November 29, 2022
Aaron Gaines of Ani-Logics Outdoors is a diehard deer hunter. He lives it, and that’s a top reason why he works in the outdoor industry. His true passion is in the wild, where he recently wrote the final chapter on a world-class whitetail. “In 2021, we nicknamed this deer Curly, as he had an antler that curled around his left eye,” Gaines says. “The neighbor and I passed him up numerous times as a 140-class deer. We knew the deer had a lot of potential.”
Skip ahead to 2022, and Gaines continued getting frequent photos of the deer. “At the time, I didn’t realize it was Curly, given the size and number of non-typical points,” he says. “It wasn’t until after harvesting the deer that we figured out the deer was Curly, due to a unique tear-drop mark under his right eye. To say the least, Curly blew into a non-typical giant.”
The hunt was anything but typical, too. It was a dream come true. Gaines has been hunting northeastern Missouri for 35 years, and this deer is a culmination of a lot of time and effort.
October 8 — the fourth sit for this deer — produced low temperatures with a high of 74 ⁰F and a low of 39 ⁰F. The barometric pressure was 30.39. The wind carried out of the southwest at a moderate 5-7 mph. Hunting from an elevated blind, Gaines had a great view of the area, which consisted mostly of ag fields and small woodlots. “In front of me was a small woodlot that joined CRP ground,” he recalls. “To my left was a food plot containing Ani-Logics Perfect 10 (grains and greens). To my right was CRP and a small woodlot. Behind me was CRP and row crop fields.”
As the afternoon wore on, about 20 deer filtered in and out of view. A few turkeys fed around, too. Around 5:45 p.m., the big buck appeared, which was earlier than Gaines expected.
“The buck came out following a 140-inch 10-pointer,” Gaines says. “Both bucks were headed toward the green plot where several does, yearlings and turkeys were still feeding. The buck came straight in front of my elevated blind and started feeding less than 15 yards away.”
Within seconds, the deer turned broadside, and Gaines took the 15-yard shot. It took off and ran out of sight. Gaines waited about 30 minutes and then quietly descended from the elevated blind.
He looked around at the point of impact for a few minutes, found good blood, and then backed out. About three hours later, he returned with his brother, Troy, and they started the blood-trailing process. Due to not getting a pass-through, blood was limited, though.
“The blood was so spotty that I told my brother we needed to back out and come back in the morning. I did not want to bump the deer,” Gaines says. “With his encouragement, we kept tracking. We were still finding blood, albeit in limited amounts. We were almost to a creek about 100 yards from where I shot him, and my brother shined his head lamp right on him.”
“White belly!” Troy said.
“To say the least, I went from an emotional low to a high in a matter of seconds,” Gaines says. “The buck is my best to date. The best part of the hunt was being able to do the recovery with my brother.”
Looking back, he attributes this successful hunt to minimal human intrusion, cell cameras, food plots and minerals. He also studied a lot of trail camera photos and analyzed the situation to know how best to hunt the buck in that area.
“I spent a lot of phone time with Kevin Boyer on different strategies on how to best hunt this deer,” Gaines remembers. “With any big buck, you learn a lot from hunting them and there is no shortage of lessons learned. I can’t wait to apply these lessons on future hunts and share them with others as well.”
After studying the buck’s body composition and jawbone, Gaines believes the deer to be 5 ½ years old. He’s sending the incisors to Wildlife Analytical Laboratories for cementum aging just to be sure. The deer sports 19 scoreable points and green scores 195 inches.
“For me, deer hunting is about all the memories that are created with friends and family along the way,” Gaines claims. “I can vividly recall my childhood days hunting with my dad and brothers on our family farm. Now, as a father to two daughters, I’ve had the good fortune to create memories with them in the deer woods as well.”
For those interested in seeing the deer, a replica of the buck is being made, which will be featured in the Ani-Logics Outdoors booth at the 2023 Archery Trade Association (ATA) show.