Baler's Pea Patch Bandit
September 22, 2010
Baler Stewart may have been only 9 years old last year when he first spotted a huge non-typical buck on the family farm in Oklahoma, but he pursued the giant whitetail like a seasoned veteran!
Not only were the Pea Patch Bandit's antlers wrapped in wire, but his head was also completely wrapped in wire. Baler set out to shoot this awesome 224 2/8-inch megabuck, and he accomplished his goal under difficult circumstances with a muzzleloader.
As a writer with a penchant for big-buck stories, I receive an endless amount of leads on giant whitetails from all over the U.S. To coin a phrase, one thing I've learned is that "all that glitters isn't always gold." Many of the leads about colossal bucks turn out to be false alarms. Some are game farm freaks and others were taken years ago. So in a nutshell, I'm usually pretty skeptical until I can verify the facts in any situation.
Garnering a lot of megabytes last fall was an e-mail that circulated on the Internet about a huge buck taken by a freckle-faced youngster "supposedly" from Oklahoma. The proud youngster held the monster buck's non-typical rack in his hands -- points going everywhere. But the thing that really got my attention was the fact that the deer's antlers were tangled with about 50 feet of electric fence wire!
THIS ONE IS GOLD-PLATED!
After doing some investigating, I soon learned that this Oklahoma buck was indeed real. I also learned some interesting details about the young hunter who bagged it, 9-year-old Baler Stewart, who is one of five kids of Patrick and Cindy Stewart of Ringling, Oklahoma. Baler is a normal youngster in most aspects, except for the fact that not many kids his age go out and kill B&C bucks.
Baler started deer hunting when he was 6. Under his dad's tutelage, he promptly shot a doe. Life had been pretty normal for Baler until July 2007, when he spotted a huge buck while riding around the family farm with his papa (grandfather), who owns the adjoining land.
|THE BALER STEWART BUCK|
|Scorable Points:||32 (15R, 17L)||TOTAL LENGTH OF ABNORMAL POINTS: 65 0/8|
|Tip-To-Tip Spread:||13 7/8|
|Greatest Spread:||22 7/8|
|Inside Spread:||17 6/8|
|Main Beam||22 7/8||21 7/8||1 0/8|
|1st Point (G-1)||5 3/8||5 4/8||1/8|
|2nd Point (G-2)||10 7/8||10 1/8||6/8|
|3rd Point (G-3)||9 1/8||9 1/8||--|
|4th Point (G-4)||7 6/8||5 4/8||2 2/8|
|1st circ. (H-1)||5 3/8||5 0/8||3/8|
|2nd circ. (H-2)||4 2/8||4 2/8||--|
|3rd circ. (H-3)||4 6/8||4 7/8||1/8|
|4th circ. (H-4)||4 6/8||4 6/8||--|
|TOTALS:||75 1/8||71 0/8||4 5/8|
|Gross Typical Score:||163 6/8|
|Subtract side-to-side differences:||-4 5/8|
|Add abnormal points||+65 0/8|
|FINAL NET TYPICAL SCORE:||224 2/8|
|TAKEN BY: Baler Stewart DATE: October 27, 2007, LOCATION: Jefferson County, Oklahoma |
"I told Papa, 'That deer has got some mighty big horns,' " Baler said. "Papa told me, 'Those aren't antlers -- that's brush you're seeing.' So I looked through the scope on my air rifle and I said, 'Yes, those are antlers, and that buck has my name written on him!' "
From that day forward, Baler became obsessed with taking the huge gnarly racked buck. According to Cindy, Baler became very protective of the big buck, not wanting anyone else in the family to consider hunting the giant. "I really had to talk to him about his attitude," Cindy said.
Much to Baler's chagrin, Patrick hunted the buck during archery season, but he was afforded only one quick glance at the massive whitetail as he was moving a st
and. "I nearly came face to face with him," said Patrick. "The deer was unbelievable. I was amazed!"
Baler's grandpa, Harley Stewart, noticed that a big buck had an affinity for a pea patch he had planted, so he put up an electric fence to try to keep the bandit out. Then, a week before blackpowder season opened, Harley noticed that the entire wire fence mysteriously vanished one night!
TRACKING A BANDIT
The Oklahoma youth gun season opened in late October. Participating youngsters had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Baler was in the woods with his mom before dawn on the morning of the youth opener. While his dad hunted elsewhere on the property with Baler's sister Cari, Baler and Cindy sat in a ground blind hoping to get a crack at Baler's big buck.
An hour into their hunt, Baler and his mother heard Cari's gun roar off in the distance. They learned later on that 11-year-old Cari had taken a nice 11-pointer. Baler's luck wasn't as good. After hunting for four or five hours, Baler got bored and he and his mother started playing some games. At one point, Cindy happened to look out the window of the blind and saw the huge buck staring directly at her.
"The buck just turned and walked away before Baler could get a shot," Cindy said. "Baler was so upset."
Baler returned that evening and the next day but never saw the buck again during the three-day youth season.
The following weekend marked the season muzzleloader opener. On Saturday, Oct. 27, Patrick took Baler to a hunting blind set up near a pond where the big buck had been seen. The duo settled into the blind in the predawn darkness and waited until 8:30 without seeing a single deer.
THE BANDIT APPEARS
By 8:30 a.m. Patrick and Baler were cold, so they decided to get out of the blind. As they did, a huge buck that had been bedded down in some tall grass 40 yards away suddenly stood up. Patrick exclaimed, "That's him!"
Baler leaned against the blind, took careful aim at the buck's shoulder with his .50 Thompson/Center
Back Diamond, and fired at the giant whitetail. This was Baler's first time to shoot this particular rifle. He looked at his dad and asked, "Is this gun on, Dad?"
Patrick replied, "Yes."
"Well, then I got him," Baler stated.
Through the cloud of smoke, Baler thought he saw the buck fall, but his dad had seen the buck run off. The pair walked over to the spot where Baler thought the buck had fallen. Not finding any sign, they returned to the blind.
Minutes later they walked over to the spot where the buck had been standing. They found large amounts of blood. The buck had run about 60 yards before entering some woods. Baler found a chunk of rib bone on the edge of the woods. Then, going on another 15 yards, he found his prize deer.
When Baler saw the huge buck, he was ecstatic. "I was really shocked," he said. "I couldn't move."
Patrick was excited, too. "We were giving each other high-fives," he noted.
The rack was gnarly, with points everywhere. As mentioned, it was also entangled with wire. Then it dawned on them: The wire was the missing electric fence wire from Papa's pea patch.
Patrick and Baler loaded the buck and drove over to Papa's house. Baler walked in the house with a big grin and announced, "Papa, I found your pea patch thief. He's out there in the back of the truck!"
A GIFT FROM HEAVEN
The huge buck field dressed 180 pounds and drew a crowd of nearly 200 onlookers at the check station. The awesome rack spanned nearly 23 inches and sported 32 points.
Baler believes the reason he was rewarded with such a special deer is obvious. "The night before I shot him, I was frustrated since Cari had shot a buck and I hadn't," said Baler. "So my mother and I prayed that I would get the big one and have a good attitude as well. God answered my prayer."
Cindy Stewart agreed with Baler and added, "When I heard that he'd shot the buck, I had tears in my eyes. I really feel that God wanted him to get it."
The awesome buck netted 224 2/8 inches and has the distinction of being the state's third-largest whitetail taken with a muzzleloader. It has to rank as one of the largest ever taken by a 9-year-old.
"Baler seemed to think that his Papa owed him some sort of bounty since he had apprehended the wire thief," Cindy said. "Papa said he'd be more than glad to deduct any bounty
from what Baler owes him for wire, seed, fertilizer and the labor that went forth into providing him with the buck of a lifetime!"