood on the ground and on the arrow. He concluded the hit must have been very low.
Ecstatic, Gary called his hunting partner, Jaysen Evans, who was hunting on another farm not far away. After letting the deer lay for three hours, the pair returned to the property in hopes of recovering the buck and ending Gary’s 40-year quest for a giant whitetail. When they pulled into the farm, much to their alarm, they saw three people standing across the field where he had shot the deer. Gary’s heart sank, “What are they doing here? What’s going on?”
As Jaysen and Gary approached the figures, they saw that it was three young boys. The boys had been squirrel hunting with pellet guns and had come across a fresh blood trail and had begun to follow it.
“Quickly, we could tell they were good boys and they were just following their curiosity,” Gary said. The boys said they had found the blood two hours earlier. Gary feared that the boys might have spooked the low-hit buck. In good spirits, Jaysen and Gary recruited the help of the boys to track the buck. The quintet trailed the buck to a bloody bed. The group looked and looked, but couldn’t find which way the buck went when he left. Gary feared that the boys might have spooked the buck out of his would-be deathbed.
After an extended period of time, they decided to split up, leave the blood and simply look for the dead buck. Within a few minutes Gary and Jaysen heard the excited screams of one of the young boys, “I found your buck! I found your buck!” Jaysen and Gary ran to the scene and found the boys standing in awe of the giant, 300-pound-plus Kansas whitetail. Gary had his buck of lifetime.
After examining the body, Gary confirmed the arrow had hit low and behind the shoulder. The arrow didn’t even hit a vital organ, but must have cut a major artery somewhere in the shoulders.
The buck stands out for many reasons. He sports 25- and 26-inch main beams and has exceptional mass, over 40 inches. The buck is only 15 7/8 inches wide and his tallest tine is 9 5/8 inches, but the buck has 29 abnormal points, almost exclusively around the massive bases. With 40 scoreable points, the buck was measured by Boone and Crockett scorer Kirk Kelso and had a final net non-typical score of 221 5/8 inches. This is an unbelievable highpoint in Gary’s bowhunting career.
Sometimes the wheels of the whitetail world turn slowly. Especially when your goal is to attain something that all amounts of human effort, striving, planning, practice and desire can’t produce on their own—a 200-inch buck. In closing, Gary said, “To kill this buck in the worst possible conditions is the most unbelievable thing to me. I’ve hunted in pristine conditions for years and never seen a buck like this. Big deer in the Midwest just don’t move in the middle of the day when it’s hot. I just got there at exactly the right time, right before he bedded. What are the chances? It was like I could do no wrong on this buck. Sometimes things are meant to be, and this was one of them.”