Jim Wilson Buck: 162-Inch Ultra-Wide Giant
September 11, 2013
The number "32" carries great significance in sports. Such renowned athletes as Sandy Koufax, Jim Brown and Magic Johnson have worn it on their way to Hall of Fame careers. However, in at least one other pastime that same number has recently become one of great interest.
That's because last Oct. 30, Jim Wilson, a 45-year-old power plant operator from Chase City, tagged a whitetail with an incredible inside spread of 32 inches. Afield with a crossbow, Jim killed the whitetail on his 27-acre family farm in Mecklenburg County, in the Old Dominion's Piedmont region.
Having been a deer hunter since the age of 8 and a bowhunter since he was 16, Jim has killed some 50 whitetails. He describes himself as "mostly a meat hunter, unless I know a big buck is around." What the Virginian captured on a trail camera last August definitely made him focus on taking a broadbeam.
"I only got one picture of the buck from that summer night, and he was in velvet," Jim remembers. "I had never seen a buck like that before. He was just so wide-racked. Twenty to 25 days later, I got my second picture of him, and by then I had become intrigued with killing him. But after that sighting, he just disappeared."
The ultra-wide monster showed no further sign of his presence until he began to make scrapes and rubs in October. The sign was concentrated in a five-acre flat where a number of white oaks were bearing massive amounts of nuts: a common situation across Virginia in 2012.
The layout of Jim's property now needs to be described, because it played a crucial row in his killing the trophy. Virginia's Piedmont is hill and dale country. Two ridges characterize the oak flat, and two logging roads (one old, the other new) meander along those ridges. This flat funnels into a small food plot, which was seeded with oats last year. Behind the food plot lies a long firebreak dividing the property from a 4,000-acre private parcel.
A cutover lies on the other side of the food plot, and beyond the clearcut is a residential road. Jim's home and those of several family members border a main road. Across the road is a pine grove, which serves as a popular bedding area for deer. Without coming near the homes, whitetails can access the cutover by leaving the pine stand, crossing the main road and entering the clearcut. Adding to the appeal of Jim's property is that a pine stand exists next to the clearcut, and a pond there serves as a water source.
Once the scrapes and rubs began appearing, the hunter positioned a trail camera near them. The bruiser's image soon was captured, as were photos of a number of smaller bucks: eight of them, in fact. It was clear that the copious supply of acorns was luring deer from throughout the area.
Jim forgot all thoughts of filling the freezer and decided to exclusively target the big boy. But as tempting as it was to hunt him hard, he only ventured afield when the wind was right. He certainly did not want to ruin his chances so early in the season.
"I didn't see him until the second week of early bow season," Jim says. "I had found more sign on the older logging road in the oak flat, so I had placed my hang-on there, about 15 yards off the road. About 45 minutes after sunrise, he showed up 65 yards away and moving east to west in front of me. I immediately bleated, then grunted, then rattled at him . . . but that big buck just ignored me and kept walking."
The massive creature did not appear again in daylight until Oct. 26, when Jim was aloft at the same stand site. The buck was traveling in the same direction, and at the same distance, as earlier in the month. Once again the hunter went through his entire repertoire of deer calls . . . and once more the buck found them unworthy of his attention.
Jim was determined not to let this unsuccessful scenario play out a third time. So much so that later that day, he passed on shooting either of a pair of 8-pointers with spreads of 17-18 inches. He wanted that wide buck.
"I next placed a ladder stand about 20 yards from where I had seen the big buck cross those two times," Jim says. "I sensed that if I didn't kill that buck soon, he would take off wandering somewhere during the rut, and I might not see him again.
"I sprayed Hunters Specialties' Scent-A-Way all over the stand, my clothes, crossbow and gear. And I waited for the next day that the wind would be right. I also decided that I would put Tink's Doe-in-Rut buck lure on my boot pads."
Alas, fate intervened — in the form of Hurricane Sandy. Wailing winds and trembling trees combined to make it impossible for any sane person to ascend into a tree stand. At last, by the afternoon of Oct. 30 the tempest had exhausted itself. Jim knew he had one last really good chance to kill this buck of a lifetime.
"I left my house at 3:00 and still-hunted toward the ladder stand for an hour," he says. "I like to leave early for an evening stand and slowly inch along, because I never know when a deer might come within range.
"After I arrived at my stand, I didn't see any game except for a lot of squirrels and turkeys. At 4:59, I looked at my cell phone to check the time, then looked up . . . and there the big buck was, just 50 yards away and walking through the same section of the oak flat as the other two times I had seen him. He was also following the scent trail I had laid down.
"This time, I was positioned just right to intercept him," Jim continues. "I picked up my Parker Enforcer, but as I did so, the crossbow clinked ever so softly on the stand. The sound was so light I didn't think the buck would hear it."
But we humans often underestimate the super-sensitive ears of whitetails, and such was the case here. To Jim's shock, the buck froze at the sound. Finally, after what no doubt seemed like minutes but was in all likelihood actually only seconds, the buck began to move again.
"I let out a breath, got my nerves together and placed my 30-yard sight on the buck," Jim recalls. "Earlier, I had located trees that were 20, 30 and 40 yards away from the ladder stand. And I determined that I would have the best chance to kill the buck when he passed a tree 30 yards away and before he entered an area thick enough to deflect an arrow.
"At the 30-yard tree I grunted, the buck paused, and I released the arrow. But right before the arrow was to hit the deer, I saw the bolt waver ever so slightly — probably because it shimmied off a twig. But the next instant the arrow entered the buck, and he took off running wide open with his tail down. From my stand, I felt as if the arrow had gone clear through him."
With his nerves and stomach churning, Jim waited 10 minutes for both to settle before descending from the stand and scudding toward the impact point. Blood covered the arrow, and a foamy splotch of crimson lay on the ground.
But then another factor came into play. Jim is red-green colorblind, and because of this condition he didn't feel comfortable trailing the buck of a lifetime by himself. So he called his friend B.J. Mull, who lives nearby. B.J. is the owner of a Labrador, named Bailey, that had recently been trained to trail wounded deer.
"B.J and Bailey quickly arrived and immediately found a very defined blood trail," Jim says. "But B.J told me we were going to wait 30 minutes, just to be sure. As things turned out, we hadn't needed to wait, because we found the buck a short time after we took up the trail. He had only gone about 60 yards.
"B.J. and I gave each other high-fives," the hunter recalls. "I was so happy I was finally able to put my hands on the buck of a lifetime."
Interestingly, B.J. thought the deer was a doe when he first viewed it on the ground from afar through the open woods. He simply was not thinking of looking for antler so far off the animal's head. At a width of 32 inches, the rack is so expansive (the word "wide" simply does not do this set of antlers justice) that it is truly hard to comprehend.
Jim's luck stayed good during November's general firearms season. Late one afternoon, he shot a fine 10-pointer that scores 126 B&C. That's a true trophy for Virginia's Piedmont. But for Jim, it was merely his second-biggest buck of the season. Quite a year of deer hunting, to say the least.
Jim Wilson's Deer Hunting Philosophy
Jim says his deer career began in the early years of grade school, when his grandfather would take him afield. Later, the grandfather let the youngster carry a .410, though the former insisted on loading it himself. At age 14, Jim experienced a major turning point.
"By that age, I was allowed to carry a 20 gauge, and I was able to kill a small-racked 7 pointer," he remembers. "That buck really stimulated my interest in deer hunting, and I also began going through the various stages that many deer hunters go through. First we just want to kill any size deer, then a buck, next a limit, later maybe a trophy, and, finally, enjoy taking other people hunting. I still enjoy killing deer for meat, but a trophy can sidetrack those plans sometimes."
As noted, the Virginian employs Tink's doe lure and Hunter Specialties' Scent-A-Way. "I regard the Tinks Doe-in-Rut buck lure as not only a great scent for attracting bucks but also as a great cover scent," Jim explains. "I want the deer to concentrate on something other than my smell. I spray the Scent-A-Way on every piece of gear and all my clothes and boots.
"I used to use fox and raccoon cover scents," he points out, "but I saw too many deer turn away from trails where I had put those scents down. I especially had bad luck with the fox cover scent."
The Mecklenburg County sportsman also relies on a True Tone Grunt Tube and the Primos Can in the large size. "The Primos Can makes a very realistic estrus doe bleat, and I've had good luck with the grunt tube, too," he says. "I used to carry a pair of buck antlers, but I don't think rattling works very well in Piedmont Virginia. Our buck-to-doe ratio is so out of whack that bucks don't have to work very hard to find does to breed. I'm sure rattling works out west, just not here."
Jim showed amazing restraint in not hunting this giant when the wind was wrong. However, he does offer a solution for ill-blowing breezes.
"When the wind isn't right, I will sit inside a ground blind that is located near our pond," he says. "Even then, I have to be careful that I don't put down too much scent before entering the blind."