Ray Primmer Buck: 189-Inch Missouri Brute
March 09, 2015
There are endless success stories about the impacts of quality deer management (QDM). As a management philosophy, it's catching on across North America, and it's no mystery why. Bigger, healthier deer populations is the goal, and many wildlife agencies are aligning their hunting regulations with this model.
States are implementing point restrictions, setting firearm seasons outside peak rut and adjusting numbers of available tags as needed. Hunters and landowners are planting food plots, providing supplemental feed and minerals and keeping a watchful eye on the quality and quantity of their herd.
Meanwhile, game-monitoring technology has taken QDM a step farther. Years ago, you might have had an idea of what quality and ratios of animals were on a tract of land, but it was in large part only a "best guess." Due to nocturnal activity, phases of the rut and the fact we can't be observing the herd in more than one place at a time, we couldn't know we were getting a true snapshot of the herd.
With cameras, that's all changed. Now one hunter can monitor a property and travel patterns year-round. Cameras let us know exactly what the quality and quantity of the deer herd is. We can determine what the largest deer is on the farm or maybe target some bucks that have inferior genetics in an effort to improve overall herd.
Of course, another positive aspect of multiple game cameras is that, if used correctly, they enable you to know where the deer are.
As a member of the U.S. military, I understand all too well the problem of having limited time to hunt. Keeping cameras up and running while at work enables you to pick the best stand or locations to hunt on your precious time off. This is exactly what provided me the advantage on my 100-acre tract in north-central Missouri during the 2013 season.
Purchasing my property in the spring of 2012, I knew I'd have a challenge ahead of me. I not only had to learn the lay of the land and deer movement, but also set up food plots. The goal was to put my family and myself in the right locations to harvest mature bucks that fall. But when I was informed I had scheduled military training (I'm active-duty Air Force) starting Nov. 1, my priorities changed. My goal became to help my wife, Kim, get her first deer with archery tackle.
As time was ticking down on that 2012 season, she rattled in and took her first bow whitetail. The buck she harvested was a very nice 9-pointer we'd photographed on numerous occasions. He even had been named "Kim's buck," because she'd almost hit him in July, while operating our ATV on the property during a scouting trip.
During the fall of 2012 I also was fortunate to capture a trail camera picture of a dandy non-typical, which Kim named "Warlock." Outside of a couple-day window in 2012, he was a ghost. Based on photos, he traveled between our property and the one to the north.
Another nice surprise came when the farmer on the adjacent tract found Warlock's shed that winter, confirming he'd survived hunting season. So as we prepared for the 2013 season, I knew I needed to gather as much information as I could about the buck and his patterns.
The preparation also included a key habitat decision: planting soybeans and turnips in my food plots. Those extra groceries would prove beneficial as I began to get early-season pictures of Warlock. Unbelievably, his extra points had swapped sides on his rack — and it was clear he'd added an extra 20 to 30 inches of antler. He was a true giant, the likes of which I'd never seen.
In an effort to keep track of this bruiser, I kept 10-12 game cameras rolling from July into the rifle season in mid-November. Warlock vanished for the majority of October but resurfaced during Halloween week. I didn't have any luck actually laying eyes on him though archery season, but I remained excited. The previous season, Warlock had been very active in mid-November. He had a weakness for the ladies, which I hoped would continue to feed in my food plots.
Gun Season Begins
The first few days of firearms season were warm and windy, and overall deer activity was slow. Heading out to hunt the fourth morning, I'd made up my mind to hunt a few hours, then travel back home to help my wife with our newborn girl.
At 8:30 a.m. I heard what I believed to be antlers crashing in the timber just beyond the backside of my turnip food plot. About 15 minutes later, a nice 9-pointer and a smaller 8-pointer skirted the edge of the timber, heading away from the sound of the fight. My suspicions were validated about 10:30, when I decided to leave the blind and check my trail camera in the food plot. I immediately learned that at 1:20 that morning Warlock had traveled across the food plot in the direction of the antler crashing I'd later heard.
Back at camp, my next move was to call my understanding wife and get permission to hunt this world-class whitetail another day. I had a feeling he might scent-check the food plot again that evening in search of a "hot" doe. The million-dollar question, of course, was whether or not he'd do so during daylight hours.
Face to Face
The evening hunt began uneventfully, with zero deer sighting the first three hours. About 45 minutes before dark, I let out a couple soft doe bleats with my Primos can call. I needed to start softly, because I felt the giant buck might be bedded within easy earshot of the plot.
Twenty minutes later, I heard crunching of the fallen leaves off the backside of the plot, in the direction of the suspected bedded buck. The cadence seemed correct for a deer, but all of a sudden the forest went silent.
After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was probably only five minutes, the huge buck materialized out of the timber on the far side of the plot about 90 yards away. My heart kicked into overdrive. It seemed almost as if a ghost had appeared; I felt I was dreaming. In 24 years of deer hunting I'd never seen a buck this size, dead or alive.
The giant was on a deliberate walk across the turnip plot, seemingly unaware of the tasty snacks that lay under his hooves. He was on a mission for does, and I had to act quickly. Holding my crosshairs just in front of the buck's chest, I touched off the trigger as soon as the front of his shoulder met the center of the reticle.
At the shot, Warlock stumbled and bolted out of sight. A rush of emotion flooded over me. The first thing I did was to call my beautiful wife to tell her the news. But I literally couldn't formulate a coherent sentence.
It didn't take long to find the downed buck. And let's just say there was no ground shrinkage on this one. Following the 60-day drying period, Warlock grossed 197 2/8 inches and netted 189 2/8.
As a landowner and hunter, I feel I owe my 2013 success to two key decisions. First and foremost would be setting up and monitoring my game cameras. Without photos of this deer over two years — and specifically the day before I shot him — I surely wouldn't have been in that blind that fateful evening. Secondly, he wouldn't have been searching for does in this area without our having provided that food source as an attractant.
Of course, food plots and trail cameras cost money. But the benefits are huge. As far as cameras go, you don't have to purchase 12 of them. If you can set up even a couple in your hotspots, you'll undoubtedly increase your understanding of local deer habits and get a better feel for the herd's antler genetics.
It's like Christmas morning each time I pop an SD card into my computer to view the images captured while I was working. Especially if you manage land, this technology is a rewarding and addictive weapon to have in your whitetail arsenal.