July 15, 2011
Tales of giant whitetail bucks brought down by the well-placed arrow of a hunter are actually quite uncommon. At least, they're uncommon outside the pages of North American Whitetail. Such stories of behemoth bucks, aged to near perfection in their ability to evade human contact, exemplify whitetail life lived under the radar.
It's rare enough for a buck to reach true physical maturity, but for a buck to reach maturity and carry the genetics to grow abnormally large antlers is extraordinary.
When a buck of this caliber meets a bowhunter in a fair chase setting and the bowhunter brings home the bone, well, this could be described as "the perfect storm." Simply put, it hardly ever happens.
Scott Odenbrett of Barry County, Missouri, found himself in just such a storm in the fall of 2010, in the hill country of southwest Missouri.
The story is epic in many ways. First, Scott has a very interesting history with the giant deer in question. This was not the first year Odenbrett's weapon had connected with the buck.
Second, the buck has a world-class rack. The net Pope and Young score of the buck will likely place him in the top 16 bucks ever taken with a stick and string.
Third, Scott wasn't hunting for this particular deer; he was simply out to shoot a doe! This story exemplifies the aspect of whitetail hunting that keeps us all coming back -- a big buck could be living right under your nose and appear on any hunt! You never know what your hunting ground can produce!
During Missouri's 2009 muzzleloader season, Odenbrett had intended to hunt in Barry County, his home county in Missouri. The muzzleloader season in Barry County falls in mid-December, and after a long season without a good buck, Odenbrett headed to the woods with his smoke-pole in hand. After sitting for some time, he decided to do some rattling. Much to his surprise, his calling sequence got the attention of more than one buck. Over the course of a few minutes, it drew in six!
One of the bucks was top-end for southern Missouri, pushing 150-160 inches based on Odenbrett's estimate. As the hunter drew a bead on the buck and shot, the muzzleloader's sabot flew off course. The moving buck, however, did catch the awry bullet -- right in the antler! After the smoke cleared, the buck was unscathed, but Odenbrett had managed to shoot the right main beam of the buck, breaking it off at the base! He was confident that he would never see the broken-beam buck again.
Having hunted this region for years, Odenbrett knew that the big hardwoods of southern Missouri have a way of causing big bucks to disappear. Be it a liberal rifle season or simply the heavily forested and rough topography of the Ozark Mountains, a hunter rarely receives a second chance. He didn't suspect anything different from this buck. However, what he couldn't anticipate or predict, would be the perfect storm of events that would take place the next year.
THE PERFECT STORM
The perfect storm began brewing in the spring of 2010 when southern Missouri received a plush amount of rainfall throughout the antler-growing season. Odenbrett recalls the cattle pastures near his hunting area were lush with clover -- it was everywhere. In the last 15 years, he says that much of the traditional fescue pasture land in his region has been replaced by forage that is more beneficial to cattle -- consequently, benefiting wildlife as well.
"Some farmers have planted alfalfa, white clover and orchard grass in their fields," Odenbrett said, noting that in the last 15 years some commercial agriculture has popped up in the region, primarily soybeans and corn. Don't confuse southern Missouri with the northern half of the state, which isn't much different than Iowa or Kansas. This buck came from "Acorn Country", which is what makes him so unique.
That being said, in 2010, the nutrition factor of the perfect storm was significant. Bucks in the region had access to the nutrition needed to grow big antlers, and the Odenbrett buck capitalized on it. Based upon the hunter's 150- to 160-inch estimate in 2009, the buck grew approximately 100 additional inches of antler between 2009 and 2010! The final gross score of the buck was 252 6/8 inches!
Age also played into the storm. Odenbrett is confident that the buck was 4 1/2 years old when he was taken. A deer of this age has the potential to do anything, especially when good nutrition and strong genetics mix in. Still, most hunters would expect a buck of this caliber to be older.
The third factor that played into the storm was genetics. "Our deer have very good genetics," Odenbrett said. "It may have surprised some people that this deer came from this region, but to those of us who hunt here, we weren't that surprised." Ten years ago, a neighbor harvested a massive buck that grossed in the 190's not far from where Odenbrett's buck came from.
Odenbrett's buck has a very unique frame, especially for a top 20 Pope and Young non-typical. The buck has an inside spread of only 15 5/8 inches. However, the 28 scoreable points and three mass circumferences over 8 inches dominant the gross score. Also, the long tines are stacked onto the beams like cordwood. The buck carried a 7x6 mainframe! The unique webbing and sheer number of non-typical inches are what make this buck truly a world-class bowkill.
The fourth element of the perfect storm, is the human element. A world-class buck that is never seen or harvested by a hunter has little influence on the hunting community. The hunter is the final ingredient of the perfect whitetail storm. Someone has to close the deal!
After the 2009 muzzleloader episode with the buck, Odenbrett had no hope that he would get a second chance. Surprisingly, the deer wasn't even on his mind coming into the 2010 season. Odenbrett doesn't consider himself a trophy hunter, and typically he hunts for meat. That being said, he is always on the lookout for a good buck, and he has capitalized on such animals in seasons past. He is a taxidermist by trade, so he doesn't get to rifle hunt very much at all. Clients begin bringing in bucks on opening day and continue until season's end. His hunting schedule, over the years, has evolved around his work schedule.
Odenbrett typically reserves the latter half of October and the first week of November for his serious bowhunting, and 2010 was no different. "It was a Monday and my son, Ryan, had come in from college to hunt with me," Odenbrett said, "but I got busy in the shop and wasn't able to go with him."
On Tuesday morning, Ryan unexpectedly had to leave and head back to school. Unfortunately, Tuesday was the only evening that Odenbrett would be able to hunt. Even without his son, Odenbrett decided to try to make the evening sit.
"It wasn't until after 3:30 p.m. on October 19 that a client of mine left the shop," he recalled. "I rushed home, showered and got into my Scent-Lok suit."
Don't let the term "meat-hunter" fool you. Odenbrett is a seasoned hunter and knows what it takes to get deer into bow range. He takes scent control very seriously. Shortly after 4 p.m., he was pulling up to the property that he planned to hunt. The property was only 40 acres, but it was connected to more than 2,500 acres of private land. Much of the property is heavily forested, with deep hollows and ravines, and it's interspersed cattle pastures.
Odenbrett hurriedly made his way to one of his favorite stands on the property. "This stand is one of our best for seeing deer," he said. His Gorilla lock-on is perched near the rim of a steep ravine in a flat of woods. The flat is located between the ravine and an old field that hasn't been bush-hogged in several years. The area is a perfect funnel for deer. The timber had been selectively clear-cut some years ago, making it rather thick, but just the type of area that would make a big buck comfortable. The longest shot from Odenbrett's stand was 20 yards. Over the years, he had pin-pointed the deer in this travel area.
"I wasn't hunting for a big buck that afternoon," Odenbrett said. "It was October 19, and I was simply looking for a doe or yearling to put some meat on the table." Take note that it was on another property approximately three quarters of a mile away that Odenbrett had broke the beam off the buck the year before. The last thing he expected to see was that buck again, especially with 100 additional inches of antler!
It was approaching 4:45 p.m. by the time Odenbrett was settled in his tree stand. Just like many of us would do, he began checking his equipment. He picked up his grunt tube and blew on it to see how it sounded. Much to his surprise, it didn't work! Something had made the reed malfunction and it wouldn't make a sound. It had been a while since he had checked his calls, so he decided to pull out his Primos can call to check it as well. As he turned the can over, like clock-work, the plunger moved and it made the soft bellow of an estrous doe. Odenbrett then proceeded to turn the call over several times, just to see how it sounded.
After he put the call up, he immediately heard a terrible ruckus in the ravine below him. It sounded like a sapling tree being thrashed. Not convinced it was a buck, he thought it might be one of the horses that were on the property. He knew it would be unlikely that they would be in the thick ravine, but he could not make sense of the sound. The thrashing turned into heavy steps and headed straight towards the stand!
Odenbrett was still not convinced that it was a deer. He didn't even bother getting his bow off the hook. However, the sound materialized into a flash of antler as the creature passed through a small opening and then burst into bow range 20 yards away! Odenbrett was completely caught off guard! To add insult to injury, the instant the buck came into view, it immediately looked directly at the hunter in the tree!
After what seemed like an eternity, the stare-down ended, when the buck heard a noise on the other side of the ravine. When the deer turned his head, Odenbrett slowly got his bow and readied himself for the shot. The buck turned and headed straight for the stand! With no shot at the front-facing buck, the only thing he could do was wait for the buck to pass directly underneath him and shoot straight down. Odenbrett was leery of the shot, but knew it was going to be his only chance. When the buck was almost directly underneath him, he released an arrow mounted with a three-blade Rage broadhead. The arrow smacked the buck slightly further back than he anticipated but still in the boiler room! The arrow passed completely through the buck. Scott had only been in the stand for 15 minutes!
After analyzing the shot and asking advice of his friends, Odenbrett decided to wait until the next morning to retrieve the deer. After a long, sleepless night, Odenbrett and two friends recovered the buck within 150 yards of the stand early the next morning. Needless to say, the three were amazed at the buck. Odenbrett anticipated the buck was a 150-inch deer. The narrow spread fooled him severely.
Odenbrett's ability to close the deal on the buck was the last ingredient for Missouri's perfect storm of 2010. The buck was officially scored by Pope and Young after the 60-day drying period and gross scored 255 6/8 inches and netted 247 1/8 non-typical inches. Though the score was pending review by a Pope & Young panel at press time, if the number holds, Odenbrett's buck will rank 16th on the P&Y list of the biggest non-typicals ever killed. It was also the biggest non-typical bowkill in Missouri in 2010.