March 23, 2016
Going into the 2014 season, Rob White had no way of knowing he would shoot the deer of his life, much less one of the largest 9-pointers ever taken with a bow. With the buck's additional G-4 tine being ruled a deduction for symmetry in the net score, it stands to reason why only a handful of 9-pointers have ever made the prestigious Boone and Crockett Club record book. Rob's giant officially nets 178 3/8 inches.
The Early Years
"I first got interested in shooting a bow at the age of 7, when I entered the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) program at a local pro archery shop in Mercer, Pennsylvania," Rob begins. "My sister, Renee, and I both joined the program at the same time. I shot there for several years, but lost interest in shooting competitively when I got interested in other sports like baseball, and deer hunting. I started hunting deer when I was in high school. I started first with a recurve, and later on I switched to a compound bow."
"Several years later my brother, Rod, entered the JOAD program," Rob says. "Rod didn't do that well at first, but he was persistent and worked really hard." Rob explains that Tim Strickland became Rod's personal coach and Rod excelled pretty quickly after that.
A few years later, Rod tried out and made the Junior World Team. Later, Rod made the Men's National Team and then qualified for the Olympic Archery Team. In 1996, he shot in the Olympic Games in Atlanta and won a team gold medal.
"I had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta to watch the Games, and I'm glad I did," Rob says. "In 2000, Rod shot in the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, and won a team bronze medal that year."
The Move To Iowa
"Shortly after Rod won his first Olympic medal, he wanted to make a couple of deer-hunting videos and needed a cameraman," Rob recalls.
At the time, Rob was working construction and substitute teaching in order to take time off. The brothers hunted and shot video together for a couple of years. Rob and his wife, Michelle, then moved to Iowa in 1999. "Michelle landed a job teaching, and I went to work for the Mt. Pleasant police force," Rob remarks. "A few years later, I took a teaching position in Mt. Pleasant. Eventually I landed a job as a state trooper and have been there since."
Scouting And Stand Prep
Rob explains that the particular farm on which he killed the massive 9-pointer is roughly 100 acres. "There's about 50 acres of timber and the remaining land is composed mostly of hay fields," he says. "It's fairly hilly ground, and a creek splits down the middle, separating it from the neighboring land. The surrounding property is mainly Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), with a few small woodlots that are maybe an acre or two in size."
Rob and friend Gene Dietzenbach have been hunting the ground for at least a dozen years. They both know the property well, so most of their scouting is done with trail cameras. Rob puts out cameras in early August and leaves them up until February, when he begins shed hunting.
"I generally hang stands, check them for safety and trim shooting lanes in late August or early September," Rob notes. "In most cases, I hang two stands on every set. The second stand is for filming or just to sit with the person hunting."
Most of Rob's stands are set up for a specific wind and time. Based on these factors, he tries to funnel deer into shooting lanes that offer the best shot-opportunity. For the most part, Rob simply drops a couple of small trees or piles up brush across the trails he doesn't want deer to follow.
"This area was hit hard with epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) for two straight years, and we were finding a lot of dead deer," Rob remembers. "To put things into perspective: three years ago it wouldn't be unusual to see 20 or 25 deer feeding in the fields in the evening, but now we are lucky to see four or five."
Despite having had cameras up for maybe a month, Rob hadn't been getting any photos of potential shooters. However, in mid-September he got pictures of a couple good ones, including a huge 9-pointer he nicknamed "Niner." At the time, Rob figured the buck would score at least in the high 170s.
Rob's son, Logan, turned 12 this past year. Logan is also an avid hunter, and Rob wanted to dedicate as much time as he could to helping him get a deer.
"My primary focus was on taking Logan out as often as possible," Rob says. "The youth season opened in mid-September, about the same time I got the first picture of Niner.
"From mid-September until the last week of October, we probably hunted 15 or 20 times. Most of those outings were evening hunts. We saw a few deer each time out, but nothing of any size. In fact, it didn't take long to confirm we were missing the 2- and 3-year-old bucks. No doubt it was the result of EHD the two previous years. The deer that died during that time would have been the ones filling the gap now."
Logan had the green light to shoot pretty much anything he wanted. However, he'd learned at a young age to let the little ones walk so they had a chance to grow. Logan had taken a 150-class buck with a gun, but he was determined to get one with his bow. Previously Rob had told him he wouldn't shoot Niner until after mid-November, hoping his son would get a chance before then.
"Over the course of the next six weeks, Logan had a couple of opportunities to shoot a 125-inch deer," Rob recalls, "but in both instances he elected to hold off."
In Rob's area, the rut normally starts picking up the first week of November. So he and Logan hunted every chance they got that week. Unfortunately, the 2014 rut was far from normal.
"Most years we see 2- and 3-year-old bucks chasing everywhere," says Rob, "but this year we didn't see much rutting activity at all." At first Rob thought he was the only one not seeing deer, but many of his friends weren't seeing much, either.
"November 7 was really the first time I went hunting by myself," Rob notes. "I decided to hunt another farm about 5 miles away and give the farm we had been hunting a rest." Rob had trail cameras on that farm too, but no photos of anything big there. Nevertheless, he decided to give it a try.
"I arrived a couple of hours before sunset and settled in. It was probably an hour later when I heard a deer walking in the leaves. A few minutes later a doe came through, and she was acting a little strange. Not long after I spotted a nice buck following the same trail, scent-checking where the doe had walked. Much to my surprise, he was a big mainframe 8-pointer with a few stickers. Unfortunately, it was one of those situations that didn't work out."
Rob took Logan out three or four times during the second week of November. On average they were seeing two or three young bucks and three or four does. By then the rut should have been going strong, but it just wasn't happening. Even worse, they hadn't seen Niner.
The following Friday was the next time Rob was able to go out alone. The plan was for him to hunt the morning, then pick up Logan after school to take him hunting that afternoon. "When the alarm went off that morning, I picked up the clock and the temperature read 12 degrees," Rob recalls. "Given the temperature, I contemplated not getting up. Knowing that it was the rut, I convinced myself to get out of bed. I checked the forecast, and the winds were out of the north-northwest. It was the perfect wind for the new double set I put up on an 'L'-shaped point that extends into the hay field."
Rob's stand is set back 10 yards from the timber edge, and he'd built blocks to funnel deer toward the front of the stand. "I hung the stand there because bucks have been notorious for crossing in that spot to get from one timber to another," the bowhunter explains.
Rob arrived at his stand just before daylight. After climbing in, he realized he didn't have his rangefinder. He could either do his best to guesstimate yardage or go back to the truck to get it.
"There really was too much open field, and I didn't feel comfortable judging a shot without it," he says. "Long story short, I climbed down and trotted back to the truck, then back to the stand. By the time I got back, it was daylight."
Over the course of the next hour, Rob watched a couple small bucks and does cross the field. Around 8:00, he heard something coming from behind him. "It wasn't exactly the direction I expected to see deer coming from, plus it was downwind," he says. "When I looked back, I saw a doe running down the hill. She stopped right beneath the stand in front of one of the brush piles I had made."
Rob looked over his shoulder again and saw the tall tines of a big deer cresting the hilltop. At first glance he looked like a big 8-pointer, so Rob knew he wasn't Niner — but he also knew not to pass him up. When the buck got to within 15 yards, he started scent-checking the doe and making a "clicking" sound. He had the doe pinned behind the brush, and she really had nowhere to go.
"The buck was too close for a lethal shot, and, for whatever reason had turned and looked straight up at me," Rob says. "After maybe five or 10 seconds he turned back toward the doe. That's when I grabbed my bow and got into position. The doe eventually got around the brushpile and followed a trail I had cleared to the field."
Rob thought the buck would follow the same trail, but that wasn't the case. Instead, he walked away, paralleling her. When the doe popped out in the field, the buck skirted around the outside, trying to keep her corralled in one spot.
"There was a small bush in front of the buck that I scanned at 30 yards," Rob notes. "As he walked past that bush, I drew, settled the pin and squeezed off the release. The arrow hit a touch back, but angling toward the opposite shoulder. The buck charged across the open field and disappeared in the tall CRP grass. And that's when I lost sight of him.
"I sat for a few minutes, contemplating whether to look for the buck or come back later," Rob says. "It wasn't long after a small buck came through, scent-checking the trail the doe had followed. A couple minutes later, a second buck came through and did the same thing. Minutes later, a third buck came through. It was crazy; bucks were running everywhere. The rut had just exploded."
Making the Call
Rob got out his phone and called Gene to tell him he had shot a buck. "How big?" Gene asked. Rob told him it was a 150- or 160-class 8-pointer, not a deer they had on camera.
When Gene arrived, the men went to where the deer had been at the shot, but they couldn't find any blood. Rob had mentally marked his line of sight across the field, as well as the spot where the buck had entered the tall grass. They didn't find any blood going across the field, either.
"Normally I would have been concerned," Rob says, "but I remembered how hard the deer was bleeding just before he disappeared." Soon Gene yelled that he'd found blood. Rob went to the spot, advanced only three or four yards and spotted the buck piled up.
Rob reached down and picked up the buck's head for a closer look. There definitely wasn't any ground shrinkage, according to Rob, who noted the buck was much bigger than he had thought. "That's a pretty nice buck!" Gene said.
"Yeah, he is," replied Rob. Suddenly stunned, Gene looked at Rob. "You just shot Niner," he said.
"No I didn't," said Rob, confused.
Rob and Gene argued for a couple of minutes, mainly because Rob didn't want to believe he'd shot the buck Logan wanted to shoot. But Gene had the trail cam picture of Niner on his cell phone and pulled it up. One look and Rob realized that was indeed the buck he'd killed.
"Don't get me wrong," Rob told his friend. "I'm really happy — but at the same time feel bad. This is the deer I wanted Logan to shoot."
"You're nuts," Gene told him. "You shouldn't feel bad whatsoever. You just shot the buck of a lifetime!"
Rob's deer had a massive rack, but his body was equally impressive. Rob and Gene estimated his weight at about 300 pounds. After field-dressing and photos, they loaded up the deer and headed to town to show friends. Then they went to the house and measured the rack.
"I'm not an official measurer," explains Rob, "but Gene and I came up with a gross score around 190 inches."
By the time they finished measuring the buck, it was time for Rob to pick up Logan.
"In all honesty, I still didn't know how I was going to tell him," Rob says. "When arriving at the school, I told Logan I had good news and bad." Logan, unsure of what his dad was talking about, asked what was going.
Rob hesitantly told Logan that he'd killed Niner.
"Logan congratulated me," Rob says, "but I still sensed some disappointment. I assured him there were other big deer on the property, and told him we should go hunting because the deer were really moving."
Rob and Logan hunted the same stand that afternoon and saw quite a few deer, including a 160-class 10-pointer. When they first saw the buck, he was following a doe. Rob told Logan there was a 50/50 chance the doe would come their way and the buck would follow. Unfortunately, the doe went the opposite way, and the buck never came close enough.
That evening, Rob got a call from his brother. Rod said his Facebook page was lighting up over Rob's deer.
"Why?" Rob asked him. "It's just a 9-pointer."
"Dude, it's not just a 9-pointer," Rod pointed out. "The deer will be scored as an 8-pointer, and only a handful have ever made Boone & Crockett."
"I have taken several deer that range from 130 to 160 inches," Rob says, "but Niner is by far my biggest."
The bowhunter received a letter from Boone & Crockett stating that he could be invited to have it panel measured before the closing of the 29th annual Big Game Awards in 2016.
"Right now I have no idea where my deer ranks in the record book," Rob notes, "but I'm hoping to find out sometime in the near future."