Southern Ontario resident Jordy Hope carried no preconceived ideas into the 2016 deer season. Despite rumors of a big buck within his hunting area, the second-year whitetail hunter simply was hoping to get a legal deer. He had no way of knowing he was about to shoot a buck big enough to send a shock wave throughout the province's hunting community and ignite a social media frenzy.
As a 22-year-old electrical apprentice living in Blenheim, Jordy had started small-game hunting at age 18. But after a couple years of listening to his friends tell stories about deer hunting and hearing about all the fun they had doing so, he decided to give that a try, too.
The '15 season was Jordy's first for deer. After experiencing the adrenaline rush of shooting his first deer, a young doe, he was eager to go again in '16.
"Nobody in my family was a hunter," Jordy notes. "It had been several decades since my grandpa had gone deer hunting, and I don't remember my dad ever going. But I asked them both if they would hunt with me (in '16). They both agreed to go. That alone made the season special for me.
"Then my friend Chad said he'd come along, as well," the young hunter adds. "We hoped to get a deer or two — but even if we didn't, it was going to be fun anyway."
Following much anticipation and preparation on the part of all four hunters, Ontario's firearms season was upon them. Jordy's grandpa had secured permission for the group to hunt a small tract of private land within the municipality of Chatham-Kent. The tract featured a 30-acre woodlot in the middle of open farmland. This area is intensively farmed with scattered woodlots dotting the landscape: not the greatest habitat for protecting bucks long enough for them to reach prime age. But the party wasn't looking for mature bucks; their hope was any legal whitetail, no matter the size or age.
For a deer hunter, few things that can match the excitement of opening morning. After months of waiting, anticipation finally is replaced with nearly uncontrolled excitement. Thus the sleepless eve of opening morning.
"I really wanted the others to be successful. especially Dad and Grandpa," Jordy recalls. "It had been so long since they had hunted. It would have been really nice if one or both could take a deer."
Opening morning finally came, and it didn't disappoint. Jordy's 82-year-old grandpa got things rolling by taking a nice 10-pointer. This added even more excitement to the group and made them more determined to hunt hard.
On Wednesday morning, Oct. 12, Jordy decided to take a lawn chair and sit where that buck had been killed three days earlier. Using a 20-gauge shotgun his Grandpa had loaned him, Jordy set out to post on the edge of the woodlot.
About 10:00 a.m., a flock of turkeys made their way down a trail Jordy was watching. That was the only excitement Jordy had experienced to that point of the day, and the lack of other action was beginning to wear on him. He stood up to stretch his legs for a few seconds.
Once Jordy had reseated himself, he looked to his left. Nothing there. Then he looked to his right. Again, there was nothing. So he glanced back to the left once more.
There stood a deer! And it was a buck!
The whitetail was only 30 yards away and standing broadside to the hunter, offering a perfect shot. But because of the unexpected nature of the sighting, Jordy came unglued.
"I jumped up and out of the lawn chair," he recalls. "I was so excited I actually dropped my shotgun on the ground! The buck just stood there, and I was able to get the gun up and fire two shots. The deer ran off. But I did see him flinch at one of the shots, so I was fairly certain I had hit him."
Jordy sat back down in the lawn chair and tried to compose himself. He sent a text message to Chad, telling him what had just happened. Jordy had no way of knowing that at that very moment, Chad was watching a deer himself. However, within a few seconds of sending the text message, Jordy heard Chad shoot. Amazingly, the two friends had shot deer within seconds of each other!
Of course, Jordy didn't have his deer yet. After following the blood trail for a distance, he came across the buck bedded but still very much alive. Two more shots followed, and the buck went down for good.
It was a special day for two good friends, and congratulatory high-fives were given and the respective stories shared. It wasn't long before both deer were loaded into a pickup and brought to the barn and hung for cooling.
It was at this point that most of the "field" photos were taken. And then, sometime that evening, Jordy posted a photo of his buck to a social media page. That's when the firestorm began.
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"Nobody in camp knew just how big that deer actually was," Jordy recalls. "It was just a deer to us. We had no idea what a trophy buck was. Other than knowing it was a big- bodied deer that dressed out 250 pounds, we honestly had no idea what we were looking at."
Social media would soon change that.
"Once I posted that picture, the comments started rolling in about how big he really was," Jordy says. "I still didn't believe it; I thought the first few comments were made as a joke! But the comments just kept coming, and everyone was saying how big the deer was, that he was huge, that deer don't get that big, that he was a monster. I was getting real curious by then and thought maybe I had shot something special."
Still, it wasn't until a couple days later, when Jordy took the antlers and cape to taxidermist Josh Thibodeau at Tru-Life Taxidermy in Tilbury, Ontario, that reality began to set in.
"Josh told me this buck was like nothing he'd even mounted before. He said it was wider than any deer he had even seen. He insisted I get it measured for the Ontario record book. He convinced me that I had something pretty special," Jordy says.
Many aspects of a whitetail rack can be considered "world class." But nothing else might be as obvious as wide spread. It's usually the first thing we notice, and when it comes to "wow" factor, it's at the forefront. Of course, that 30 2/8-inch spread isn't all this giant has to offer. He's also world class in sheer size.
The score sheet numbers are impressive, to say the least. Each of the beams is at least 29 inches, pushing the gross typical score to 193 0/8 inches. That total gives a true indication of the actual size of the antlers. The inside spread credit on a rack measured with the Boone & Crockett scoring system can't exceed the length of the longer main beam, so this one gets an inside spread credit of "only" 29 4/8. But even that number puts him among the widest B&C whitetails in history!
What does Jordy think, now that he realizes he's taken a world-class buck?
"It's still unbelievable to me!" he says. "Deer hunting is the best thing I've ever tried. I'm so glad that my dad and grandpa and one of my best friends, Chad, were all there. It was an unbelievable experience, and I'm very thankful they were all there to share it with me!"
Ontario has long been overlooked by serious trophy hunters, but that could be changing. In recent years, both the eastern and the northwestern parts of the province have produced their share of record-book bucks. And within the past 10 years, the Ontario Federation of Wildlife has recorded a handful of typicals that have pushed the tape over 190 inches, including a couple that have grossed well over 200 typical.
The province's best non-typicals also can hold their own. New archery and muzzleloader records have been recorded recently, with both marks around 240 inches of antler. Those are monsters for anywhere.
As a result of such kills, the overall trophy quality available in Ontario is slowly gaining notoriety. Hunting events and magazine articles also are bringing a better awareness of habitat and herd management. More locals are enjoying better hunting and experiencing the excitement of a big-buck encounter.
If you were to ask Jordy Hope what kind of trophy whitetail potential his home province has, he just might spread his arms nearly three feet apart and tell you, "They can get this big!" And that's as big as they get anywhere else in the world.