June 28, 2023
In 2018 as Mattlee Bassham looked at a picture of a great West Virginia buck, he didn’t know yet that an obsession was about to take root. Mattlee had scouted during the post-season that year and found tons of rubs and scrapes he was certain this buck had made. The unique tines on the buck’s bases helped Mattlee identify the giant’s rubs.
He scouted a 2-mile radius to find the sign he was looking for. And when the 2019 season started, it didn't take long for Mattlee to confirm his scouting finds. At that point, he began getting the buck on camera during daylight. The buck, now believed to be 4 1/2 years old, had grown tremendously. Mattlee almost got a shot at him on the second day of the firearms season. Mattlee hunted nearly every day for the rest of that season, but he had no more encounters.
Mattlee had another encounter with the buck in 2020, but the deer came by before legal shooting light. During late October of 2021, Mattlee had another encounter with the buck during low-light conditions. He tried to sneak an arrow through an opening, but it hit a limb he couldn’t see and grazed the buck’s back.
During the winter of 2022, Mattlee walked and scouted more than ever, following every deer trail he found where he thought the buck was living. Finally, he believed he was in the buck’s bedroom. Mattlee was determined to tag the giant, and he found the perfect tree with his stand tucked back in a pine. Now receiving trail camera pictures of the buck daily, Mattlee knew it was only a matter of time before he got another opportunity.
Finally, on Nov. 1, 2022, the day came. After work, Mattlee made the 30-minute ride on his four-wheeler to his hunting area and then hiked another mile to his stand. For whatever reason, Mattlee had a gut feeling that day would be the day he’d tag the giant.
Mattlee soon heard a deer coming from the downwind direction, and he was heartbroken when he saw it was the giant he’d been pursuing. Although he was worried about the buck being downwind, Mattlee had faith in his scent control regimen. He watched for an agonizing 20 minutes, hoping not to be winded, as the buck was working a trail that led him right by the stand.
Trying to get himself to calm down, Mattlee closed his eyes and kept going over his shot routine in his head; and he’d look for shooting lanes when he would open his eyes. Finally, the buck went behind a big red oak tree, and that’s when Mattlee stood up and raised his seat very cautiously. He slowly reached for his bow and began looking for the best possible shot location.
When the buck finally made his way into a shooting lane, Mattlee slowly raised his bow, took aim and watched his lighted nock bury into the deer!
Mattlee’s years of hard work and scouting had finally come to a bittersweet ending. It was one of the best feelings for Mattlee to climb down the tree and walk back out. Again, it was bittersweet, as he knew his chase for the buck had ended. The deer only went about 60 yards from the stand.
Mattlee says this will always be the highlight of his hunting career, and he’s forever thankful for the opportunity to take such an impressive mountain buck. The West Virginia buck scores 174 2/8.