March 08, 2023
By Bruce Gardner
I will never forget the first time I got this deer on trail camera. It was a last-minute camera placed on a piece that I have driven by 100 times, but I’ve never actually walked it. After getting a few trail camera pictures of the buck I decided to hunt him. After two sits he was a no show.
Although he gave me the slip, I decided to cast a wide net and placed a bunch of trail cameras within a 2-mile radius, hoping to either get back on him or gather annual intel for the following year. While I did not kill him that year, I was able to pin-down his fall and winter range. So, it was “game-on” for New York’s 2022 season.
During the summer of 2022, I placed three trail cameras in the piece where I had located him the previous year. I had high anticipation that he would once again be using it. I initially just skimmed through the 3,000 trail camera pictures I received, and I didn’t see the giant in any of the pictures. By the grace of God, I had an inkling to go back through all the pictures; and there he was alive and well!
When I saw him in all his glory in velvet, I will never forget the emotions I felt; I knew I was back in the game. It was instant anxiety followed by excitement with immediate stress. I knew the coming weeks could easily turn into me completely obsessing over this deer for the remainder of the season.
When Oct. 1 arrived, I knew he was on the property but I got called into work. With a deer of this caliber, you are lucky to even get one shot at them. On the day I got called into work, not only did I know he was in there, and not only did I have the perfect wind to hunt him, but the giant completely read the script and showed up on my trail camera. I was sick to my stomach.
I decided to sit all day on Oct. 2, and by 1:00 p.m. the wind had shifted three times and I did not feel confident that I would kill him under those conditions. My plan was to slowly walk out with the wind in my favor and attempt to put eyes on the bed I thought he might be using.
Those next 10 minutes were probably the most memorable minutes I will ever have in the woods. After climbing down and almost getting a shot at a 160-inch 10-pointer, I was able to spot and arrow the giant non-typical at 20 yards from the ground!
Sometimes you have to roll the dice, and every decision I made that day led me to putting my hands on this world-class whitetail. After 13 months filled with ups, downs, stress, excitement and life lessons while hunting this deer, I was fortunate enough to share the moments after the shot with the few close hunting buddies that I have. It is still surreal that I put my tag on this 223-inch whitetail.
Stay tuned to read the full story of Bruce’s hunt for this giant, New York whitetail in a future edition of North American Whitetail magazine.