October 02, 2023
“I was chasing velvet for eight years,” Joey Wheeler says. “And when I left New Hampshire to make the 22-hour drive down to Kentucky, I was after a mid-160s velvet buck!” Little did Joey know, the buck he would ultimately take was much bigger than the one he went south to hunt!
Joey’s hunting area is comprised of planted alfalfa and clover fields, which draw deer out of a nearby sanctuary. The open fields offer ample opportunity to see whitetails, but the deer can see across them just as easily, making a morning hunt almost impossible without spooking them. Joey’s desire to make the long drive is fueled by straight ambition, and a serious lack of big whitetails in the Granite State. In Kentucky, there are plenty of big bucks to choose from.
“I won’t shoot a young buck, no matter how big his rack is,” Joey adds. “I see plenty of good deer. Back at home, there is almost no chance of seeing anything I want to shoot. I’m not making that drive to kill a 3-year-old deer!”
Joey has a pop-up blind set up on an elevated platform a few yards in the field, and cameras posted to census the herd. His original plan was to hunt afternoons, and if he didn’t get his target deer, he’d come back during the rut to try again. If he still wasn’t tagged out, he’d make one more effort in the late season.
The first afternoon sit was going well, as a few deer filtered out of the woods and into the field. At 110 yards, they were well out of archery range but feeding toward the blind. Joey was sweltering in the blind but enjoying the action of his first hunt. “I was happy to be out there hunting,” Joey recalls. “Then I spotted the deer that changed everything!”
An enormous typical with a wall of long tines on each beam was easing out of the woods to join the other deer. “This was the biggest deer I had ever laid eyes on,” Joey says. “You always know there is the possibility of seeing a 180, but this deer and the velvet was amazing!”
The problem was he would never reach the blind before legal shooting time ended. And if he was in the field but out of range, Joey would be trapped in the blind. Reluctantly, Joey decided to slip out of the blind and crawl away from all the prying eyes. Back at the truck, he grabbed his spotting scope to watch the unreal rack until dusk. The buck stayed in the field, and cell cam notifications kept Joey up most of the night.
Getting back in the blind for the second hunt was easier knowing the monster buck had to be close. Joey set up a battery-operated fan and cranked up his Ozonics unit. Then he settled in to wait. Deer began filtering out of the woods. First a doe with a fawn, then two bucks. And one of those was the 160-inch 10-point, which was now off the hitlist. They all looked back toward the timber, and three minutes later the giant typical joined them.
“He was walking slowly, like he owned the field,” Joey says. “I set my sight at 45 yards and got ready to make the shot!” After a short prayer he let the carbon fly and watched the lighted nock disappear into the buck’s chest. The big deer only made it 40 yards before expiring in the field!
“That is when all of my emotions turned loose,” Joey exclaims. “I could barely hold it together as I sat and looked at the buck over and over again.”
The big typical’s rack scores 191 6/8. Another Kentucky giant is down!