September 07, 2022
David Stroupe’s journey to take an incredible whitetail buck in McDowell County, West Virginia, started in fall of 2018, with a single trail camera picture taken on October 4th. Additional photos followed, but there was an issue: David was only picking up nocturnal pictures of the buck.
David hunted the nocturnal buck a few days that fall, but he never had any encounters. The hopeful bowhunter was still getting pictures of the giant, but as expected most of them were at night. For this very reason, David chose to start calling the buck “Ghost.”
The deer looked to be 3 1/2 years old that year and had an immense home range. Sporadic pictures can be expected of a buck of that age, so David wasn’t overly surprised when the deer would vanish unexpectedly. That year, Ghost was a remarkably wide main frame 10-pointer. Moving into 2019, David was super excited when he discovered the buck had made it through the season — and had grown even more antler. But sadly, the buck proceeded to play cat and mouse with David, sporting a larger 10-point rack with an enormous spread. The 2019 season was essentially a replay of the 2018 season. David’s trail cameras captured a few daytime pics here and there, which were predominantly nocturnal pictures.
David felt sure he was just on the outskirts of the buck’s core area, as the buck was being so infrequent and only passing through a few times every week or so. The bowhunter still pursued the buck hard, hoping he’d get lucky. But once again, the buck had all the luck. However, David discovered that the deer was wintering on his hunting property. And during that time of year, David would pick up a bunch of daytime photos of the buck, especially after the hunting season concluded on Dec. 31. Knowing Ghost had survived yet another year, David had high hopes of getting a chance at him in 2020.
As bucks reach peak maturity, they sometimes become more lethargic or comfortable; at least it can seem that’s the case. Some mature bucks even start to exhibit more daytime activity, and their home ranges shrink in size. This isn’t the case with all mature bucks. But I’ve seen this with a few bucks in southern West Virginia, personally.
In 2020, Ghost transformed into a typical 12-pointer of gigantic proportions! He was incredibly wide, and it looked like his inside spread must be 25 inches or wider. By this point, David realized the buck was extremely special — once in a lifetime even. The bowhunter was really consumed with tagging Ghost, like anyone would be. Finally, the buck was showing up in daylight more often, and David wondered if the odds finally would be in his favor. But once again, Ghost lived up to his name and eluded David for the season.
In 2021, Ghost was growing older and started showing up even more often in daytime. David ran trail cameras during the summer, quickly confirm- ing that Ghost had grown into a monstrous whitetail, with more width, tine length and mass. David estimated Ghost’s rack was now over 25 inches wide, with beams that were 28-plus inches long.
During the first two weeks of November, Ghost walked past David’s trail cameras almost every single day. David hunted some of those days and during the week following, but again he didn’t see Ghost. The bowhunter was beginning to believe he was truly hunting some sort of phantom deer.
Luckily, in the coal fields of southern West Virginia, people like David, who work in the coal mining industry, get what we call “miner’s vacation.” This hiatus always falls during Thanksgiving week, which is a great week to bowhunt our state, especially in the bow-only counties of McDowell, Logan, Mingo and Wyoming!
When David’s vacation arrived, he knew he had eight solid days straight to hunt the Ghost. He knew he’d have to spend daylight until dark on the stand to get an opportunity, or at the very least a sighting of this elusive dream buck.
David hunted hard all week, hoping for an opportunity at the world-class typical. Finally, on Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving, David heard a deer walking behind him. David was perched 20 feet high in his stand, and he quickly readied himself for the potential encounter. The sound of the rustling leaves quickly stopped, leaving David think- ing it could have been a squirrel or another critter. But as David settled back into his stand, he heard the noises once again. This time he knew instantly it was a deer, making a rub or hitting a licking branch.
Things got quiet again, and another 10 minutes passed without a sound. David could sense it was the Ghost, and the deer was living up to his name.
Suddenly, David looked up to see the massive buck standing still about 35 yards away. David instantly started shaking with buck fever! It was intense knowing a deer of that caliber was within range. Meanwhile, the Ghost buck stood there — not moving an inch for minutes. Like so many mature bucks do, Ghost had a sense something wasn’t right. So, the deer started to turn and vanish back into the timber.
David knew he needed to act fast to get a shot off at the departing whitetail. This was David’s shot at the buck he had been chasing and dreaming about for years. The Ghost was standing broadside as David drew back and let the arrow fly from his Matthew’s Triax.
David’s arrow made impact! The bowhunter could tell the shot had landed a touch farther back than intended, but he listened as the buck bolted through the timber about 60 yards and abruptly crashed!
Could it be? David asked himself, overcome with emotion: Have I finally killed the elusive Ghost buck?
David quietly called a friend and told him what had happened. They both agreed that the best decision was to back out. They gave the buck a couple of hours and began tracking him. As they neared where David had heard the crash earlier, the buck jumped up and ran a short distance. Luckily, David was able to get another shot and was able to finish the quest for the incredible West Virginia whitetail.
As David watched the buck fall, he too fell to his knees, in joy, excitement and shock. David’s long hunt had come to an end, and he was left with bittersweet feelings as he realized the Ghost would no longer haunt the mountainous terrain of McDowell County.
The David Stroupe Jr. buck has an enormous typical frame with 12 scorable points, one of the largest ever from the Mountain State. The inside spread measures a staggering 25 5/8 inches, while the main beams tape out at 31 5/8 (right) and 31 inches (left). The buck’s official Boone & Crockett typical score is an incredible 195 1/8 gross and 186 net. It’s certainly one of the most impressive trophies you’ll find, taken in some of the toughest terrain that whitetails roam.