For a father and son to each have Boone & Crockett bucks to their credit is a feat in itself. For both bucks to have been killed in the same county during the same season is remarkable!
Paul Kegley (rt.) and his son, Jessy, display their Greenup County trophies from 2009. The Kegleys represent the first time two members of the same family have each bagged Boone & Crockett bucks during the same season. Photo by Patrick Hogan.
Situated along the Ohio River, in extreme northeastern Kentucky, Greenup County encompasses the hills and hollows of the rugged Cumberland Plateau. Paul Kegley and his family live in the southern end of the county on the same land where his parents once resided. During his growing-up years, Paul spent most of his hunting time pursuing small game, particularly squirrels and rabbits.
"I never deer hunted until I was about 20 years old," Paul noted. "The reason for waiting that long was pretty simple; there were no deer to hunt. Even after we had a season, deer were so scarce that just seeing one was a real accomplishment."
Fortunately, over the years, the local whitetail population gradually increased to a point where hunter success became a somewhat reasonable expectation. It was also during this time period that Paul's 8-year-old son, Jessy, began tagging along on the deer hunts. Now in his early 20s, the younger Kegley has evolved into an avid bowhunter.
Understandably, even dedicated deer hunters can have a problem conjuring up thoughts of hunting big whitetails while struggling through the heat and humidity of late July. However, last summer, during an early morning drive to work, Jessy was stunned to suddenly spot a giant buck standing only yards away along the roadside.
"The size of the buck's rack was amazing, and being in velvet made it appear even bigger," Jessy said. "Knowing that bow season was only a month away, my immediate goal was to find out who owned the land and attempt to acquire hunting access."
Fortunately, the landowner turned out to be a good friend of Jessy's grandmother, therefore obtaining permission to hunt was not a problem. After scouting the property in mid-August, he placed trail cameras in those areas where the terrain dictated a natural funnel of deer movement.
Initially, the results were a little disappointing; during the first couple of weeks, the cameras didn't record any photos of the buck. However, a few days later, which coincidentally happened to be opening weekend of bow season, the hunter received his first picture of the big deer.
"An adverse wind direction prevented me from hunting the location for a couple of days," Jessy said. "But around mid-week, a slight change in weather conditions gave me a chance to finally get into the area for a morning hunt."
The hunter's stand was positioned along a woodline bordering an old bottomland field now grown up in head-high weeds and saplings. A well-used deer trail meandered through the thick vegetation, heading in the general direction of a small cornfield approximately 350 yards farther down the hollow.
"It was warm and very muggy, fairly typical for early September," Jessy noted. "Knowing that deer had been feeding in the small patch of corn, I fully expected to see some activity, but the morning passed without a single deer appearing. Despite the poor outing, I made plans to be back in the stand before dawn."
At daybreak the following morning, a heavy ground fog obscured much of the old field and adjacent woodline. Whitetails are well known for their uncanny ability to move quietly through dense cover, particularly when the thick vegetation is wet with dew. Jessy had no idea a deer was approaching until a buck abruptly stepped out of the brush directly in front of the stand.
"The deer was an impressive 8-pointer, in full velvet," Jessy said. "Under different circumstances, I might have considered taking the buck, but not in this situation."
Within seconds of watching the 8-pointer disappear into the woods, the hunter spotted additional movement in the field. As he looked on, a huge set of antlers suddenly materialized above the brush and high weeds, as a much larger buck moved into view, following the same approximate path as the first deer.
"The buck had lost its velvet, but the size of the rack left no doubt it was the deer I was hoping to see," Jessy said. "By the time I got the bow drawn, the buck had closed to 14 yards."
At the shot, the big deer whirled sideways and quickly disappeared in the thick cover. For several seconds, the hunter could hear the buck crashing through the brush and then everything was quiet.
"I felt pretty good about the shot, but because of the angle, I was a little concerned that the arrow had hit a little farther back than I wanted." Jessy said. "My plan was to wait until late afternoon before looking for the deer, however, thunderstorms began developing around noon and knowing a hard rain would eliminate any blood trail, I decided to begin the search then."
Trailing was tough through the thick ground vegetation, but after approximately 100 yards he spotted the deer lying just ahead. Unfortunately, it was not dead.
"I immediately nocked another arrow and slowly eased forward," Jessy said. "Luckily, as the buck got to its feet and turned to run, I briefly had an open shooting opportunity and saw my arrow's fletching disappear into the rear of the deer. Although the buck continued on out of sight, it was obviously laboring and I didn't think it would travel very far. Nevertheless, I decided it would be best to wait until morning rather than risk pushing the deer further and perhaps off of the property."
The fact that Jessy was working the night shift that particular week was probably a blessing in disguise, since it's doubtful he would have been able to get any sleep. The following morning, the hunter drove directly to the hunt site and after a relatively short search, found the buck lying about 50 yards from where it was last sighted. In this instan
ce, there was certainly no problem with "ground shrinkage." In fact, up close the antlers seemed even bigger than he had remembered.
In regard to appearance, the rack exhibits an impressive combination of height, width and mass. The very symmetrical 10-point frame includes exceptionally long main beams that exceed 28 inches and an antler spread of 20 2/8 inches outside and 17 7/8 inches inside. Additionally, there are four tines that measure between 13 3/8 and 11 7/8 inches, plus all eight circumference measurements tape between 4 and 5 inches.
After grossing 183 7/8, minor asymmetry deductions reduce the final Pope & Young score to 178 7/8. In addition to also qualifying for both Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young record books, the buck stands as the top bowkill ever recorded for Greenup County, and it now ranks No. 4 on Kentucky's all-time list of P&Y typical whitetails.
Approximately two months later, during the November gun season, Paul was hunting a high ridgetop on the backside of his farm. Specifically, he was located about 50 yards below the top of the hill, at one end of a wide bench, cut into the hillside many years earlier during a strip mining operation. Situated in the middle of three big hickory trees, the hunter had a good view of the open bench area, as well as the bordering edge of a nearby pine thicket.
This was Paul's fourth straight day at the location. Three days earlier, he had missed a 100-yard shot at a large buck as it was traveling across the bench. During the following two days, one of which was shortened by heavy rain, the only deer sighted was a doe.
"I'd been sitting there for most of the day and hadn't seen any sign of a deer," Paul said. "I had a Quaker Boy can bleat call with me and around mid-afternoon I decided to try the call a few times. A short while later and without any warning, a buck suddenly came trotting out of the pine thicket about 50 yards away. Before I could raise my rifle, the deer spun around and disappeared back into the pines. I immediately thought to myself, 'I'm sure I'll never see him again.'"
Surprisingly, within a minute or two, the big deer abruptly reappeared and began trotting across the open bench directly in front of the hunter. Quickly maneuvering into shooting position, Paul hesitated momentarily as the buck passed behind one of the big hickory trees, then aimed and fired.
"The buck bolted straight ahead so fast, I thought I must have missed," Paul said. "But after a short run, the deer did a complete somersault, end over end, down the hillside. I knew the rack was big and heavy, but until then, I hadn't noticed the long points. After walking to where the buck was lying, I simply couldn't believe the antlers; their size was just unreal."
In many ways, the dark brown 10-point rack strongly resembles Jessy's great bowkill. Long 27-inch main beams are complimented by 11-inch back tines and 10-inch G-3s. Additionally, all eight mass measurements tape between 4 and 5 inches. After grossing 170 6/8, minor asymmetry deductions, plus two small abnormal points, drop the final B&C score to 163 6/8.
There have been numerous Kentucky whitetails logged into the record books over the last 50 years, but this marks the first time that two members of one family have taken B&C bucks during a single season. This is truly an amazing accomplishment, particularly to have occurred in a Kentucky mountain county that had previously produced only three Boone & Crockett bucks.
It should be noted that a very small group of Kentucky hunters have taken two B&C bucks, but during different seasons. Coincidentally, one of those individuals happens to be another Greenup County hunter. In 1986, Eddie Conley took a 17-pointer scoring 199 6/8 and in 1992 he dropped a 10-point typical that netted 160 6/8.
The simple fact that these hunters understand the technique of how to hunt whitetails in the rough and rugged terrain of the eastern mountains is no small part of the success they have enjoyed. Given the fact that the deer population is continuing to slowly expand throughout most of the approximately 32 counties that comprise the region, there is every reason to believe the number of mature trophy-class bucks will continue to increase in the coming years.