September 22, 2010
This Kentucky teenager doesn't fit the usual description of a highly successful trophy whitetail hunter. Maybe that means we should rethink the stereotype!
By Bill Cooper
From her perch above the forest floor, 17-year-old Kentucky bowhunter Sarah Bullock scanned the early-morning woods for any flicker of movement. It was late November, and the colder temperatures and the distant cries of southbound waterfowl had diverted many hunters away from deer. But not Sarah, who planned to stay after them until the end of bow season in mid-January if she still had a tag in her pocket.
What had prompted her to sit here was the presence of several large trees that had been scarred by antlers. Deep cuts and gouges in the bark left little doubt that the damage had been done by a big-antlered deer.
Shortly after sunrise, Sarah detected faint, faraway rustlings in the leaves. Seeing nothing, she attributed the distant noises to early-morning ramblings of squirrels. However, that theory quickly evaporated as the sounds gradually grew closer and more pronounced.
"Eventually, I could make out individual footsteps, and for a moment or two I really thought someone was walking through the woods," Sarah says. "But that also seemed unlikely, because no one else was supposed to be hunting on the property."
As Sarah continued to watch and listen, the footsteps suddenly materialized into a huge buck moving erratically in her direction through the trees. From the buck's behavior, it was apparent that a doe had passed through sometime earlier; the big deer kept his nose constantly to the ground as he attempted to follow an invisible scent trail.
Sarah realized the buck was following the approximate path of a well-used trail that passed just below her stand. As the huge deer closed to within 50 yards, she readied herself for a possible shot. But then, with the buck only 30 yards away and everything going perfectly, he suddenly veered to his right.
Sarah arrowed this super buck during the 2002 season, a year after using her rifle to kill the impressive non-typical shown below. Wonder what she'll shoot after she gets out of high school? Photo by Bill Cooper.
If this secondary trial was the route the doe had taken, Sarah knew she stood little chance of getting a shot at the buck, or even seeing him again. Fortunately, before she had time to dwell on that thought, the big whitetail abruptly reversed directions and headed straight for her.
At full draw, Sarah tracked the approaching buck, and as he passed at 15 yards, she released. There was an audible thud as the 125-grain broadhead slammed into the huge deer.
"I saw the arrow hit a couple of inches behind the shoulder blade," Sarah notes. "Even though the buck bounded forward and ran out of sight, I felt pretty good about the shot."
In spite of her excitement, Sarah decided to wait before looking for the buck. She quickly returned home to locate her dad for assistance. Approximately two hours later, the two returned to the site and began the task of unraveling the deer's trail.
Photo by Bill Cooper
After they located the first few blood droplets, the deer's initial route was fairly easy to follow. Periodically, however, the trail would seem to vanish, and the trailers would have to circle for several minutes to locate it again. Finally, approximately 100 yards from Sarah's stand, they discovered the whitetail lying dead.
"At that point, I was so excited that I couldn't help jumping up and down several times," Sarah relates. "I knew the buck was pretty big, but the antlers were much larger than I had realized."
One look at the buck's huge 10-point rack and it's a wonder the hunter isn't still jumping up and down. Official antler measurements include a 20-inch inside spread, 7 4/8-inch brow tines, paired G-2 and G-3 tines that average nearly 11 inches, and massive main beams that have 4 2/8-inch circumferences even out at the H-4 positions.
Asymmetry deductions, plus two significant abnormal points, reduced the final Pope & Young score from 176 4/8 to 167 2/8. In addition to ranking high in the P&Y record book, the impressive whitetail also qualifies for the Boone and Crockett Club's awards book.
For almost any other hunter, this great deer could easily be classified as "the buck of a lifetime." However, in Sarah's case, a more conservative description might be more appropriate.
"My dad began taking me along on hunting trips when I was about 6 or 7," she says. "From that time on, there was nothing I enjoyed more than being in the outdoors. Dad primarily hunted small game, which was great, but as I got older I gradually became more and more interested in deer. To me, the challenge in hunting whitetails is having to figure out where and why deer are concentrated in a particular area, then determining their movement patterns and locating any significant buck sign that might be nearby."
Because of Sarah's keen interest in wildlife, there's simply no such thing as having a bad day in the woods, regardless of whether a deer is sighted or not. This natural enthusiasm, combined with patience and the curiosity to know more about the animal she's hunting, gives her a definite edge over many other deer hunters.
During the early bow season of 2002, Sarah focused her hunting time around an elongated tract of bottomland hardwoods paralleling a small creek. Deer were moving out of the timber to feed in a nearby cornfield that had been combined. Although many large rubs and scrapes were scattered through the area, only a few small bucks were sighted. However, by the opening of gun season in early November, the rut had triggered a noticeable increase in activity.
"Despite the rut, I continued to see only does and small bucks, nothing big," Sarah says. "Even worse, I managed to drop my rifle out of the stand and knock the scope out of alignment."
With only a few days left in the season, Sarah decided to try an early- morning hunt at a different location in the creek bottom. Quietly pedaling her bicycle through the foggy pre-dawn darkness, she utilized old farm and woods roads to approach within 250 yards of her hunting site. After concealing the bike, she carried her lever-action .30-30 the remaining distance to the c
reek. The hunter stopped a short distance from the water, near several big oaks.
"I planned to hunt from the ground that morning and positioned myself at the base of the largest tree, so the trunk would conceal the outline of my body," Sarah explains. "A few days earlier, I had removed the tarsal glands from another hunter's buck and, before sitting down, I hung them on a limb several yards away."
About an hour after daybreak, the hunter heard what she thought were turkeys scratching in the leaves somewhere behind her along the creek. The sounds continued intermittingly, but strangely there were no low yelps or other vocalizations from the birds.
Unsure she was actually hearing turkeys, Sarah took out a call and blew a short sequence of low grunts. Within minutes, she spotted movement through the trees and managed to catch a quick glimpse of a buck walking with his head down. Only one side of the rack was visible, but the antlers appeared massive, and there were several points sticking in different directions.
"That one brief look was all I needed to know the buck was a definite shooter," Sarah notes. "When the deer disappeared behind several trees, I raised my rifle and waited for a shot opportunity."
That chance came quickly and unexpectedly. The buck, only 60 yards away, stepped into an opening, abruptly stopped and began staring in Sarah's direction. Unsure if the deer had detected her or suddenly winded the tarsal scent, Sarah wasted no time aiming and squeezing the trigger.
"At the shot the buck dropped his shoulder, and I thought he was going to fall," the hunter remembers. "But after quickly regaining his balance, he whirled and ran out of sight."
Sarah continued to sit and listen for several minutes and then walked to where the buck had been standing to check for blood. Initially, there was nothing; however, after searching several yards in the direction the deer had run, she found a few scattered drops of blood in the leaves.
Thinking she might have merely wounded the deer, Sarah proceeded along the trail very cautiously, using binoculars to scan the woods ahead. At one point, her heartbeat rapidly accelerated as she spotted something white in the distance; unfortunately, a closer look revealed only an old jug.
Minutes later, the hunter noticed another small splotch of white through the trees. But try as she might, she couldn't identify it.
"Not knowing whether or not the deer was only wounded, I was apprehensive about moving too fast and possibly jumping him," Sarah explains. "Finally, I eased forward a few steps to where I had a clearer view with the binoculars, and that's when the excitement really hit me. The buck was dead and had fallen with its head tilted backwards, exposing the white throat patch."
Sarah wasted little time getting to where the big whitetail was lying. After a self-congratulatory moment, she paused to closely examine the buck's awesome rack.
Broken and chipped tines revealed the deer had participated in at least one major battle. Although the fight's winner remains unknown, the damaged antlers suggested the other buck was at least of equal size: a fact that didn't escape Sarah's attention.
The rack of this outstanding whitetail has 17 scorable points, 12 of which make up the 6x6 typical frame. Main beams of over 23 inches and great beam mass and tine length (three exceed 10 inches) add up to a final non-typical score of 172 3/8.
As big as this is, it doesn't tell the whole story. Several abnormal points -- some clearly of significant size -- and over half of the right G-3 tine had been broken off. With them intact, the final score of Sarah's second trophy would have been near 200!
Considering the bucks Sarah Bullock has taken while still in her teens, it's hard to imagine what she might accomplish in the future. After all, going into the 2003 season she knows where there's another big buck that likes to fight!