April 25, 2022
By Tom Cross
In late December 2020, Lear McCoy had a lot to think about during his time in a tree stand. His wife, Megan, was about to give birth to their first child, and the buck Lear was hunting sprouted a rack he was sure would make the record books. But time for both was drawing near. Megan was due any day, and the hunt for the buck would likely be suspended for another season.
The big whitetail was first spotted on trail camera in 2019 as a better than average 8-pointer. “He was a nice buck then, probably a 150-class deer,” recounts Chad McCoy, Lear’s older brother and near constant hunting companion. “We both saw the deer during the 2019 season and figured if it survived another year it would be a whopper.”
Well, in late summer of 2020 in nearly the exact location, a huge 10-pointer was captured on trail camera. The buck appeared regularly on camera prior to the opening of bow season, near an edge where some oaks and red cedars meet on a hillside.
“At first we weren’t sure if it was the same buck or not,” says Lear. “But as we got more trail camera pictures of him and studied them, we eventually convinced ourselves it was the same deer. There were similar characteristics of the rack. From the trail camera pics, we weren’t certain it was that big of a rack,” Chad explains. “Our first impression was that it was a nice 10-point rack on a small-bodied buck, which has a way of distorting the true size of the rack. Trail cameras don’t always tell the whole story."
The McCoy’s operate sawmills and a lumber business called McCoy’s Lumber in Peebles, Ohio, founded by their father Jack McCoy. It’s pretty much a family business with most of the family employed. The business is located in the heart of Adams County, in southwest Ohio.
Outside of hunting season, the two McCoy brothers spend their days marking timber, surveying tracts of timber, and supervising sawmill and logging operations. At the main office timber is bought and sold, and various select cuts of timber are milled into finish pieces for trim and inside décor. There’s even a show room displaying it all. If you want red oak baseboard and corner molding to match, you can get it there.
Outside the logging and timber business, Chad and Lear also lease timber tracts to deer hunters and operate McCoy’s at Poplar Flat, which caters to outdoor groups and wedding parties. “We had trail camera pics of the buck all throughout September, but we still weren’t convinced he was that big of a deer,” Lear explains. “Then I saw him for the first time during the first week of October.
“Evidently he must have been bedded there the whole time, because I didn’t see anything from the stand that evening,” the hunter continues. “But at last light I was looking down through this creek bottom when he just stood up. I always carry this small pair of binoculars, and when I put them on him, I could tell he was a giant. Later I told Chad, ‘He’s as big as he looks in the pictures, if not bigger.’”
That was the last time Lear saw the buck during the fall, and the elusive whitetail vanished during the entire rut. “We didn’t see him or any sign of him, and the trail cameras never caught another picture of him in November,” Lear remembers. “I gave up on the buck and figured someone else got him or he just left. In 2019, he hung around during the rut, but this season he disappeared. There is something to be said of older dominate bucks that breed does; they know where to go to be safe during the rut.”
“We’re not sure if this buck even left the area,” says Chad. “We think he might have hunkered down on five or six acres all through the rut and let the does come to him. There was plenty of acorns that fall and water in the creek for him to survive on.”
Chad said the buck kept out of sight and was not known by even the neighbors of the adjoining property. “There was one bowhunter that showed me a fuzzy picture he had on trail camera during the summer that might have been that buck, but outside of him, no one else was aware of the deer.”
A Time to Remember
In late October, Chad arrowed a big 12-point typical that later was scored at 183 Boone & Crockett points. As for Lear, he had about given up hunting during November. Instead, he tended to his work at the lumber yard, assisting other hunters who had leased property and stuck close to home as Megan was now over eight months pregnant.
Megan was being watched closely, as the couple had lost their first child at birth the year before. It was a heartbreaking time for the McCoy’s as she carried the baby boy almost to full term when a heartbeat was no longer detected in the last few days of her pregnancy. The baby boy was to be named after Lear’s older brother Shane, who was lost in a tragic car accident in 1989 that also claimed the lives of two other students while at Rio Grande College.
Shane was the oldest of four that were born to Jack and ‘Sis’ McCoy. Shane loved to hunt and fish and passed that love of the outdoors to his younger brothers, who both credit their interest in the outdoors to their lost sibling. Shane was only 20 years old when the accident occurred, and he was a student studying business with plans to return to Peebles to work in the family lumber trade.
It was an unexpected tragedy that shook the entire community. To this day there is a memorial scholarship in Shane’s name for students at Peebles High School where he attended. At the time of Shane’s death, Chad was 15 years old, his sister Jacklyn 10, and Lear was only five.
“Luckily, the big 10-pointer was pretty close to home, and because of our previous experience I wasn’t very far away and had good cell service where I hunted,” Lear recounts. “I stayed in constant contact with Megan, so if something happened I could be there in less than 20 minutes. And she was okay with that.”
Making the Most of Limited Time
After a nearly six-week hiatus, the giant whitetail got his picture taken by a trail camera Lear had set out just at the start of Ohio’s deer gun season during the last days of November. “I knew there was a countdown to me getting this deer once he showed back up in late November, leading into our baby’s due date in December,” Lear laughs. “I felt like I was on a time crunch!”
As long as Megan was feeling okay, Lear hunted almost every evening after work when conditions both at home and in the woods were suitable. “We would text each other while I was in the stand, but I was mindful of the previous experience and wasn’t that far away from the house if I had to rush home,” says Lear. “For three weeks, I hunted every evening I could. Just before the last half hour of daylight, I would text Megan and inform her I was going on radio silence. Then I would text her when I got out of the stand and on the way home.”
Time was getting shorter every day as Lear sat on a stand, and the due date drew closer. Lear kept moving his Lone Wolf tree stand closer and closer to the thick cover of cedars the buck was thought to be bedding in. The spot was near an old logging road that had a few leftover scrapes and old rubs in it.
Lear had spent nearly three straight weeks’ worth of evenings hunting the elusive tall-tined 10-pointer, and it was late December and only days away from his wife’s due date. As the hunter waited patiently in his tree stand, the twin undercurrents of both urgency and worry were always on his mind during the quiet of the approaching dusk.
“I heard tinkling in the branches not 15 minutes after I got into the stand,” Lear remembers. “I knew immediately what it was; it was the sound of a buck with his rack in the branches. I looked over my left shoulder and didn’t see anything. But then I heard it again, so I looked back over my left. Finally, I saw the antlers, and then I saw the buck standing there hitting a licking branch.
“At this spot, there’s one logging road that comes down to another logging road,” Lear describes. “And at that Y intersection is a big community scrape. The buck walked down to the scrape and freshened it up. And then he went over to a rub and freshened it up. At that Y, if the buck took the left fork, he would go away from me. If he took the right fork, that’s the one I was on.”
Lear was praying and hoping the giant whitetail would take the right fork and walk closer to his tree stand. Moments later, while the buck was 70-80 yards away standing and looking around, he started to ease toward the right fork. “He only took two or three steps before he stopped and licked his nose and checked everything out,” Lear explains. “Then he took another few steps and stopped to check the wind again. Honestly, it took him half-an-hour to get within range.”
Lear readied his Excalibur 355 Micro Crossbow with a 100-grain 3-bladed Muzzy Merc broadhead. “There was a big white oak just off the trail between me and the deer, and when he walked on the opposite side of the oak, I had him in a blind spot,” Lear says. “That’s when I shouldered the bow. Once he stepped away from the oak, I had a clear shot at 25 yards. When he stepped, the buck suddenly froze. I don’t know if he smelled me or what, but it was too late. I already had the scope on him and fired.” It was a high frontal lung shot that passed through the deer.
“He ran straight away from me about 100 yards uphill, and then he turned and ran back downhill toward me and died about 70-yards away from the tree I was in,” recalls Lear. “I could see the deer was down, so I sat there for a while and collected my thoughts. It was about 5:00 p.m., and I called Megan. After that I called Chad then got down and walked over to the deer.”
“When I arrived, Lear was sitting down by the deer, and he was pretty emotional,” says Chad. “We’ve all been through a lot as a family, first with our brother Shane, then with little Shane, and at that moment with a new baby on the way any day. I sat there with my brother in the dark for several hours, and we didn’t do anything. It was bittersweet more than anything. It’s always that way when you’ve accomplished something great, like shooting a special buck, yet you know he is gone.”
“When you chase these deer, it is all about the hunt,” vows Lear. “What we love is hunting; the goal is to kill, but at the same time, when we kill the deer, the hunt is over. For us, it all goes back to Shane, because he’s the big brother that got us into this love of the outdoors.”
Time to Celebrate
Lear’s buck was officially scored by Ohio Buckeye Big Buck Club scorer Tim Schlater. The 5x5 typical rack grosses 194 3/8. The inside spread is 20 7/8; the main beams are over 29 inches each. The longest tine is on the right side, which measures 15 1/8 inches. Both brows are over 5 inches, and the mass measurements at the bases are 5 2/8 and 5 inches. There are no abnormal points, and the total deductions amount to only 4 inches, netting 190 3/8. That’s all quite impressive, and at press time the buck is the largest known typical taken in Ohio during the 2020 deer season. But that’s not the end of the story. Lear said that after the deer was killed it was all business, because a baby was on the way.
Lear bagged his big 10-pointer three days before Christmas. On the day after Christmas, Dec. 26, Megan went into labor. At 2:28 a.m. on Dec. 27, at Anderson Mercy Hospital, a 6-pound, 11-ounce boy was born, and they named him River Gray McCoy. “It was a good week,” says Lear. “Probably the best week.”