July 15, 2022
BREAKING NEWS BUCK
As s a whitetail hunter, I feel we are living in the best of times. Deer populations are pretty much stable across the spectrum; habitat and management are improving in many regions, and record book bucks are falling across North America.
It wasn’t too many years ago that a 150-inch buck was highly sought after throughout much of the whitetail range. Nowadays most hunters are within driving distance of decent hunting, and the chances of taking a trophy buck are probably higher today than they have ever been.
We all expect the Midwest states to produce their yearly giants. States like Iowa, Kansas, Ohio and Illinois are continually making headlines with their big deer. The Canadian Provinces are going to add their share, then add in places like the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and you soon realize how hard it is to grab a whitetail headline in today’s world.
But some of those states we don’t hear much about are starting to make some waves of their own. Pennsylvania is making big buck news, as is Virginia and Maine. Add in the perennial eastern powerhouse of Maryland, and even the east coast is turning heads and spitting out impressive bucks.
In New Hampshire, hunters took two new primitive weapons records during the 2020 season. The two bucks may have been taken across the state from each other, but where and how they were taken was no coincidence.
The Mark Evans Buck
Wentworth resident Mark Evans’ story starts four or five years ago, when a group of friends and family started a yearly tradition of hunting the late primitive arms season in Vermont. During these out-of-state hunting trips, there was talk of getting together to hunt at a camp in New Hampshire owned by one of the participants of the Vermont season hunt.
The place in New Hampshire sounded like a great location, as the camp hadn’t been used much since some of the older members had passed. These discussions went on for a couple of years, until a week before the 2020 muzzleloader opener when the group put plans in motion to make the New Hampshire camp a reality.
While in camp and listening to a couple of the veteran hunters talking, Mark picked up on them talking about a place called “The Old Farmers Field.” Mark spoke up and said he would love to hunt the place if someone would show him how to find it. After learning the directions to the field, Mark prepared his gear, and then he and his friend Nate took off for the mountain top location.
As the two hunters trekked through the forest, Nate eventually dropped off near his stand location and Mark continued to the farmer’s field. As Mark neared the field edge, he put a scent drag on one of his boots and then made his way into the opening. He walked the west end of the field along a stone wall and then along the south edge for a distance before finally taking up a stand within a small island just inside the field. There he found sufficient cover and visibility for his afternoon vigil.
It was Halloween night, and Mark couldn’t help but think of the monster he would love to have an encounter with. During his evening stint, he would occasionally do a series of doe in estrous bleats, followed by a couple of buck grunts, in the hopes that any passing buck might hear the grunts and come to investigate.
At about 5:40 p.m., Mark had just finished his last series of grunts when he heard a nearby deer bleat. It sounded like the bleat of a doe or fawn calling to each other, so Mark didn’t think too much about it. “I was expecting to see a doe when I looked around the tree in front of me, but to my total amazement there stood the largest deer I have ever laid eyes on in over 40 years of hunting.” Mark remembers. “I had to look away to collect myself. A deer had never taken my breath away.”
After composing himself, Mark prepared to take a shot. The buck was only 35 yards away, and as Mark maneuvered into a shooting position, he made a very slight rustling sound in the leaf litter under his leg. The buck immediately went on high alert and began staring a hole through Mark!
“My heart sank!” Mark exclaims. “I remember begging for the buck to not run away. Please don’t run away, I thought. I still had no shot, and he stared at me for what seemed like hours. The buck finally relaxed, then let out another grunt and took a few steps forward, putting him directly in front of me.”
Mark talked himself through the shot, and after his muzzleloader went off, he jumped to his feet to look around the plume of white smoke. Mark was able to see the buck make a few quick bounds in the field, before leaping over the stone wall. The excited hunter calmed himself down enough to reload his muzzleloader and gather his other hunting items.
Mark then made his way to the edge of the field where the buck had been standing when he took the shot. He immediately found good blood. Following the trail just a short distance back into the woods led him directly to the dead buck.
“As I approached him, I was amazed at his sheer size, both of body and antler,” says Mark. “I took a knee and gave thanks before tagging him.” Mark knew immediately he was going to need help getting the monarch out of the woods. After meeting up with his hunting partner for the afternoon and calling for more manpower, they were able to get the deer out in a relatively short time. Mark took the buck to a local game checking station and tagged and weighed him. The buck nicknamed “Junior” tipped the scales at 270 pounds dressed!
After the required 60-day drying period, the 5x5 antlers scored 177 1/8 inches gross, and the net score is 170 inches even. This makes the Grafton County buck a new New Hampshire muzzle loading state record typical. The antlers outscore the old record by nearly 5 inches. Also, with an official dressed weight of 270 pounds, the buck ended up being the heaviest deer recorded in the state of New Hampshire during the 2020 hunting season. “To say I was blessed on that day would certainly be an understatement,” Mark says.
The Daniel Blanchette Buck
The Daniel Blanchette Buck Lebanon, Maine resident Daniel Blanchette took a slightly different approach to bag his 2020 New Hampshire buck. He drew one of the limited and highly coveted Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge archery permits. The refuge consists of approximately 1,000 acres of seacoast in Rockingham County.
About 600 acres are open to very limited hunting, and permits are awarded through a lottery draw system. There are usually around 25 archery permits awarded each year, and the odds of drawing a permit are very low. “Many years ago, the first year this refuge was open to hunting, someone shot a giant in there,” recalls Daniel. “I never forgot that picture, and I’ve wanted to hunt there ever since I saw it. So, after all these years, it was a huge surprise to learn that I had finally drawn a permit.”
Refuge policy gave successful applicants only one week for scouting, and Daniel took complete advantage of his allotted time. During their scouting trips, he and his hunting partner, Jerry, found fresh rubs on 8-inch Beech trees. They found an entire side of freshly stripped velvet that appeared to have peeled off a very large antler.
They also found huge beds near the rubs and where they found the velvet. Later the men accidentally jumped two large bucks that were bedded nearby in the same area. The two picked out a “killing tree” where the stand would go when they came to hunt.
Four days passed before Daniel got the wind he needed to hunt the killing tree. On his first trip in, Daniel had to hang his tree stand before he could hunt. The tree was only about 85 yards from where Daniel thought the buck was bedding. Because of the dense undergrowth, shot opportunities would be limited.
Daniel wasn’t in his stand very long before he heard a deer walking through the woods. From its pace and direction of travel, he guessed it was just a doe. But as Daniel followed the sound of the deer walking through the woods, the deer suddenly stopped walking and seemed to begin aggressively rubbing a tree! But Daniel still couldn’t see a thing, despite the deer being only 40-50 yards away.
Then the deer stopped, and everything kept silent for several minutes. “I couldn’t tell what was going on,” Daniel remembers. “I couldn’t see anything, and I never did see the deer.” Suddenly Daniel saw a huge set of feet and a large body appear out of the forest floor. With his bow in hand, he waited as the deer continued to move closer. At one point, the deer ducked under a branch, and Daniel could see antlers. However, he couldn’t tell how big they were because the buck had a 4-foot piece of a birch tree branch entangled in its antlers!
Daniel had seen enough antler to make the decision to draw his bow. But he found that he was shaking so badly from the excitement that his arrow fell off the rest, pulled from the string and fell to the ground. The arrow landed only a couple of feet from the buck.
As expected, the buck turned itself inside out once the arrow hit the ground next to it. However, outside of its initial reaction, the buck was soon back to being its usual self. As the buck walked closer to Daniel, the lucky hunter was able to get another arrow knocked and ready. This time when the buck stepped out from behind a tree at just 8 yards, Daniel’s arrow flew true.
“I couldn’t believe what had just happened,” Daniel reports. “I didn’t know what to do. I was shaking at that point. I called Jerry and told him I had shot a giant! Jerry was just about as excited as I was.” Unfortunately, Daniel couldn’t be sure of his hit, so he elected to leave the animal until the next morning. It was an agonizing decision, but in most cases, it’s the right thing to do. The following morning, the two hunters found the buck dead within 75 yards of the killing tree.
“When I walked up to the deer and saw the 8-inch drop tine sticking out, I just about flipped,” laughs Daniel. “Jerry and I were high-fiving each other and having a great time. Then I reached down and picked up the buck’s head, and two more drop tines came out of the ferns. Then both of us started jumping around and screaming like two little kids.”
Daniel had every right to celebrate. The antlers carry a typical frame measuring 163 3/8 gross and 159 3/8 net inches. Of the 32 inches of non-typical antler growth, all but 5 5/8 inches of that is in the form of three large drop tines. At 195 6/8 inches of total antler and 191 3/8 inches net score, the Daniel Blanchette buck becomes the New Hampshire archery record non-typical whitetail.
Two different hunters downed two different state record deer in the same year by using the same idea; that big bucks live in limited access areas. Their results prove the idea does work. It also proves that states like New Hampshire can produce big deer. More importantly, it shows us that hard work often pays huge dividends in the whitetail woods. It also proves that this is a great time to be a whitetail hunter!