September 21, 2022
Urban bowhunting might seem trendy or new, as photos of monster suburban bucks pop up more and more on social media these days. However, there’s a long history of giant whitetails being taken near the major cities of fabled big-buck states, especially those that allow hunts during special permit seasons. As follows is just such a tale, of a 200-inch-net whitetail taken outside West Virginia’s own capital city of Charleston.
Al Falbo’s Kanawha County giant isn’t just a remarkable trophy; it’s a great hunting story from a unique location. We have a special urban hunt here in West Virginia, that occurs around Charleston, our capital. Typically, the season comes in about three weeks before the regular archery opener. The urban hunt has different zones, and you must apply for a tag and be approved to hunt.
Al’s quest for the “Capital City Giant” buck began while he and his girlfriend were out for a run. During their jaunt, they saw two large bucks, both with big 150-class racks. Immediately, Al began trying to gain approval to hunt this zone of the city. Also, he got right to work to gain permission from the landowner. Lucky for Al, he was permitted to hunt the zone where he spotted the nice bucks. He was also granted approval to hunt the land. Al knew of a couple of guys who hunted the area already. Being a respectful hunter, he reached out and asked where they hunted, so he wouldn’t be intruding on them.
Al soon identified an area out of the way of the other hunters, and he was amazed at the amount of buck sign he was discovering. The place was littered with huge buck sign, and Al hurried to get a trail camera out in hopes of getting photos of a shooter. It seemed he was right in the middle of the buck’s bedroom, with large rubs on multiple trees. Al waited a couple of weeks before going back to check the cam, which was set out on Sept. 22, 2021. It shocked him at what he captured on camera — a true West Virginia monster buck.
Step one was complete: he had a tag, a place to hunt and a target buck. Step two was to come up with a gameplan to kill the big buck. Al hasn’t been bowhunting long, so in the weeks preceding opening day, he reached out to a great friend of mine in David Miller. David is no stranger to killing giant whitetails in the mountain state. Al knew he wanted to avoid making any mistakes and needed to be patient and wait on the precise conditions to go after this buck. So, he listened carefully and took tips from David. Like many big buck hunters know, David reassured Al that the buck would let him know when it was time to strike. All Al needed to do was pay attention, and not put too much pressure on the deer.
Al established a plan for a stealthy entrance and exit route to his tree stand, based largely on wind directions he could and couldn’t hunt. Ultimately, this played a huge role in Al’s success, as the bowhunter was forced to wait patiently for the ideal conditions before hunting. Never once did he go hunting just to be hunting.
It was a slow wait before the buck started to cooperate. But on Oct. 20, the buck started showing daylight activity, checking does and scrapes. A cold front blew in that very day, with high temperatures in upper 50s. As bowhunters often say, it was magical. Al kept watch over his trail cameras the following day, as the buck showed up again on Oct. 21 and once more on the 22nd. The Capital City Ghost was on his feet all morning, having his photo snapped numerous times not far from the hunter’s stand. Multiple hot does in the area were showing up, too. Finally, it was time for the hunter to strike.
Al made a clean entrance to his stand on Oct. 22; he didn’t jump or spook a single deer. The first animal he saw was a young buck with a 6-point rack. The buck fed off, and then Al heard more movement coming from behind the tree stand. It was a few does working their way up a trail, stopping now and then to feed. Al watched them ease on around the point. And just a few seconds later, he heard another deer approaching. Another doe appeared, but she had company not too far behind her.
Al knew he was pursuing a giant buck, but nothing could have prepared him for what he laid eyes on next. The deer he’d been watching through a trail camera for weeks was hot on the doe’s trail. With tall tines towering up to the sky, the bruiser buck was way bigger than the hunter imagined. The buck slowly came closer and closer to Al’s position, working step-by-step around a bench and point. Once the giant buck got into shooting range, Al mouth-bleated to stop him. But with all the deer moving, the buck didn’t cooperate.
So, Al tried repeatedly, and again the buck never broke stride. All Al could think to do was shout “HEY!” Luckily, the last-ditch effort slowed the buck, but it didn’t stop him. The giant whitetail just continued to stare at the doe in front of him. Al knew it was now or never, so at 35 yards, he let the single most important arrow of his life fly!
At first, the bowhunter wasn’t sure where his arrow had impacted. He waited a bit and then eased out of the stand to where the buck had been standing. Al was able to find his arrow, and then he made the smart decision to back out. Al called David, who gave his opinion on the situation. The men gave the buck a few hours and then went back out to pick up the trail.
David brought along Cole Mitchell, one of his co-members at Appalachian Range and a fine hunter in his own right. It didn’t take them long to locate blood, and as they started going downhill, a red carpet opened leading straight to the Capital City Giant’s last resting place.
Al’s shot had been perfect, clipping the heart, and coming out just in front of the buck’s off-side leg. Still, the buck traveled 150 yards or so, because of the steep terrain.
Al reports he’s humbled by the entire experience, and it was the first buck he had ever set out to target and hunt. The disciplined hunter had done everything correctly, and he was rewarded with the opportunity to take a truly incredible whitetail in a state where they don’t come easy. The Al Falbo buck officially scores 208 1/8 gross and 200 4/8 net nontypical.
Al gives thanks to David Miller for helping him get this buck killed, as well as Cole Mitchell, for his hard work on that day in the recovery efforts and for taking trophy pictures. Al’s thanks extend to the landowner as well, and to the other hunters in the area, for being respectful, good sportsmen. Lastly, Al says he couldn’t have been successful without Real Deal Outdoors and Eddie Webb of Salt Rock, West Virginia.