It takes a phenomenal rack to score in the high 190s as a typical. The buck that Barry Girten shot on Nov. 30, 2006, in White County, Illinois, is beyond phenomenal!
Every year when the Illinois shotgun season approaches, you'll find Barry Girten and his son Josh anxiously awaiting opening morning. The deer hunting ritual has long been a "family tradition." Thus began the first three days of the 2006 firearm deer season. The opportunity for this father-and-son duo to spend time together in the woods of southeastern Illinois is the top priority. According to Barry and Josh, they are not "trophy" hunters. They have, however, taken some respectable bucks over the years and always enjoy the challenge of trying to take "a good buck."
During the first three days of the 2006 season (Nov. 17, 18 and 19), they hunted hard but did not see many deer. There had been an increase in hunting pressure in their area over the last few years due to increased outfitting. By the end of the first gun season, they were convinced that "there were no big bucks left." Little did they realize, however, that they would soon change their minds!
When the second shotgun season began on Thursday, Nov. 30, Josh had to leave town on a business trip. For the first time in many years, he would miss three of the four days of the second season, and he'd miss not being in the woods with his father. Barry got off work that Thursday from the third shift at a local coal mine. Even though the weather was terrible, he decided he was going deer hunting. By the time he headed to his tree stand, a steady rain was falling and there was a high wind. While walking to his stand, he saw a good buck, but it never got close enough for a shot. After watching the buck until it disappeared, he proceeded to his stand.
"When I reached my tree stand, it was raining hard and it was very windy, so I just stood under the tree on the ground," Barry said.
Thirty minutes later, he saw a small buck and a couple of does coming toward him. They soon turned into a thicket of cane. The low, wet backwater areas that Barry and Josh frequently hunt have an abundance of tall cane that is often impenetrable.
A half-hour after seeing the deer, Barry began to question the sanity of hunting in the inclement weather. About that time he noticed movement approximately 100 yards away. He soon realized it was a buck, and it was moving closer. At 70 yards, the buck briefly turned broadside just before it entered the same cane patch where the other deer had gone earlier. Barry only had a few seconds, and he decided it was "a pretty good" buck, so he took a 70-yard shot with his scoped slug gun. The buck immediately swapped ends and disappeared in the same direction from which it had come.
Barry's first reaction was, "I can't believe I missed that deer!" He waited 30 minutes and then went over to where the deer had been standing when he shot. After looking for almost two hours, he had found no indication that he had hit the deer, so he returned home. That afternoon Josh called to see how he had done. Josh said, "We had talked on the phone for several minutes when Dad finally said he had shot at a buck but couldn't find it."
Convinced he had hit the deer, Barry left work on Friday and headed back to the woods. He again spent about two hours looking for any sign of a wounded deer, and again found nothing. It was the same thing on Saturday morning. Finally, while he was standing and looking out over a small backwater lake, something out of the ordinary caught his eye. There, not 40 yards away, were two extremely long tines sticking up out of the water.
The rack was so large that even though the entire body of the deer was under water, the antlers were only partially submerged. Barry tagged the buck and did his best to drag it out of the water. Unfortunately, the meat had spoiled, so he left the buck where it was and returned home to get a saw to cut off the head. He managed to get the head home and put it in his garage.
Josh returned home on Saturday night, hunted Sunday morning, and then went to see his dad. Josh helped his dad cut the antlers and skullcap off. Up to this point, neither Barry nor Josh realized just how big the buck was. They'd never had a deer measured before, and according to Barry, they both thought that while it was a good buck, it didn't have much mass.
Josh had the rack in his truck for a couple of weeks and showed it to several friends. Barry and Josh then decided to mount the rack on a plaque along with an 8-pointer and a 10-pointer they had taken in earlier years. Josh's wife works with Doug Westfall's wife at Doug Westfall Taxidermy. They made arrangements to take all three racks to Doug's wife, who then took them home to her husband's taxidermy studio. When she got home, Doug was not there, so she laid the racks on the floor.
Later that night, Doug returned home and saw the pile of antlers. He immediately focused on one -- the buck Barry had just killed. The fact that it was a typical 7x7 rack with several tines over 12 inches long told Doug immediately that he was looking at something special.
Doug grabbed his measuring tape. After adding everything up, he was stunned. He had tallied up an unofficial gross typical score of over 200 inches. He double-checked his calculations to make sure he had not somehow messed up the score. Nope, it was definitely a 200-class typical!
The next morning Doug called Barry and said, "This is a giant. You really should do a shoulder mount."
He also contacted Duncan Dobie, editor of North American Whitetail. Now if you happen to be the editor of that magazine, you're always getting calls about potential world records and such. However, many of those calls don't pan out once a buck is officially measured.
Doug told Duncan he was looking at a gross 200-inch buck, and Duncan's first thought was that it probably was a nice non-typical so "commonplace" in Illinois in recent years. When Doug said, "No, it's a typical," Duncan perked up and said, "We are definitely interested!"
Sure enough, despite three abnormal points, the rack was scored as a giant typical! After the 60-day drying period, it was officially measured by Tom Micetich. The gross typical frame measured an astounding 215 5/8, with a net score of 198 6/8!
According to Trophy Whitetails of Illinois, compiled by the Illinois Big Buck Recognition Program, in the typical firearms division the Girten buck ranks right behind Brian Damery's incredible 200 2/8-inch Macon County giant, taken in 1993. Only Mel Johnson's 204 4/8-inch bow buck, taken in 1965, scores higher than either the Damery trophy or the Girten trophy, so this makes Barry's trophy No. 3 all time in the Prairie State!
Amazingly, the Girten buck is believed to have been only 3 1/2 years old, based on tooth wear. Most hunters probably think that the buck would have scored even higher in 2007 had he lived. But in this case, I really believe that his 2006 rack was the best that he could have grown. The buck already had several stickers around his antler bases, and chances are he probably would have grown more non-typical points with age.
Even though Barry is impressed with the fact that his buck was the highest-scoring typical killed in the lower 48 states in 2006, he feels very humbled about the whole experience. His last comment to me was, "I just wish Josh had been there beside me when it happened. If he had, I would have told him to take the shot."
It's quite obvious that the real "trophy story" here is the amazing father-and-son relationship that is so closely connected to whitetail hunting!