Shaun Harvey shot a "moose" of an Indiana buck last season, breaking the state record and vaulting to second place all-time among blackpowder bucks from anywhere on the planet. Here's how it happened.
By Dean Weimer
When you think of Midwest states renowned for producing record-class bucks, more than one begins with the letter "I" - but Indiana isn't on the list. Unlike Iowa and Illinois, which both turn out great numbers of impressive deer, Indiana has never been any closer than a distant third on the region's "I" list.
But that might be changing.
In 1995, the state's antlerless-tag allocation system was liberalized, because there were too many deer. Hunters responded by harvesting a lot of surplus does. This approach has continued, to a lesser degree, since then. As a result, some pressure has been taken off the male sector of the herd.
In 2002, another positive change occurred. At the request of a section of Indiana hunters, the DNR began a five-year trial of allowing each hunter to take only one antlered buck per year. This has further reduced pressure on the male segment of the herd, despite a continuation of the long (16 days) gun season during the peak of the November rut.
Another trend has started here that is also improving the age structure of our bucks. The philosophies of the modern Quality Deer Management (QDM) principles have taken hold. Many residents are slowly coming around to accept their roles as deer managers: managers who focus on, among other things, passing up young bucks and harvesting excess does. Hunters all over the state have begun to micro-manage the herds they hunt, with excellent results. The combination of these three factors has allowed more bucks to survive into maturity, causing many Indiana big-buck enthusiasts to get excited.
When the five-year single-buck experiment began, I predicted that one or more of our state records for bucks would be toppled in that period. I told anyone, and everyone, who would listen (most people try to avoid me if they can) that the most likely culprit would be Dwight Bates' and Stacy Winkler's 193 7/8-inch typical shotgun record.
Well, I was wrong about the weapon, but pretty close on the score - thanks to an avid 22-year-old resident whitetail hunter.
In recent years there have been some enormous bucks harvested throughout the entire Midwest, and consequently yet another trend has emerged: People have been giving these mega-bucks catchy nicknames.
World-class non-typicals such as Jerry Bryant's 304 3/8-inch "Bryant Giant" from Illinois and Tony Lovstuen's "Iowa Walking World Record" seem to merit such catchy monikers, because they're truly among the all-time greats. But it's time for them to share the spotlight with a great Indiana typical that came out of the 2003 season. Shaun Harvey is the hunter's name, and thus there can be only one nickname to fit his world-class whitetail: the "Harvey Wall-Hanger."
Shaun Harvey's buck has so much palmation that many folks ask if he's a moose! Their awe is understandable; the mass totals a shocking 61 7/8 inches of the buck's gross typical score of 197 7/8. Photo by Dean Weimer
A HUNTER GROWS UP
Shaun's outdoors apprenticeship began early, and his father, Kent Harvey, made sure the boy learned his lessons well.
"Dad is the one who got me involved with all of this," Shaun points out. "I've been fishing with him since I could walk."
Shaun also began his deer hunting career early. Kent would take his young son with him and set him up in his stands with him. Kent devised a rope with a ring on the end of it to help Shaun steady his gun when he was a boy. In fact, Shaun used this steadying device to kill his first deer, a doe, at the age of 9. Shaun shot his first buck, a nice 10-pointer, when he was 12.
Since then, the Harveys have enjoyed many fine days afield together. "If it had anything to do with the outdoors, I was doing it," Shaun explains. In fact, Kent and Shaun have become very successful fishermen and hunters. Their hunting interests include ducks, geese, coyotes, rabbits and deer. They have many fine bucks to their credit, as evidenced by the many large mounts on the walls of their home and racks on the walls of their family hunting "headquarters."
Shaun's passion for the outdoors also led him to pursue a career in Conservation Law Enforcement at the University of Evansville after graduating from North White High School in 2000. He completed a two-year course and received his degree. "I had a lot of courses in which we studied all aspects of wildlife," he says.
Shaun has also recently "graduated" to a higher level of deer hunting. Like many other hunters across the state, he's now passing up immature bucks in hopes of harvesting an older, larger one.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
The Harveys hunt on a beautiful piece of creek bottom owned by Shaun's grandpa. White County is an intensively farmed area in which agricultural fields dominate the landscape, but much of the cover in the Harveys' hunting area consists of brushy creek bottom habitat. There are small pockets of timber, but not a lot of it. The area reminds one of certain areas of Iowa, with the majority of the cover along creeks that eventually dump into a river: in this case, the Tippecanoe River.
On the Harvey land sits a rustic, quaint building known as the "Harvey shabin" (a combination shack-cabin). This is the family's base for hunting. Every year some members of their family spend the night before the gun season opener in the shabin. Shawn's uncle Kevin and cousins Dusty and Kayle Harvey drive down from Wisconsin every year to participate in the family event.
EVIDENCE OF A MONSTER
Early last bow season, Shaun saw some big scrapes and rubs, indicating there was a sizeable buck in the area.
"The rubs were bigger than normal and higher up on the trees than normal," states the hunter. In fact, while doing our photo shoot for this feature, Shaun and I found a telephone-pole-sized fence post that had been rubbed. It was actually one of the fence posts on which we hung the mounted rack for pictures! Was this rub made by the buck Shaun shot? That could have been the case, though, as Shaun says, "there were other good (bucks) in the area."
One other good one in particular was a wide 130-class 8-pointer Shaun had seen several times. In fact, on the day before the gun opener, he passed up a gimme bow shot at this Pope & Young-class deer.
"I saw three bucks that night, all within range," Shaun recalls. "You could tell it was a young deer." Shaun was holding out for something bigger, and it wouldn't take long for the wisdom of that decision to become obvious.
WIND OF CHANGE
On the morning of the firearms opener, Shaun awoke to welcome news. The wind was out of the south: perfect for the spot he'd been waiting all fall to hunt.
"I figured that they would come from that direction," he says. "That is why I waited all year to hunt that tree. It's just a big tree with lots of limbs. The last time I sat in that tree, I killed a wall-hanger 8-pointer (with his bow in 2002). I've got confidence in this tree."
Shaun's tree lies on the north end of the property and is in the midst of a thick bedding area. The south wind is so vital to hunting this location because it keeps Shaun's scent from blowing toward approaching deer.
Although Shaun was happy about the wind direction, he wasn't as enthused about the overall weather conditions. "It was actually a pretty bad muzzleloader day: misty rain, drizzly, overcast . . . a nasty day," he notes. "It was pretty good duck-hunting weather!"
Shaun arrived at his stand about 6:45 and saw action right off the bat. "On my way in, I scared a couple of deer," he says. "I could hear them long before I could see them." Then, for the first half-hour or so of his hunt, Shaun witnessed one of nature's finest fall displays. "I saw a 7-pointer and a 6- and a 5-pointer, or two 5-pointers," he remembers.
These immature bucks were chasing several does around Shaun's tree. Apparently one or more of the does was in heat. Traditionally, mid-November finds Indiana deer deep into the breeding season, so this activity was hardly out of the ordinary.
At about 8:15, while watching two of the youngsters, Shaun heard what would be sweet music to any trophy buck hunter's ears.
"It all happened real quick," he says. "I was looking towards the east and heard a grunt. It was a deep grunt, and I could tell it was a good deer. When I turned around to the west, a doe was coming through some thicker brush. The big guy stepped out behind her, so I did a little 'brrrrt!' with my voice," says Shaun. The voice grunt stopped the buck in his tracks, and he obliged Shaun by stopping for a slightly-quartering- away shot of only 30-40 yards.
"If it happens in there, it all happens within 40 yards or closer," Shaun explains of this particular stand site. "I put it on him and fired. I couldn't have asked for a better shot."
The buck took off, but the excited hunter heard him fall almost immediately. The giant went only about 30 yards before piling up.
"I knew it had mass. I knew it was a huge, massive-racked deer - about a 10- or a 12-point. I knew I had something special," admits Shaun. Shaun got down and went over to where the buck had stood when he fired. "I got down to look for blood and could see him from where I was," he says.
The amazing antler mass of Shaun's palmated trophy is especially apparent in this photo, taken right after the huge whitetail was shot. Photo by Dean Weimer
"The first word I said to myself when I walked over to the deer was 'Wow!' "
Wow indeed! Shaun had just taken one of the state's most extraordinary whitetails ever!
Kent and Kayle heard the shot from across the property. They realized that Shaun had probably fired at a good buck, and both got down from their stands and came over to help him. The three hunters dragged the giant to the truck and then drove it over to the shabin, where the celebration began in earnest.
"A lot of family and friends arrived at the shabin, and we got lots of pictures," Shaun recalls. After checking in the buck at Twin Lakes Fish and Game in the nearby town of Norway, Shaun drove the deer to Troy Clark's TXJ Taxidermy in Columbia City, where the buck would be mounted. That's where my friend and fellow Indiana measurer, Scott Werstler of Larwill, discovered the trophy.
The deer field dressed 195 pounds, but the body seemed to be dwarfed by the massively palmated rack. When first shown photos of the buck, people involuntarily ask plenty of predictable questions, among them the following:
"Is this a moose?"
"Did a moose somehow mate with a deer?" and
"Are you sure this is a deer?"
While this is definitely a whitetail, the reaction is understandable. His moose-like rack must be seen firsthand to be appreciated in full.
On Feb. 16, Scott assisted veteran measurer John Bogucki, chairman of the Hoosier Record Buck Program, to measure the buck at Troy's shop. They knew it would be a job, because palmated bucks can present scoring challenges not seen on other racks.
On a rack with at least one webbed beam, the question is how to determine where the tines begin. Because this deer's antlers have similar webbing, each tine's length was measured from the top edge of the main beam. If just one beam is palmated on a rack being measured, the measurer would have to find the top of the beam within the webbing of the palmated beam and then measure tines on that antler down to that imbedded line, rather than the top edge. That was unnecessary on this buck, due to his well-matched palmation.
On the Harvey buck, the tines are rather short for a world-class buck; however, any shortfall in that area is more than made up for in the mass department. The combined measurements of the two H-3 circumferences alone total over 2 feet!
One of the noteworthy characteristics of this unique rack is that it is very "clean." Giant palmated racks are rare in the whitetail world, and those known to exist are generally non-typical in nature. On this rack, there's only one short abnormal point, sprouting above the left base.
One other striking characteristic of the rack is its exceptional inside spread of 23 inches. Put all of the measurements together and the Harvey buck grosses an awesome 197 7/8 inches, with a net score of 192 0/8. At this score, the Harvey Wall-Hanger is a new state record for muzzleloader typicals, ousting Mathieu Price's and Larry Lawson's 187 1/8-inchers from the top spot. And as if that isn't impress
ive enough, Shaun's buck also takes over as the No. 2 typical muzzleloader buck of all-time in the entire world! It trails only David Wilson's 1992 Saskatchewan 11-pointer, which nets 193 1/8!
As is so often the case with world-class bucks, no one in Shaun's family had seen this deer prior to the kill. Nor had any neighboring landowners or hunters with whom Shaun has talked. Only outsized sign indicated a deer of this size called the area home.
Since Shaun harvested this magnificent buck, he has received a lot of attention. "It's been kind of a headache at times, but it's a good headache to have," he notes. I really don't care for headaches myself, but I'd definitely suffer through that one!
This young hunter harvested one of the greatest bucks of all time in the history of deer hunting in Indiana and the world. His upbringing prepared him well for his one-in-a-million encounter.
"I'm out there to enjoy the time," Shaun says. "I enjoy watching all the different animals. If my cousin, Kayle, would have shot that deer, I would have been tickled pink. I wouldn't have cared a bit if she'd gotten it," he claims.
Slight changes in policy have begun to prove what the whitetail gurus have known for a long time: that if managed for mature bucks, Indiana can be one of the better trophy producers around. Will the Hoosier State yield more top-end bucks in the near future? If Shaun's deer is any indication of the direction in which things are going, sunny days lie ahead.