Mike Duck Buck: 200-Inch Pennsylvania Buck
October 28, 2014
While firearms season has always been by far the most popular time for Pennsylvanians to hit the deer woods, archery season is coming on strong as a great time for tagging trophies. In fact, those using vertical bows or crossbows have taken three of the state's top five hunter-harvested bucks in terms of gross antler score, according to record listings compiled by the Northeast Big Buck Club.
Given this, perhaps it's no shock that in 2013, one of the state's best-ever bucks fell during bow season. In fact, in NBBC's records Mike Duck's Lycoming County giant ranks No. 2 on the list the club maintains for Pennsylvania archery non-typicals.
While many other states and provinces continue to wrestle with the issue of allowing crossbow use during archery season, Mike is thrilled Pennsylvania made the move to do so five years ago. It's opened up new opportunities for a resident who, due to a back injury, otherwise would have to wait for gun season to pursue his favorite game animal each autumn.
Growing Up in the Woods
Mike scouts every chance he gets and even claims he'd live in the woods, if possible. His love of the outdoors stems from his childhood, when his dad taught him the finer points of hunting long before he allowed Mike to actually shoot his first deer.
In those early years the boy learned patience, the value of sitting still and most importantly, the ethics of hunting. He recalls getting off the school bus and heading to the woods to look for any signs of deer, turkeys or other wildlife. And when he saw a game animal, he'd sit and watch how it interacted with others.
When Mike finally turned 12, the day came when he was allowed to hunt with a gun. He hunted sunup to sundown, regardless of weather conditions, with his dad and Uncle Jack. And he loved it! By the time he'd turned 18, Mike was hunting totally on his own, and he practically had begun to live in the woods. When deer season rolled around each fall, he already had at least a dozen promising spots picked out. And when he found a big buck he'd get to the woods earlier than anyone else, in hopes of getting a crack at that deer.
Despite such efforts, as a young hunter Mike never was able to connect with a really big buck. He did take plenty of average-sized ones over the years and tempered his trophy dreams by just being happy just being out there in the woods.
As a young deer hunter, Mike found archery season was by far his favorite. He started with a recurve but after a few seasons moved up to a compound. He loves the challenge of trying to get a deer in close. Unfortunately, only a few years ago his love of bowhunting was impacted by a back injury. Mike eventually became concerned he'd never be able to hunt with a bow again; not only did trying to shoot cause him a lot of physical pain, he no longer could draw or hold the bow in a manner that allowed him to make a perfect shot.
To Mike's great relief — literally — in 2009 Pennsylvania legalized crossbows for use in archery season. He was thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to get up close and personal with deer throughout the long season. This sportsman's love of bowhunting could continue to be fed, despite his back problems.
Duck Meets Buck
In January 2013, after the close of deer season, Mike spotted the biggest buck he'd ever seen in the woods — period! At first he thought it was a wide and tall 12-pointer, but he didn't really have enough time to count points before the deer vanished.
From that point forward, Mike knew he'd be scouting the area for rubs, food sources and thick bedding spots. In the process, he found a lot of beeches and white oaks that seemed to be holding the buck in the area. Mike continued scouting throughout the spring and summer, and in the process he saw the velvet buck several times. When bow season finally came around, the hunter was confident the giant whitetail would still be in the neighborhood.
On the afternoon of Oct. 17, Mike headed out to scout the area for an upcoming hunt with his daughter, Samantha. He didn't have much time after work that day, but he decided to carry his crossbow to the woods anyway, just in case.
When Mike got to the area he'd been scouting, he saw some fresh sign, including huge tracks. That was all he needed to be convinced to sit down next to a big oak for a while. He got out his trusty rattling horns and grunt tube (he always carries them in his backpack) and decided to make a little noise.
Within minutes of finishing that calling sequence, Mike heard a sound. Something was coming through the brush. Sure enough, a lone doe appeared and began feeding on some acorns, then slowly moved on.
About 10 minutes went by, and Mike rattled and grunted again. Seconds later, there was more noise in the brush. Mike caught a glimpse of another deer — but this time, there were long tines sticking up in the brush. Was it him?
Hoping the approaching buck was the giant he'd been after, Mike told himself not to look at the rack but instead concentrate on getting a good shot. The buck walked down the same trail the doe had followed, so Mike knew there would only be a few shooting lanes through the brush. He got his Stryker 380 up and pointed it toward the next opening.
When the buck walked into the clear, Mike instantly knew it was the monster he was after. The hunter gave a quick mouth grunt to stop him and let the arrow fly.
As the buck jumped and ran off, Mike immediately began questioning his shot. He thought it might have been a little high. He was shaking badly and his heart was beating so hard he thought he might pass out. He sat down and tried to calm himself, recalling details of previous shots and trailing jobs. He just hoped he could keep himself from going after the buck too quickly.
After what seemed an eternity, Mike walked over to where the deer had stood at the time of the shot. The hunter couldn't find his arrow, and a bad feeling overcame him. Had the broadhead stuck into bone? With anxiety and darkness setting in, Mike left to get flashlights and help.
When he and his brother returned a short time later, they soon found blood. As it turned into a good trail, Mike started to feel a little more optimistic. And when that trail ended, the men were standing over the biggest buck either had ever seen!
The deer was so massive it took several hours for the men to drag him out and get him into Mike's vehicle. Once home, Mike called his other brother and dad, and they came over to see the trophy. The buck's neck was huge, and he had the body to match. His feet looked like cow feet, which explained those huge tracks.
Mike couldn't sleep for three days after downing this 16-pointer. And he couldn't help but think how things could have gone so differently. What if he hadn't taken his crossbow with him that day, on what he'd thought would be just another scouting trip? What if the state hadn't legalized crossbows? Sometimes it's hard to understand the role fate plays in these rare encounters with giant bucks.
Tale of the Tape
After the required 60-day drying period, Mike's buck was scored by a panel of NBBC measurers led by Lewis Anstadt. When the final numbers were tallied, the Duck buck scored 211 5/8 inches gross non-typical and 200 2/8 net. The gross score makes it the state's top non-typical in the NBBC crossbow listings. It's just 1 1/8 inches shy of the club's archery state record, a huge non-typical shot in Allegheny County by Gerald Simkonis in 2007.
And get this: Had Mike opted to enter his buck as a typical, the 11-point mainframe would have gone into NBBC with a typical gross score of 191 7/8! This is a true giant of a whitetail.
Many elements had to come together to give Mike Duck a chance at Pennsylvania whitetail history last Oct. 17. But his good fortune didn't end there. Later in the year, Samantha got a doe and her first buck, an 8-pointer, with that same Stryker crossbow. The Duck family made some memories they'll cherish from now on — and in the process, Pennsylvania got credit for a buck that's likely to remain among its very best for a long time.
For Your Information
To learn more about NBBC or to purchase its most recent record book, Northeast Trophy Whitetails VII, visit the NBBC site or contact author Jeff Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org; (508) 752-8762.