Albert King Buck: 198-Inch Kentucky Giant
September 16, 2014
By almost any measure, Albert King is an avid whitetail hunter. Nevertheless, whenever this resident of western Kentucky has an opportunity to turn loose his pack of beagles in prime swamp rabbit habitat, deer hunting usually becomes a secondary priority. Therefore, it seems only fitting that his pursuit of a particular giant buck actually began during a rabbit hunt in November 2012.
The scene was Sloughs Wildlife Management Area, which is made up of six tracts in the vast Ohio River bottomlands of Kentucky's Henderson and Union counties. After turning out his beagles near a long strip of woods and waist-high brush between two large agricultural fields, Albert and his brother, Lee, headed off down the brushy woodsline.
"I'd picked that specific spot because a friend of mine, John Nally, farms the area and had reported seeing a number of swamp rabbits when he was combining the corn fields," Albert explains. "After walking a considerable distance along the field border without the dogs jumping a rabbit, we decided to cross over to the other side of the strip and hunt back in the direction of the truck."
As the hunters approached a dense pocket of small trees and saplings, a huge buck and a doe suddenly bolted out of the undergrowth. The doe headed straight away, toward the river, but the buck turned out into the open field, in full view of both men.
"Less than 50 yards away, the deer was an unbelievable sight," Albert says. "Without question, it was the biggest buck either of us had ever encountered."
Albert returned to the location a few days later to scout and select a couple of possible stand locations. During the process, he discovered a large shed he believed the same buck had dropped the previous year. Despite having been heavily damaged by rodents, the 9-point side still grossed a whopping 92 2/8 inches.
"My choice of possible stand sites was limited to where there were trees big enough to support a climbing stand," Albert notes. "Although I did bowhunt the location several times that season, I never sighted the buck again."
Albert likes looking for shed antlers, particularly in the areas he hunts. Obviously, his top priority in 2013 was to concentrate his search efforts in the woods and fields near where he'd jumped the big whitetail.
"I made a trip to the area the last weekend in February," he recalls. "But shortly after arriving, I jumped a buck that was still carrying his rack, so I immediately canceled the remainder of that search day."
Albert returned in mid-March. After hours of walking an unknown number of miles crisscrossing the woods and nearby fields, he suddenly spotted a fresh side of the buck's giant rack in corn stubble near the woodsline.
"Finding the shed really fired me up," the hunter says. "I was determined to locate the matching antler, but after walking over the entire area again, I simply couldn't find it."
Undeterred, Albert made a return trip the following weekend — and this time, luck was on his side. Shortly after entering the strip of woods, he discovered the matching shed lying along a heavy deer trail. Amazingly, the antler was lying within a few yards of where he'd found the buck's 2011 shed a few months earlier.
Over the years Albert had picked up numerous shed antlers, including a few really big ones — but never any as big as these. With main beams exceeding 27 inches and five tines measuring from 10 4/8 to 13 inches, the antlers were truly awesome. With an (estimated) inside spread of 18 inches, the 6x6 typical frame grossed 195 6/8 and netted 187 7/8.
Formulating a Plan
Understandably, with the buck's location being on public land, Albert told only a few friends about his encounter with the deer and finding the sheds. The hunter's only goal for the 2013-14 deer season now was clear: to get an opportunity to take the giant.
"During the summer, I made a number of late-evening trips to the WMA for the purpose of glassing several of the large bean fields," Albert says. "I thought I might be able to see the deer. While I did see a number of bucks, in most cases they were much too far away to determine rack size."
Albert normally hunts deer exclusively with a bow. But prior to opening day, he expanded his options.
"I purchased a Thompson/Center FX .50 caliber muzzleloader," he says. "I was hopeful of taking the buck with my bow, but I also wanted the added option of hunting during the early 2-day muzzleloading season in October, plus the week-long December season."
In August, the hunter set out a trail camera near where he and his brother had jumped the buck. Additionally, Albert selected four stand sites within the long strip of woods.
As most of us can attest, when it comes to hunting a specific mature buck, things seldom go as planned. And so it was with Albert's quest. Beginning in early September and continuing on into October, he bowhunted the area every weekend. Seeing deer wasn't a problem, but the buck he was looking for failed to make an appearance.
During the early two-day muzzleloading season, Albert moved to a different stand he'd placed in a big maple several hundred yards farther down the strip. The stand overlooked a fairly open flat of scattered small trees and saplings. Several deer trails meandered through the flat, all passing within muzzleloader range of the maple. Unfortunately, the weekend passed with only sightings of a few small bucks.
More troublesome still was the fact he had failed to get a single trail camera photo of the big deer. As October faded into November and the rut began, he decided to move the trail camera farther down the strip of woods, placing it near one of the well-used trails.
"At one point, I had either seen or gotten photos of over 10 different bucks in that area," Albert points out. "A couple would have pushed 160 (inches). But the deer I was looking for remained missing. When the WMA was open during the statewide gun season (mid-November), I checked out every big-deer report, just to make sure another hunter hadn't taken the buck."
With its location on the Ohio River, Sloughs WMA is primarily managed for waterfowl. The plan includes a certain percentage of agricultural crops in the field for ducks and geese. Last fall, a small acreage of standing corn had been left near one end of the strip of woods where Albert was hunting, and by late November there was a concentration of deer utilizing that supplemental food source.
"An old oxbow lake borders about a mile of the wooded strip," the hunter explains. "This forces deer to travel a considerable distance through the woods before they can cross the upper end of the old slough to access the standing corn.
"This was the section of woods where I was located. However, after three months of hunting, I was beginning to question whether the big deer was still on the WMA, or for that matter, still alive. But I also knew a buck's movement pattern can fluctuate, and the fact remained that for two years in a row the deer had shed his antlers in the area I was hunting. With that in mind, I decided to move my trail camera to the spot where I'd found two of the sheds."
The first week of December, an early winter storm dumped several inches of snow on the area. The following Saturday, while checking his trail camera, Albert got a sudden adrenaline rush: On the card were four photos of the big whitetail.
"My excitement level elevated to a new threshold," the hunter remembers. "On two photos, taken minutes before dark, the buck was headed toward the corn field. In the other two photos, taken after midnight, the deer was headed in the other direction."
The week-long late muzzleloader season opened the next weekend, and Saturday morning found Albert in his stand well before daybreak. But he wasn't the only hunter in the area.
"There were three other bucks visible with the big whitetail in the trail camera photos," Albert says. "That weekend, I sighted all three of those deer, but not the big one. I have to believe his absence was due to all of the hunter activity."
The final weekend of muzzleloader season began on a different but still negative note. That Saturday, rain was falling as Albert climbed into his stand before dawn. By mid-morning, it was a full-fledged downpour.
"The rain continued all day, and I never saw a single deer," the hunter says. "But the real problems began when I got back to my truck. The rainwater runoff had covered all of the low fields, including the road. In places, the water was up to my headlights; the only way I managed to stay in the road was by guiding the truck between high weeds and grass still visible along the roadsides."
That night Albert arrived home wet, tired and completely frustrated. He told his wife, Misty, that he was through deer hunting for the year. He wasn't going back out on Sunday. Her response?
"I don't believe it."
Down to the Wire
The following morning dawned clear and cool, with no wind. Albert made a phone call to check the status of the river. According to the report, it was rising, but there would be no flooding of low-lying areas until Monday.
"I knew then that most of the water I drove through the previous night would be gone," the hunter says. "Considering the weather, I had to go back and hunt the final afternoon."
On this occasion, Albert took a climbing stand with him. Instead of hunting from his regular location, near the trail camera, his plan was to move a couple hundred yards farther down the strip.
"Assuming the buck had resumed his movement pattern to the corn field, I thought this might allow me a few more minutes of daylight," Albert notes. "But as it turned out, I was unable to find a tree where I could climb high enough to see more than 30 yards. At that point, I dismissed using the climber and decided to walk a few hundred yards farther to my October stand in the big maple."
After getting settled, the hunter began glassing the surrounding area. Within minutes, he spotted a buck standing in an opening several hundred yards beyond his position. For roughly an hour Albert watched a number of other deer appear and disappear in the same general area.
"Right at sundown, I could see at least nine or ten does, and they slowly began moving in my direction," Albert says. "Eventually the group of does plus two small bucks passed about 90 yards in front of my stand."
Glancing back down the strip, the hunter immediately saw six additional does heading his way. Using binoculars, he also managed to spot two or three large bucks walking about 150 yards behind the does.
"The late-evening light made it very difficult to see clearly," Albert notes. "One or two of the bucks seemed to have white racks, while the other had a very dark rack. By the time the does reached my position, I'd completely lost sight of the bucks. At one point I briefly spotted a white-racked deer, but he looked to be heading in the opposite direction."
Continuing to watch and glass, Albert suddenly saw a large buck walk out of the trees about 175 yards away. A glance through the binoculars was all it took to identify this as the buck the hunter had been hoping to see for over a year. Now, with light rapidly fading, the giant was getting closer with every passing second."
The buck paused twice to lift his head in the air, apparently checking the wind. But the slight breeze was in Albert's face; there was no chance of being detected. If the deer maintained his path, he'd pass in front of the stand at about 100 yards.
"I picked out a gap in the trees and maneuvered into position, using my fanny pack as a rifle rest," the hunter says. "I considered doing a mouth bleat to stop the deer, but ultimately dismissed that as too risky."
At the shot, Albert heard the unmistakable sound of the bullet's impact, but a cloud of bluish-white smoke momentarily obscured everything. As the air began to clear, the buck gradually became visible again — standing near the same spot.
After hurriedly reloading, Albert aimed and fired a second time. In the last seconds of what daylight remained, the big deer appeared to drop to his knees and lie down.
Albert remained in the stand for several minutes to calm down and gather his thoughts. Unsure if the buck was dead, he decided to wait an hour before checking on the deer. After calling longtime friends Dick Ward and Dwayne Berry for assistance, he made the long walk back to his truck to wait for their arrival.
"I was a little apprehensive during our walk back in," Albert recalls. "It took a few minutes for me to get my directions oriented with the stand location, but after that, we found the buck pretty quickly. He'd never moved from his last location.
"For several minutes there were a lot of high-fives and celebrating going on," Albert recalls. "The first thing I did was reach down and grab hold of the rack. That's certainly one moment I'll never forget."
There was little difference between the sheds and the final rack. It was still a huge 6x6 typical frame with 27-inch main beams and exceptional tine length. However, the addition of three abnormal points totaling over 15 inches resulted in the buck being ruled a non-typical. After grossing 203 7/8, the rack's final non-typical Boone & Crockett score stands at 198 6/8, comfortably making the all-time B&C record book for that category. The deer was aged at 7 1/2-plus.