August 05, 2022
Breaking News Bucks
Records in the whitetail world are not easy to topple. Each year there are a few contenders, but for one reason or another they commonly fall short. A broken tine, mass that tapers off or mismatched sides have all dashed some hunters’ hopes over the years. Such is the trophy hunting game. Truthfully, while many of us yearn to take the biggest of the big, it is not easy.
There are few true giants to begin with, and whitetails reaching that status rarely walk out and surrender! You might hunt your whole life and never get an opportunity to take one. But we can dream, right? A million to one is still a chance!
So, what is the probability that two Alabama hunters would set new state records in the same season using primitive weapons? Maybe the answer lies in knowing how they did it.
Michael Perry’s Non-Typical
Let’s start with Michael Perry’s story. Michael hunts public land almost exclusively. He knows a lot about Black Warrior WMA because he’s hunted there for years and walks miles into the 90,000 acres seeking good deer. That extra effort pays off.
In 2019, he spotted signs of a good buck using an area with a heavy thicket near a creek. It was far enough off the road that he figured other hunters wouldn’t find it, so he hung a camera and moved on.
There is the first clue: Get far away from the pressure.
Hunting other areas kept Michael busy that season, and he never got back to check that camera. When he checked the camera the following spring, there was a good buck in there; and one daylight picture from the previous November. Again he left the camera, and in 2020 there were more pictures.
The deer was now a solid 160- class buck, and Michael set out to get him. He hunted the area a few times without success before leaving for greener pastures. The next time he checked the camera, he realized that he had missed seeing the deer by one day.
Clue two: Timing is everything.
When 2021 rolled around, Michael had a new plan. He bought a crossbow intending to hunt the buck as much as possible. But his busy schedule always seemed to get in the way, and the early archery season passed without an opportunity to hunt.
His wife, Kathy, had given him a muzzleloader the previous Christmas. Michael had already taken bucks worthy of the Alabama State Records program with rifle and bow, so he decided that he would use the new gun to try for the big deer. There was a five-day muzzleloader season in the first week of November, but work got in the way again, and he missed the first four days. With only one day left to hunt, it was then or never.
Another clue: Hunt whenever you can make the time.
That morning Michael dropped Kathy off in a good area, then he walked in for another hour. The weather was crisp from a light frost, and there was a steady breeze. He hung his stand off to the side of a trail and waited.
The action was slow until 9:30 a.m., when a familiar 3 1/2-year-old buck came by at 20 yards. He was close, but the buck didn’t have a very nice rack. Michael had seen him in trail camera pictures, and usually the bigger buck was right there with him. He let the younger buck pass.
Clue four: Let younger bucks walk.
A few minutes later, the non-typical appeared about 40 yards further out. He was much larger than the year before, and there would be no passing this one.
Michael picked up the muzzleloader and made the historic shot. The buck lurched forward, ran a few yards, and it was over. The new state-record non-typical muzzleloader buck was down!
The 6 1/2-year-old deer has a huge, dark rack with heavy beams, split points, stickers and beading that extends from the bases up onto the brow tines. It scores 196 3/8 inches, besting the previous record holder by more than six inches.
Shane Bailey’s Typical
A self-described turkey hunter who also hunts deer, Shane took the Alabama muzzleloader state-record typical in December of 2021. Shane cut his teeth in Bankhead National Forest, chasing the big birds as a teenager. Deer numbers were low back then, but that time in the woods taught him skills he uses to this day. And he learned a lot about whitetail behavior along the way. He also likes the challenge of hunting with a muzzleloader. Shane has taken many good bucks since those early days, including a 150-class deer in 2019 on Black Warrior WMA. He first encountered that one during the special muzzleloader season and missed it. A week later, he was back for a rifle hunt, killing it in the same area.
Clue five: When you find one, stay after him.
Around that same time, he and his friend, Jay Hardin, began getting pictures of another good deer on a very small tract of private land (only 15 acres). That deer was not living on the property, but his frequent passes through gained their attention. Trail cameras were providing great intel, pinpointing where he traveled and when he was there. But most of the pictures were taken at night. Then just as quickly as he had shown up, the buck was gone.
The sudden disappearance was attributed to a large influx of wild hogs. It got so bad that Jay was shooting them in his yard, and that disturbance probably made the big deer avoid the area. So, back to square one. In all of 2020, the buck was a ghost.
Clue six: It takes time for a plan to come together.
During the summer of 2021, the buck showed up again. He put on a lot more antler, but like most older deer he was mainly nocturnal. There was only one daylight picture of him. That would likely change during the rut, so Shane and Jay started planning for later in the year.
He was moving through very thick cover, but he moved in the same general area every time. This meant dialing in tight because it was hard to see very far. It also required a careful approach to avoid spooking the deer again. They decided to set up on each end of the travel corridor in hopes that one of them would get a shot.
[Shane in crocs with deer -
Clue seven: Plan meticulously and use caution.
On Dec. 23, Shane was at his tree stand an hour before daylight. It was a cool 22 degrees, with a light northeast wind, exactly the conditions he needed. He poured a whole bottle of Tinks 69 scent out just below his stand and headed up the tree.
Clue eight: Go big!
Just after 7:00 a.m. Shane rattled a long sequence, mimicking an all-out battle between two mature bucks. He wanted the big buck to hear it if he was anywhere in the area. That sequence went on and on until his arms hurt. Then, he waited.
Hint nine: No pain, no gain.
After another 45 minutes passed, he rattled again. Since the action had been slow, he began texting Jay. In the middle of a text, he caught a glimpse of a buck running off, followed by a loud snort wheeze close by. Worried he had blown his chance, Shane grabbed his call and answered with a snort wheeze. Then he grunted twice.
Within a few seconds, there was more movement behind him: It was his target buck closing in cautiously! The giant buck stopped behind some pines, then stepped forward enough for Shane to take the shot. Smoke obscured Shane’s view, but after the slow start his hunt was over very quickly. The buck only went a few yards and expired.
Final clue: Be ready for anything!
The buck was big enough to topple the muzzleloader state record set just a year earlier by a slim margin, scoring 170 1/8 gross. The 6x6 rack has great mass and a 19-inch spread. The buck is estimated to be over 6 years old.
Both hunters beat long odds, taking magnificent mature bucks. Some might say they were lucky, but they also have plenty of other big deer on their walls at home: the rewards for plenty of hard work and a large investment of time.
How long will the new records stand? I guess we will have to wait to see. Last season sure produced more than a few giant whitetails. Maybe another one is out there waiting for you in 2022!