A Delaware Surprise

In 40 years of deer hunting, Robin Short had never seen a buck as big as the one that appeared in front of him last year on opening day of shotgun season.

Robin's Delaware bruiser is a main-frame 5x5 with five additional abnormal sticker points that added up to 16 5/8 inches. With both G-3s measuring over 11 inches in length, the heavy rack netted 192 6/8 non-typical B&C points. Robin's buck is the fourth-largest non-typical ever taken in Delaware.

I began hunting small game with my father in 1961 when I was 7. At that time, the deer population in Delaware was very small. You could hunt all week without ever getting a glimpse of a deer. With one week to hunt and a one-deer bag limit, your chances were not very good.

After I turned 16 and obtained my driver's license, it was easier to find time to hunt and I became an avid deer hunter. When I was 23, I finally took my first deer, a 64-pound doe.

That doe was a trophy to me in every way. After my two sons came along, they also began hunting at age 7. Not to be left out, my wife soon joined in the family tradition.

She became an avid hunter like me, as well as my favorite hunting partner. Since Delaware does not allow any rifle hunting, we've all hunted together over the years using muzzleloaders, bows and shotguns.

I've worked for a farmer in Bridgeville for 33 years. We grow small grains like soybeans, corn, wheat and barley. It's a lot of hard work, but with that work comes the hunting rights to about 2,500 acres. Sussex County, Delaware, contains a lot of agricultural land.

It also contains a fair amount of wooded acreage. Like most of the East Coast, the whitetail population has exploded in recent years. Bowhunting begins on Sept. 1, and the shotgun and muzzleloader seasons are intermittent until the end of January. Each hunter can bag two bucks and four antlerless deer.

On opening day of shotgun season our family has a longtime tradition of getting together for a breakfast of scrapple (pork scraps and trimmings that are fried) and eggs before the hunt. My wife Carol, our sons Shane and Blaine, and our 9-year-old grandson, Gunner, can hardly wait for that first day of the season. Gunner, not to be outdone by his father, took his first whitetail with a muzzleloader at the age of 6. Soon our 2-year-old grandson, Parker, will be joining us as well.

As usual, our family enjoyed its breakfast tradition on Nov. 14, 2008. Although it had rained throughout the night, the rain tapered off by morning. I was greeted with a southwest wind at about 10 mph. Since I usually try to hang my deer stands in anticipation of a northeast or northwest wind, I knew I was taking a chance getting into my stand without being busted. Because I like to be in my stand before daybreak, we left home at 5 a.m. for the 10-minute ride to our favorite hunting spot.

We planned to hunt a 150-acre tract in which 75 acres had been cut over several years earlier and the other 75 acres consisted of a harvested soybean field. The timbered area was now thickly grown up in hollies, pines and red briars. It contained some choice bedding areas. While scouting before the season, it was not uncommon to see 40 to 50 deer feeding in the field.

In the past, we'd harvested several 130-class bucks from this farm, but it's hard to manage 75 acres surrounded by other farms that are not practicing any sort of quality deer management. Most of the local farmers would like to see the deer numbers cut way down, so they have no restrictions on shooting younger bucks. Our past success is probably due to the amount of pressure from nearby farms and the fact that I only hunt this property a few times each year.

Opening morning was unproductive. I saw a few does, but I was never offered a decent shot opportunity. We decided to leave for lunch and take a short rest. Shane, Blaine, Gunner, Carol and I planned to return to the property around 1 p.m. I decided to hunt a new stand that I had hung a couple of weeks earlier. In my haste to hang it, I forgot to flag it. So on my way in that afternoon I flagged the trail and then sprayed the flags with cover scent.

I'm a small man. I stand about 5 feet, 2 inches tall and I weigh 125 pounds. I usually hunt from a lock-on with a climbing stick. Because of my size, I can hang my stand just about anywhere. This particular stand was hung on a small pine tree about 10 to 12 feet high. I was on an old logging trail surrounded by brush and briars near a scrape line that showed plenty of activity.

As I settled in for what I felt would be a long afternoon wait, I noticed from the way that one of my flags was blowing that the wind was coming out of the southwest. As mentioned earlier, this was a bad sign. The temperature was in the 50s, and I was pretty sure the deer would not move until late. Although this area had produced some average bucks in the past, things didn't look too bright. I knew that most of the bucks taken in these woods had been shot between 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Suddenly I heard a large crash about 30 yards behind me. I was certain that it was a buck, and I was right. As the deer came closer, I stood up in my stand and rested my Remington 870 on a branch, waiting for my chance. The 15 minutes it took him to appear seemed like an hour. At the first glance of his antlers, I knew he was a shooter. He looked both ways and then stepped into the open trail. He was 40 yards away when he turned and walked right toward me. I had never seen anything like him in 40 years of deer hunting!

As he walked toward me, he began to sniff the flags that I had just hung. Luckily, the cover scent I had used must have been working. I knew this monster buck was checking a scrape line that I was hunting. As soon as he raised his head to rub a branch over one of the scrapes, I took the shot from a distance of 20 yards. I was using 3-inch shells loaded with buckshot, and he dropped in his tracks.

I immediately called my wife and sons and told them that I had shot a buck of a lifetime.

I got down from my stand and walked toward him. He got bigger with every step. I was so excited that I did not wait for help. I dropped my gun and my backpack, field dressed him and started dragging. I'm sure my adrenaline was pumping because I dragged him a distance of 120 yards by myself.

When the family arrived, everyone was in disbelief. Even with all of our scouting we had never seen any sign from this big bruiser. We loaded him up and drove two miles to town to get my dad's approval. The news spread like wildfire, and in no time the yard was full of admiring hunters. I felt numb and proud to have experienced this hunt with my family.

My buck had a total of 15 scorable points. After the 60-day drying period, the rack was officially scored as a basic 10-pointer with 5 additional non-typical points. Unbelievably, the heavy rack grossed 200 4/8 and netted 192 6/8 non-typical. My deer is ranked fourth all time in the state of Delaware. I feel lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to harvest the true buck of a lifetime!

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