Three-Year Quest For A Tennessee Megabuck
September 22, 2010
After spotting this huge buck in the summer of 2006, John Hutcheson and his dad bowhunted for the giant for the next two seasons. On his last hunt, just before the 2008-2009 season was about to end, John decided to hunt with a rifle. The rest is history. . . .
The author bowhunted for this great Tennessee buck for the better part of three seasons. Things finally came together on Jan. 8, 2009. It was the first and only time the author decided to hunt with a rifle. After making a 100-yard shot, he was mighty glad he had carried a rifle that day!
I've had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in Davidson County in Middle Tennessee, and much of that time has been spent in the outskirts of the county checking for promising whitetail hotspots. I see quite a few deer, and occasionally I'll spot a very nice buck. Several years ago, while glassing one of these favorite areas late in the afternoon on a summer day in 2006, I saw a buck that sent shivers down my spine. I was used to seeing four or five bucks in this area feeding together almost every afternoon late in the day.
All of these deer had trophy potential. There was a nice 6-pointer, a couple of 8-pointers and a couple of 10-pointers. One of the 10-pointers in particular was exceptional. Just as darkness was setting in on that unforgettable summer afternoon, another buck suddenly walked out of the woods and joined the group. Using my spotting scope, I couldn't believe what I was looking at.
A ONE-OF-A-KIND BUCK
I counted approximately 20 points on a mainframe 10-pointer with a spread wider than I had ever seen on a deer before. The height of his antlers and the mass was unbelievable.
I watched all the deer feed deeper into the pasture as darkness settled in. Long after they were invisible, I found myself not wanting to leave. I knew that I had just watched a once-in-a-lifetime buck.
I called my dad who is my hunting partner, and we had the first of many conversations that would take place over the next few years. I continued to glass this bachelor group of bucks for the remainder of the summer, but the monster never appeared until just before dark and then only a few times.
Although I could not gain permission to hunt the pasture where the big buck had been seen, I did obtain permission to hunt two neighboring farms in the area. As my dad and I scouted and found more and more sign that we believed might belong to the big guy, we began to narrow the search into specific areas on these two farms in hopes of locating the right spot where the big boy might be hanging out.
The last Saturday in September marked the beginning of the 2006 Tennessee archery season. When it finally rolled around, we hoped we were ready. However, that entire deer season came and went without a single daytime sighting of the buck. I still saw him on rare occasions with my spotting scope right at dark. But usually it was after legal hunting hours; I never saw him during the daytime. He was always within a half mile of one of the farms we were hunting, so I held out hope that the 2007 season would have a different outcome.
TWO MORE YEARS OF HARD WORK
During the late summer of '07, I once again started seeing the big buck with all of his friends in the same areas where I had seen him the previous summer. Unfortunately, however, the 2007 season turned out pretty much like its predecessor. Dad and I did manage to take a couple of good bucks from that area with our bows, but we could never find the big boy.
Just before archery season opened in the fall of 2008, Dad and I were determined to go all out for this buck. I knew that he had been an impressive monster two years earlier, and I was afraid that his rack might be starting to decline. Furthermore, I was seeing him less often. I felt that 2008 had to be the season.
We had obtained aerial photos of the area and studied them many times. We had also put in a lot of off-season scouting in an effort to try and pinpoint the buck's bedroom. Dad and I had hundreds of head-scratching conversations. "What do you think about this?" and "Could he be bedding in this area?" We had numerous talks along those lines. We tried to compile all of the pertinent information we could gather so that we might have a very different outcome for the 2008 season.
ZEROING IN ON MR. BIG
We finally got our first break during the late bow season. While scouting a thick pine thicket, I discovered a rub line that I felt only the big boy could have been responsible for. There were probably 15 pine trees in this thicket that had been rubbed very aggressively. The smallest was a good 8 inches in diameter. Most had been made on 10- to 12-inch trees. From that time on, I concentrated most of my efforts in that one area.
This particular thicket was custom made for bowhunting. And since that is what we were doing at the time, I had a great feeling about it. Smaller bucks and does would come through at all hours of the day. But not the big boy, that is, until November 13th. It was about 9:30 a.m. and I had just finished a short non-aggressive rattling sequence when I put my horns down and picked up my bow. I looked out into an opening approximately 80 yards away and there was no mistake about it; it was him!
He burst out into the small opening and looked around. I grunted, but he totally ignored me. Some does had passed through the area earlier, and he finally put his nose down and followed them into the thicket. I couldn't believe it. I know the sighting of a huge deer shouldn't affect a grown man like it often does, but after all of the thought and work I had put into getting close to this deer for so long, I was physically weak all over.
I planned to be in that area every chance I could get until gun season closed on Jan. 11, 2009. I also started giving some serious thought to trading in my bow for my rifle when gun season started. But I didn't; at least not for a while.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Dad and I hunted the area throughout the rut and all of December. Toward the end of the month, it was beginning to look like we had been skunked again. We were able to hunt on Wednesday afternoon, January 7. After that we planned to finish out the season the next day with an all-day sit. I then would be forced to go back to work on Friday and try to forget about the buck for another year.
The night before our hunt, I made a tough decision for which I will forever be grateful. I decided to take my rifle. I have a Remington .30/06 Woodmaster that my mom and dad gave me when I turned 16, and I decided to put up my bow and use the rifle instead.
On Thursday morning it was around 40 degrees and sunny. I had moved my stand to the outside of the pine thicke
t where I could cover a couple of hundred yards. There's something special about having a rifle in your lap that just gives you confidence. I knew that if he appeared within 100 yards of me on either side, I'd have a good chance at taking him. It was 7 a.m., and reality started to sink in. I suddenly remembered that I had only seen this deer one other time in two years during daylight hours while I was hunting.
And although this may sound corny, I realized just how privileged I had been to have the opportunity to hunt this great deer.
END OF THE TRAIL
So, as I sat there thinking about him and the smaller 8-pointer that he was traveling with this late in the season, I looked up the ridge to my right and saw two bucks. One was an 8-pointer. The other was him! The monster buck that I had dedicated three years to finding was standing 100 yards away and I had a rifle in my hand!
Other hunters have often asked me, "What did you think when you saw that deer?"
The only thought that I can remember thinking is, Don't mess this up.
I knew I had to be careful with the 8-pointer because he was walking toward me. At the same time, I had to keep an eye on the big guy. I slowly raised my rifle. Believe it or not, I actually picked a spot on his chest and squeezed off. He immediately went down, but it took a follow-up shot to finish the job.
My emotions were racing. There was so much joy. At the same time, I felt as if I had just lost a friend. I realize that I will never find another deer to hunt like him because I can't afford to go to Canada and look for one. Finding a deer of this quality in Tennessee was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Nonetheless, after some of the excitement had died down, I knew I would be right back out there during the 2009 season with bow in hand looking for the big guy's offspring! And I knew that I would be just as fired up!
I would like to thank my God not only for allowing me to harvest this great buck, but also for the enjoyment that I had during the two years that I hunted him. I also want to thank my wife, Jami, who never said the word "divorce" out loud, but I'm sure she thought about it quite a few times during my quest to hunt this amazing buck. I want to thank my boys, Owen and Cody, as well. Hopefully, they'll get to seem more of their dad in the future. Thanks again, God, for my once-in-a-lifetime buck!