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Guy Bangs Antlers Together To Score On Big 180-class 8-point

Kansas archery hunter Gage Wilson arrowed one of Kansas' all-time best 8-pointers, a 178 4/8-gross typical.

Guy Bangs Antlers Together To Score On Big 180-class 8-point

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If one were to search for the definition of “The Moment of Truth,” it would describe a moment in a person’s life where reality sets forth a crucial situation that requires a decision or action. That decision or action can or may cause significant meaning or implications in one’s life. These moments usually test our character and abilities. A moment of truth can happen in many aspects of life, and the same is true for whitetail hunters. We may experience a moment of truth as first-year hunters when the experience of taking, or not taking, our first deer may impact our future afield. We may have experienced another moment of truth when we took our first buck, and possibly another when we killed our first mature buck.

However, when it comes to the well-known and well-documented excitement and emotion levels that some hunters experience when face to face with trophy-sized and world-class whitetails, only a few other experiences can rival this moment of truth. For many hunters, encountering a giant whitetail produces adrenaline levels found only in extreme sports.

We all know stories and hunters who couldn’t handle this intense pulse-pounding energy. We often refer to this as “Buck Fever.” Adrenaline can transform an ordinary moment into something extraordinary. For hunters, it combines the moment’s excitement with the fear of blowing it. Whether the encounter proves successful or not, the moment of truth demands a decision or action that will unquestionably impact our lives long after the adrenaline has subsided.

Fort Scott, Kansas, resident Gage Wilson experienced all that an adrenaline rush can throw at a person. He was standing on a platform 15 feet up a tree with his bow at full draw, his toes dangerously close to the front edge of the stand. Every fiber of his body ached. “I don’t know how long I held my bow at full draw, but it was for a long time,” Gage explains. It was about the end of the legal shooting light when he first saw the buck walking along a tree line. He was heading directly toward his stand. “I recognized him right away as the big 8-pointer, but he was almost directly underneath my stand within seconds before he stopped.” Gage fought the adrenaline rushing through his veins. With his heart pounding his chest hard, he leaned forward and cautiously peered over the front edge of the platform. Almost directly below him stood the buck, which was oblivious to Gage being a few feet above him.

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When Gage got home from his successful hunt, people started coming over wanting to see the giant antlered buck. “One of my friends told me I didn’t know how big the antlers really were,” Gage laughs. “A couple of friends measured him, and they informed me they got 180 inches. I told them no way! Photo courtesy of Gage Wilson

Already at full draw, Gage zeroed-in on his sight-pin and peep-sight; but he couldn’t find his peep! “There were still about 10 minutes left of shooting light,” he remembers. “However, the canopy of leaves and the overcast weather made it too dark for me to take a comfortable shot. I couldn’t risk wounding a deer like that.” Gage could only watch as the buck eventually moved away and disappeared into the night.

Gage had to spend the following week at work, but his thoughts remained on the big eight. Wracking his memory, he thought of everything he had learned about the buck over the past three years. Being an amateur photographer, Gage captured several photos of the buck over the year. The buck was young, but the potential its antlers showed for being a young deer was even more apparent. Gage saw the buck the following year, but it wasn’t until 2021 before things got interesting. By now Gage understood the buck was a homebody, with most of his sightings within an 80-acre cow pasture. One evening in the late summer of 2021, Gage spotted a huge 8-point buck standing within a tree line. At first, he didn’t recognize the buck as the same 4x4 he had watched and photographed many times. “He had grown so much that it took me a second or two before realizing what I was looking at,” says Gage. At that very moment, Gage immediately decided to add this 8-point to the list of eligible mature bucks he would gladly take with his archery equipment.

Gage’s opportunity finally came his way on Nov. 6, 2021. While perched comfortably in his tree stand, he spotted the buck as it entered an opening. It began walking down a tree line toward Gage. Standing up in the tree stand and preparing himself for a shot, Gage anxiously watched as the buck approached his afternoon entry trail. The massive buck stopped once the deer reached the trail Gage had walked on hours earlier. He smelled the ground and bolted out of sight! That was the last time he saw the buck in 2021.

Heading into the 2022 season, Gage knew the big eight would be as big as ever. The deer was believed to be 6 1/2 years old and entering his prime years. As impressive as he was in 2021 as an estimated 160-class 8-pointer, the buck blew up even more in 2022. The buck still carried an 8-point frame but was now taller, wider and more massive than years before. He had now grown into an actual, world-class whitetail. To say the deer looked impressive would be an understatement. It was Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, when Gage had the encounter. That encounter resulted in him passing up an opportunity at the buck because he didn’t want to risk a lousy shot (due to poor light conditions), a painful but ethical decision. He reluctantly returned to work for the week, but the thought and vision of the big eight wouldn’t leave him alone. “It was all I could think about for the entire week. I couldn’t wait to try again,” Gage remembers.




After hunting a handful of stand sites without any success or sign of the big buck, Gage knew he had to focus on the 80-acre pasture where the deer spent most of his time. The following Sunday, the wind was suitable for hunting the pasture stand. Gage had barely settled in when the farmer’s cattle strolled toward his stand location. Sitting patiently watching nothing but cows, Gage decided to try his rattling antlers; he thought the sound might scare the cattle away from his stand location. “I figured I had nothing to lose,” Gage says.

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The Gage Wilson buck is one of North America’s largest 8-points taken by archery and one of the largest 4x4s taken in Kansas by any weapon. There are only a handful of pure 8-point racks known with net scores above 170 inches typical, and considering that only a handful of those bucks have been taken with archery equipment makes this buck all the more elite. Photo courtesy of Gage Wilson

Finishing his rattling sequence, the bowhunter sat still as a mouse, moving only his eyes as he watched the cattle move out of the area. Something caught Gage’s eye off to his left. When he turned his head to see what caught his attention, he was shocked to see the monster 8-pointer had stepped out of a ravine and began walking down the tree line heading directly toward his stand! “Seeing that buck strolling through those trees as he walked towards my stand is a sight I won’t forget. That was truly something special,” Gage says.

The buck soon closed the distance and stopped almost directly under Gage’s tree stand. Once again, Gage Wilson slowly moved his feet to the platform’s edge while holding his bow at full draw. Leaning forward, he could feel the safety tether tighten its grip as he cautiously peered over the edge. Focusing on the point of impact, Gage ran everything through his mind; proper position, full anchor, slow, deep breathing, focus on the target, a smooth release, and follow through with the shot.

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He doesn’t remember releasing the arrow or feeling the bow twitch in his hands. It all happened in slow motion, with his senses at full height. He could smell the moment and hear the split-second pass-through that follows impact. He watched as the buck ran 100 yards and fell over within his sight. “When I saw his antlers tip over in the grass, I knew he was down for good,” Gage smiles. “I knew I had just killed the biggest deer of my life. Surprisingly, I had been pretty calm up to then, but at that point adrenaline really kicked in!

“Once I walked up to him, I still wasn’t sure how big he was, but that didn’t matter,” Gage continues. “I was pretty excited, because he was my biggest buck. It’s a special moment when you do it alone and get something like this. It’s almost impossible to believe that everything came together like it did. I usually don’t show emotions, but it hit me pretty hard. When I started thinking back about everything that went into this and what was all involved, I was an emotional wreck for a long time. It was a bittersweet moment after following this deer for a couple years and getting photos of him throughout this time. The thought that I would no longer be able to chase the “Big Eight” weighed heavily on me,” Gage recalls.

When Gage got home, people started coming over wanting to see the giant antlered buck. “One of my friends told me I didn’t know how big the antlers really were,” Gage laughs. “A couple of friends measured him, and they informed me they got 180 inches. I told them no way! Once again, emotions poured out of me.” And what a buck he is! With a typical 4x4 frame resting on 28 7/8- and 29 1/8-inch main beams, the typical frame scores 178 4/8 inches. The net record book score is 171 4/8 inches. The actual net score on the frame is 176 2/8, but three short stickers result in 4 6/8 inches of extra deduction. The bases are massive at 5 5/8 and 5 6/8 inches each.

The Gage Wilson buck is one of North America’s largest 8-points taken by archery and one of the largest 4x4s taken in Kansas by any weapon. There are only a handful of pure 8-point racks known with net scores above 170 inches typical, and considering that only a handful of those bucks have been taken with archery equipment makes this buck all the more elite.

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Uniquely, Gage Wilson’s three encounters with this Crawford County, Kansas, buck all happened under the same tree. Two encounters happened a year apart but on the same evening of Nov. 6. During their respective evenings, both encounters took place within minutes of one another. Photo courtesy of Gage Wilson

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