August 09, 2023
The hunting story behind Josh Carter’s incredible West Virginia non-typical from the 2021 season is three things: short, sweet and action-packed. And the main character is a buck that was by all accounts a “ghost” of the steep coal country of Logan County. In fact, the buck was so reclusive and isolated that, at the time of this writing, no one knew of the deer prior to Josh’s successful hunt. There were no shed antlers found and no trail camera pics floating around amongst hopeful hunters. This says a lot about our rugged mountains here in West Virginia. It’s such treacherous terrain in some places, that it’s totally possible for a buck to live, become mature and die without a trace of interaction with humans.
For hunters, this can be exciting, as it harkens back to the olden days of hunting, when people had no idea what was about to walk under their tree stands. In some areas in West Virginia, there certainly is a chance of catching a glimpse of a wandering giant buck, coming out of the mountain mist like a phantom.
In my opinion, and some others agree, Josh Carter’s buck was probably a 4-year-old deer that just exploded in antler growth in 2021. It’s impossible to say for sure what the buck looked like in previous seasons, but on Halloween day last year, he sure grabbed Josh’s attention! Here follows the story of the wild hunt.
TRICK OR TREAT
Josh woke up on Halloween morning to go on a morning hunt in the mountains. He works as a Federal Mine inspector for the state of West Virginia. His job is time-consuming, leaving few free hours for Josh to hunt. In addition, in ’21 Josh had a recent addition to his family. So, he was busy preparing to be a new dad and providing for his wife. But as always, he made some time to check his cellular trail cameras, in hopes of finding a buck worth hunting.
Josh almost didn’t hunt that day, because of the high winds and pouring rain. Because of the foul weather, he got a late start. But after checking his trail camera, there was no way he could miss the opportunity to be in the woods. Josh was in disbelief when he got a photo of a giant buck with all kinds of abnormal antler growth. The buck had been in Josh’s hunting area for a few hours that night and during the early morning hours. Josh suspected the buck had been on a doe that was about to come into estrus, and thus had wandered into the area for the first time.
After a lengthy trail ride on his side-by-side, Josh finally reached his destination. He then climbed to his perch around 7:45 a.m. Josh wouldn’t be able to hunt long, and he planned on leaving around noon to catch his soon-to-be son’s baby shower that evening. While on stand, Josh texted a few photos of the big non-typical to trusted friends in the area, trying to see if anyone knew of the buck. But no one had any clue what deer it was.
Around 9:00, Josh spotted two younger bucks cruising through the area, but neither was anything he was interested in. The wind was horrible that morning, so Josh continued applying scent killer in hopes it would mask his odor as much as possible. When it’s wet and windy here in the hills, it’s practically impossible to hear animals moving through the wet leaves on the forest floor. That explains Josh’s surprise after sending his wife a text at about 11:00, when he then looked up to see the ghost buck had materialized at 20 yards.
The massive buck was standing a little to Josh’s right, and he was uneasy. Higher winds in these mountains tend to make deer very tense. And they don’t move well, thanks to the steeper terrain. The swirling winds only added to the buck’s nervousness. Trying hard to scent-check the area, the edgy buck eased ever-closer to Josh’s stand. While the buck kept his nose to the ground, Josh started to look ahead to identify a lane he could shoot through.
The gnarly buck eased behind some low saplings with his head still on the ground. Josh seized the opportunity to draw his bow back. Of course, when the hunter came to full draw, the buck stopped behind some thick brush. Josh was forced to wait for the deer to take a few more steps so his vitals would be clear. The buck was only 15 yards away. After a few seconds of anxious waiting that seemed like hours, Josh was relieved to see the buck take two steps forward. The bowhunter slowly squeezed the shot off, and his arrow looked to hit the buck perfectly in the vitals!
To play it safe, Josh gave the animal an hour to expire before he climbed down to take up the trail. The buck had run toward a steep ravine, and with the wind and rain Josh hadn’t been able to hear any sort of “crash.” When the hunter got to where the buck was standing, he was unable to find blood. So, Josh started tracking in the direction the buck had run, still with no blood. He was getting anxious, but he knew the rain had probably washed a lot of the sign away by this point. For that reason, he still felt confident in the shot. Josh continued trailing, and just 80 yards down in the deep hollow he found his ghost buck.
He’d made a perfect shot, and the deer had expired within seconds after the shot. Josh was ecstatic, as any of us would be. He thanks our Good Lord for giving him the opportunity at a buck of this caliber, and for granting him the mental toughness to hold it all together to make the shot. The Josh Carter buck officially scores 214 6/8 gross and nets 200 2/8 net. West Virginia is a state that’s usually known for its giant typical racks, but don’t think for a second that there aren’t some great non-typicals scattered about. During the ’21 season, the state produced six bucks that I’m aware of that grossed over 200 inches. These all were taken with archery tackle, which makes the statistic even more impressive.
Yet, West Virginia remains a “sleeper state” that’s practically unheard of and seldom traveled to by trophy hunters. That’s largely due to the vast, hard-to-access terrain. However, for those willing to conquer the steep mountains, there’s at least a chance of connecting with an incredible whitetail. If anyone knows that’s true, it’s Josh Carter.