A December Surprise

A December Surprise

Last season, all that 9-year-old Mason Hancock wanted to do was shoot an antlered buck like he had done the year before while hunting with his dad. Mason achieved his goal, all right, and he did it with a buck that had antlers growing in every direction!

Young Mason and his dad, Justin, were sitting together in a double ladder stand when this incredible non-typical megagiant came walking down the trail just after daylight. Having shot hundreds of rounds with his .22 rifle, the budding marksman made a perfect shot at 30 yards with a Remington Model 700 .243. Neither Justin nor Mason realized just how big this buck's rack was until they reached the fallen giant's side.

When Mason Hancock was born nine years ago, his grandfather Jimmy bought him a "Chipmunk" .22 youth rifle. Granted, the gun remained unused for a while -- but not for nearly as long as you might think.

At the age of 3, Mason began to accompany his dad Justin, as the elder Hancock sat in ground blinds watching for deer.

"Mason has always loved the outdoors," Justin said, "and I have made it a point to spend as much time as possible with him.

"I can't begin to estimate the number of hours or the countless rounds of ammunition he's fired while practice-shooting with his .22 rifle. I'm a stickler for firearm safety. But when it comes to handling guns, he's always displayed an understanding and a level of maturity beyond his years."


Mason took his first deer, a doe, at the age 5. That special event was well documented. As Jimmy had previously done with his other grandsons, he videotaped the entire hunt while positioned above Justin and Mason's double ladder stand.


"For my son Mason and my brother's two sons," Justin noted, "we felt that with three generations of Hancocks present, the special occasion of taking a first deer would be particularly meaningful.

"After viewing my dad's video footage, in which the camera lens was pointing in all directions, it was pretty easy to tell who was the most excited during the hunt!" A YOUNG BUCK HUNTER
Justin lives on a tract of wooded land that he and his brother own in Union County, Kentucky, and he does most of his hunting there.


Over the last several years, the two had sighted a number of decent-size bucks on the land, but never one that seemed to be of record book caliber.

Nevertheless, their property is bordered with hundreds of acres of additional farms and woodlands. And with the county's established reputation for producing big whitetails, there was always the real possibility of having a giant deer show up.

While young Mason was hunting with his dad during the 2006 season, he took his first buck, a 7-pointer. As the fall of 2007 drew near, the young hunter was understandably eager to duplicate his accomplishment.

However, beginning with the special youth hunt in October and continuing through the weekends of gun season, Mason found the whitetails he was hunting to be totally uncooperative. Unfortunately, they never presented him with an opportunity to take his second buck.

Despite this, the youngster refused to get discouraged. With much optimism, he looked forward to the season's final youth deer hunt, scheduled for the last weekend in December.

"Because of the holidays," Justin said, "I was off from work for several days. I told Mason that if he wanted to, we would deer hunt the entire weekend.

"For the opening morning, I decided that we would hunt the double ladder stand location, where he'd taken his first deer. That stand has always been the most reliable hunting site on our property."

A proud Mason Hancock shows off his 210 7/8-inch Kentucky giant, which he downed on Dec. 29, 2007. This was the 9-year-old hunter's second antlered buck in as many years. Mason's dad, Justin, was so intent on helping his son make the shot that he never got a good look at the buck's antlers until the recovery.

LATE-SEASON FUN
The stand was positioned along an oak ridge that traverses the farm, in an area where scattered brush and thickets of saplings greatly limited visibility in the understory. Deer regularly utilized the entire ridgeline as a travel corridor, but often concentrated their movements near this area of relatively dense ground cover.

In the early predawn darkness of opening day, Justin and Mason climbed into position atop their 12-foot stand.

The weather was cold and the sky overcast, but there was no wind.

"We got situated about 20 minutes before daybreak," Justin recalled.

"Because of the clouds, it took a while before there was enough daylight to let us begin to see out very clearly through the woods."

Justin heard a slight noise, glanced to his right and immediately spotted a doe with a buck trailing directly behind her. The two deer were moving slowly through the trees just inside the ridgeline, about 45 yards away.

Due to the low light conditions, it was impossible for him to get a clear view of the buck's rack, but it was obviously a big deer. Leaning slightly toward his son, Justin whispered to Mason, "Get ready."

"The deer were quartering toward us," Justin noted. "I could see they were going to cross within 30 yards of the stand. At that particular moment, my only interest was in Mason getting a shot, so I really didn't pay much attention to the size of the buck's rack. "Because the shooting distance was short, I whispered to Mason and told him to aim at the deer's neck."

A DECEMBER SURPRISE
At the shot, the buck abruptly swerved off to the side, trotted several yards and immediately lay down.

Justin was amazed to see the doe also turn around and bed down a short distance away.

"Never before had I seen a wounded deer react in that manner," he said. "Not knowing exactly where the bullet had hit, I was about to tell Mason to shoot again.

"Within seconds, however, we saw the buck's head fall sideways, indicating that the deer was probably dead. It took us several additional minutes to gather our gear and climb out of the stand.

"Surprisingly, we walked halfway to where the buck was lying before the doe fin

ally jumped up and ran."

The hunters continued toward the fallen deer. Approaching the big whitetail, both felt elated at having taken the buck, but neither yet was aware of the surprise awaiting them.

When he first glimpsed the buck's rack, Justin's reaction can only be described as electrifying.

"The sight literally took my breath away," he said. "I couldn't believe the size of the rack.

"Mason was excited, asking questions and trying to count antler points -- all at the same time. He had never seen strange or unusual antler growth before, and this particular rack included a variety of unique abnormal points. Several were unlike anything I'd ever seen. I will never forget that moment! The hunt had happened so quickly that the entire experience seemed almost like a dream."

Several minutes later, after the boy had calmed down slightly, Mason called his grandfather to tell him the news. He then called Greg Thomas, a long-time family friend.

After listening to several seconds of nonstop rhetoric about the buck, Greg's answer was, "Let me talk to your dad."

When Justin picked up the phone, Greg asked, "What in the world is Mason talking about? Is he kidding?"

"He isn't kidding!" Justin replied. "You need to come over here, right now!"

By the time the hunters arrived back home with the buck, Mason's mother, his grandparents and Greg were all waiting as the official welcoming committee.

Over the following several days, a similar scenario was repeated many times at the Hancock home as relatives, friends and neighbors stopped by to congratulate the young hunter and take a look at his great trophy.

One peek at the buck's awesome antlers, and it becomes easy to understand how the deer generated so much attention.

THE MASON HANCOCK BUCK
Scorable Points:21 (13R, 8L)TOTAL LENGTH OF ABNORMAL POINTS: 64 5/8
Tip-To-Tip Spread:6 5/8
Greatest Spread:26 1/8
Inside Spread:19 2/8
AREAS MEASUREDRIGHTLEFTDIFFERENCE
Main Beam24 6/825 6/81 0/8
1st Point (G-1)5 7/84 6/81 1/8
2nd Point (G-2)9 6/811 6/82 0/8
3rd Point (G-3)8 2/810 3/82 1/8
4th Point (G-4)--1 6/81 6/8
1st circ. (H-1)5 1/85 3/82/8
2nd circ. (H-2)4 0/83 7/81/8
3rd circ. (H-3)3 5/84 3/86/8
4th circ. (H-4)3 3/83 6/83/8
TOTALS:64 6/871 6/89 4/8
Gross Typical Score:155 6/8
Subtract side-to-side differences:-9 4/8
Add abnormal points+64 5/8
FINAL NET NON-TYPICAL SCORE:210 7/8
TAKEN BY: Mason Hancock, DATE: December 29, 2007, LOCATION: Union County, Kentucky

The rack has 21 points, 9 of which comprise the basic 5x4 typical frame. The main beams measure 25 inches, and the inside spread is 19 2/8 inches. However, the additional 12 abnormal points give the rack character and literally place the buck in a special class of whitetails.

Most prominent are long matching drop tines that originate from both antler burrs and extend outward in front of each ear. Interestingly, the right drop forks into 3 points at the end. The remaining abnormal antler growth includes additional drop tines on the right and left beams, split G-2 tines, plus miscellaneous "kicker" and burr points.

The typical 9-point frame grosses 155'‚6/8 and nets 146'‚2/8. But after adding in the abnormal points -- which total an amazing 64'‚5/8 inches -- the rack's final non-typical B&C score is 210'‚7/8!

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