By Kevin Kinney
Every whitetail hunter’s dream is to shoot at least one monster buck in his or her lifetime. With that goal in mind, every year many hunters travel to such states as Ohio, Iowa and Missouri, where they feel those dreams are more likely to come true. By contrast, no one seems to think of a densely populated state like New Jersey as a place that can produce mature bucks. In fact, if you ask most outsiders what they know about the Garden State, you’d likely get responses about the Jersey Shore and funny accents.
However, New Jersey is called the Garden State for a reason. In addition to its abundance of crop fields, it features thick woods full of oaks and beautiful, wild streams. And it grows big whitetails.
On Nov. 5, 2017, my own trophy dream became a reality with a buck many local people know as the “Main Street Monster.”
Building the Herd
Last season was the eighth in which I’d hunted this particular farm in Stewartsville with my father, brother and a family friend. Throughout that time we’ve planted a bunch of small but effective food plots, using clover, turnips and oats as secondary food sources to the many acres of corn and soybeans that surround the area. On top of that, we’ve always been big on supplementing mineral sites from April throughout the hunting season.
Thanks to these efforts, we’re seeing more good bucks on the property. And their size seems to be increasing. In fact, two years ago, a 10-pointer that would go in the upper 140s Pope & Young was taken on a neighboring farm. We could tell our hard work was starting to pay off.
A True Trophy Shows Up
During the early weeks of last bow season, people around Main Street in nearby Stewartsville claimed to have seen a giant buck. However, none of our trail cameras showed any proof to back up what they were saying. Little did I know that on a rainy November morning I’d discover the rumors about the Main Street Monster were true.
When my alarm went off that Sunday morning, I realized I’d never taken into account that the clocks had gone back an hour overnight, due to the end of Daylight Saving Time for the year. Instead of being able to get to my stand well before daylight, I’d be cutting it close. Should I even go hunting? I asked myself.
As I looked outside, I noticed it was raining. I started thinking of my hunt from the day before: totally unproductive. The other guys I hunt with hadn’t seen a deer, either. I’d put doe estrus scent all around my stand and had made a mock scrape there, but I had no indication something big might be about to happen. Still, I checked the wind direction and finally talked myself into getting ready.
When I arrived at the farm, the sky was starting to brighten, but not enough to let me see clearly. There are two large standing soybean fields I usually walk along to get to the stand I intended to hunt. In going that way, often I’d ended up spooking deer that were in the field. So instead of doing that, I decided to wait in my truck until 10 minutes before sunrise, so I could actually see what might be around as I made my way to the stand.
As soon as I could see there weren’t any deer in the first bean field, I started making my way along its edge. Minutes later, while walking beside the second field, I noticed some deer in a grass pasture across from it. I quickly looked through my 10x42 Steiner binoculars and noticed one of them was a buck with a large rack.
Once I’d closed the gap a bit, I grabbed my binoculars again and took a better look. My heart began to race. I was looking at the biggest New Jersey buck I’d ever laid eyes on. I first noticed his left G-2 tine was a towering point with a big kicker off it. Then, I noticed his right side had a massive non-typical point sweeping inward off the main beam.
That’s all I needed to see. I nocked an arrow on my Hoyt Vector 35 and threw my rangefinder around my neck.
My stand, which I’d hung in August, was still over 100 yards away in a tightly pinched pocket of the field. I thought I’d have a better chance of getting a shot from that tree than on the ground, so I kept going. Once I reached my stand, though, I had no idea where the buck had gone. I clipped my bow into my hoist and started to quietly make the climb.
Halfway up the tree, I had a better look at where the buck had been. I still couldn’t see him, but I did notice four does in that area. I thought one of them had to be in estrus. I resumed climbing into my stand and quickly pulled up my bow.
Within minutes, I heard a loud “growling” grunt. I looked out to where I’d made the mock scrape the day prior and saw a high, thick rack. The buck stopped there for only seconds, but it felt like an eternity.
My Leupold rangefinder revealed he was 38 yards away. I drew my bow, aimed and released . . . only to see my arrow hit some distance back of where I’d intended. As the deer ran off with my lighted nock still visible in his side, all I could do was pray I’d made a lethal shot.
I sat there with so many emotions and thoughts running through my head. I didn’t know what to think. I was shocked at the buck’s size. I was so excited and happy I’d had a chance at him. But again, I now was unsure of the shot I’d made.
I called my dad and brothers. None answered, so I sent text messages to each, letting them know I’d shot what I thought to be a 170-inch deer. Once I finally got in touch with them, we agreed I should wait at least six hours to take up the trail, given where I felt I’d hit the deer. Of course, that was the longest six hours of my life.
We all started looking for sign at the last spot where I’d seen the deer. Once we found blood, we could tell my arrow had in fact hit the stomach. However, it also appeared to have caught the liver. From there, we split up and cautiously began scanning the beans.
Once I’d come to the crest of the field, I started down into a thick patch of trees and brush. That’s when I spotted a white belly. It was my deer, and he was dead. The Rage broadhead had done its job, allowing him to run only 150 yards before succumbing.
Suddenly, all my worry and doubt were overcome by joy and a complete adrenaline rush. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I started yelling to everyone else that I’d found him. They weren’t going to believe the size of this buck! As the others got to me, I was sitting there trying to fit my fingers around the bases of the most impressive New Jersey whitetail I’d ever laid hands on. Everyone else was in complete shock and just as excited as I was.
Interestingly, a few days later I checked my trail cameras and found I had pictures of the buck from the morning I shot him, taken a half-mile away at another stand location. Had it not been for the time change causing me to arrive at the farm much later than I normally did, I might well have crossed paths with the buck in the dark and spooked him, leaving me with nothing more than live pictures of him to show for the morning.
Tale of the Tape
After the 60-day drying period, my deer was officially scored. The gross total came to 184 6/8 non-typical, with asymmetry on the typical frame dropping the net score to 180 0/8. The rack has 40 0/8 inches of circumference and 22 0/8 inches of non-typical points. The basic 8-point frame scores 162 6/8 gross.
The Main Street Monster is now the state’s No. 7 all-time non-typical by bow. He’s also the highest-scoring whitetail ever recorded from Warren County, as well as last season’s top buck in the state — regardless of category.
I sent the incisor teeth out to Wildlife Analytical Labs in Texas, where the cementum annuli method was used to confirm the buck’s age at 5 1/2 years. Interestingly, I also went through trail camera pictures from ’16 and found some images of what I and many others agree was the same buck. At age 4 1/2, he’d been a basic 8-pointer. But within a year, that ordinary buck had turned into the Main Street Monster.