June 07, 2022
By Dale Weddle
No two quests for a trophy-sized whitetail are ever the same. Some can be over in a matter of hours. Others may last for days. Then, you have a few that can turn into week after week of epic struggles with highs and lows that test the limits of a hunter’s emotions. Frank Morrow’s bowhunt last season for a giant Kentucky typical he named “Big Boy” fell into the latter category.
Wayne County, Kentucky, has been a consistent producer of big deer. A quick look at the Boone & Crockett record book shows that Wayne ranks 12th among the Bluegrass State’s 120 counties in number of B&C entries. Over half those bucks have been taken in the last decade.
The county lies in the south-central part of the state where the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains spill out into flat farm country along the Tennessee border. The Morrow family raises cattle on farms that sit right along the geographical break. The land is roughly 35 percent timber with the remainder in crops and hay fields.
One piece of property that Frank likes to hunt has a creek bed running the length of the farm. A mountain range butts up to one side of the creek while open pasture fields lie on the other side. Deer use the grown-up creek bottom as a travel corridor in the afternoons.
In recent years, one of those fields has contained an exceptionally good stand of clover. That idyllic setting would be the backdrop for an epic 2020 bowhunt for a buck that seemed to have the proverbial nine lives. The back story begins three years prior.
A Giant in the Making
“In 2017, my uncle, Wendell Morrow, started telling me about a big deer he was seeing,” Frank explains. “He would call me and say, ‘I saw that big buck again.’” It was obvious from his description that the big whitetail Wendell was seeing was exceptional. The year ended with Frank having to take his uncle’s word for it.
The following year, Frank began to catch some glimpses of a big 12-pointer. He guessed it was the deer Wendell had been seeing the previous year since it was in the same general location. However, hunting season came and went without any encounters with the whitetail.
In the spring of 2019, Frank found the buck’s sheds. One side had 6 points, while the other side had been severely mangled by a bushhog. Still, it was easy to tell the buck would score somewhere in the 150-inch range. The likelihood that he was still around and growing a larger rack for next season added to Frank’s anticipation as the hot summer days came to an end and the changing color of leaves indicated another deer season was approaching.
Frank only had one run-in with the big buck in 2019. He saw him one time in early August and then got a single poor quality trail cam photo of him on Nov. 5. The buck had maintained the 12-point configuration, and the similarities were obvious. As anticipated, he had added length and mass. The buck was now a solid 160-inch deer.
It was August of 2020 when Frank got his next glimpse of the buck in the field. There was no doubt that it was the same deer he’d been watching for the past two years. The whitetail was now sporting the most glorious and beautiful typical rack that Frank had ever seen, with tall tines reaching up toward the sky.
Again, the buck was a perfect 12-point mainframe typical but had added close to 20 extra inches of antler. Looking at him through binoculars with the deer still in full velvet, Frank remembers the rack looked enormous. To make things even more exciting, the buck started making an occasional appearance in the clover field in late afternoons around the end of August.
“I had started calling him Big Boy,” Frank says. “That seemed to describe him well enough. He seemed to really like the clover field, so I thought I needed to get on him while he was still in that pattern. I had never gotten serious about bowhunting, but I decided that was my best chance at killing this buck. So, I went out, purchased a new bow, and started practicing. After a while, I was confident in being able to shoot out to 60 yards.
“I put up a hang-on stand beside the creek bank and had a climber that I could use to move around according to wind direction,” Frank explains. “After seeing him in the field one afternoon when I went to check cattle, I decided it was time to start hunting.”
“I was going to hunt every day except Sundays,” Frank says. “For three days there was no sign of Big Boy. On Thursday afternoon, I got to the clover field about two hours before dark and climbed a scaly-bark hickory with the climbing stand. It was noisy to climb, but there was good cover around the tree.
“I was sitting on the edge of the creekbank closest to the field,” he continues. “There was a heavily worn trail 30 yards away on the other side. In front of me and to my left, a lighter used trail crossed the creek. Both were coming from the direction of a pine thicket.
“After I had been there a while, I caught movement, looked over, and a big 8-pointer I had named Brutus was walking on the other side of the creek followed by a 10-point,” Frank remembers. “I was dead level with the two bucks when they passed by across from me. They kept slowly easing toward the crossing. Less than a minute later, I looked back behind them, and Big Boy was following the same route the other two had taken!”
The big deer had appeared like a ghost out of the thick cover. His tall antlers, now shed of their velvet, stood out against the green vegetation. Frank was just trying to settle his nerves so as not to shake the tree and cause a rainstorm of hickory bark. “I waited until he got past me a little bit,” Frank says. “Then, I drew my bow. The other two bucks had crossed and made it out into the field. Big Boy was getting close to a rock I had ranged at 15 yards.”
Frank followed him with the tip of his arrow at full draw. When the buck got to the rock, he stopped broadside. Frank put the sight pin behind his shoulder, squeezed the release and watched the arrow hit in the sand under him! The buck looked around and turned back toward the thicket.
“I tried to nock an arrow for another shot,” Frank recounts. “But when I looked, the serving had come off the string and hung in the cam. I couldn’t pull the bow. That’s why my arrow flew low. The buck just walked back off into the thick cover he had come out of. I sat in my stand for an hour after dark, so I didn’t spook the other bucks in the field. I was shaking the whole time and thinking I had blown it forever. It was heartbreaking.”
The Bad Angle
After a quick trip to the bow shop and some tuning, Frank was back to punching good groups out to 60 yards. He began to think (hope might be a better word) that the buck wasn’t spooked enough by the missed shot to change his pattern. He hunted every day except Sunday again, switching up locations but always staying close to the clover field. For several days, there was no sight of Big Boy. Then, another Thursday rolled around.
“On Thursday afternoon, I moved down the creek about a hundred yards from where I missed the buck,” Frank says. “The deer trail followed the creek bed at that point. I climbed about 20 feet up with my climbing stand, and the creek was another 20 feet lower. About a half-hour before dark, a doe and two fawns came by. They were playing in the creek bed. I looked over, and Big Boy was calmly walking down the creek.
“I didn’t have much time to think about the shot,” the hunter remembers. “He was 30 yards away. I didn’t think about the 40-foot down angle. My arrow flew just over his back. The arrow didn’t make much noise, but he looked around and walked back into the thicket. I waited an hour and got down. All the time I was beating myself up pretty bad. I thought to myself: I’ve got to be the worst bowhunter – missing the deer of a lifetime twice.”
Saved by a Little Gust
On the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 1, Frank headed back for the clover field. He’d hunted every day except Sunday since missing the big deer the previous week. “I decided to hunt from the same stand location where I had missed the buck the week before,” Frank explains. “It was a little bit windy but a nice afternoon. After sitting there for a while, I looked out in the clover field and saw deer. There were several does, a nice buck and another deer. The other deer was Big Boy! It was the earliest I had ever seen the big deer in the field.”
The buck slowly moved closer. Frank ranged him. He was 60 yards out and broadside. Frank had practiced at 60 yards. There was plenty of time for aiming. He took a deep breath, put the pin behind the deer’s front leg, and then he felt a small bit of wind as he released. “The arrow looked good until it seemed to catch wind at the last second,” Frank remembers. “I watched the lighted nock go right past his rear end! He knew there was a noise and ran off.”
A Chance at Redemption
What are the odds of taking a Boone & Crockett caliber buck with a bow? What are the odds of doing so after missing the deer three Thursdays in a row? Frank Morrow knew the odds against him were now tremendous.
James Lane Allen is credited with the statement, “Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.” Most hunters would have given up. It had not been a good year for Frank. He had lost two of his working cattle dogs. His Uncle Wendell, who first told him about the big buck, had passed away.
But Frank was more determined than ever that his hunt for Big Boy was not going to end on a bad note. For whatever reason, the buck was only coming to the field on Thursdays. Despite running several trail cameras, the buck had not been caught on film one time in 2020. The key to hunting the buck, it seemed, was to be around the clover field on Thursday. Next Thursday, Frank Morrow would be waiting — again.
“I climbed a tree up over the creek bed and got set up,” Frank says. “A doe and two fawns were first to come out. The old boss doe of the neighborhood came in and ran them off. A spike buck came up. She ran him off. Then, she started pawing the ground and snorting. I knew it was something big if it intimidated that doe. I could see a good set of antlers 50 yards in the direction she was looking. He was coming up the creek toward my shooting lane. At 35 yards, I could tell it was Big Boy and started getting ready. I was ready for the shot angle this time. I drew my bow, shot him and he went down like a sack of potatoes.”
Frank got down, walked up, nocked an arrow, managed to calm his nerves, and delivered the coup de grace. With that, his epic hunt had finally ended.