T.J. Pugh shared this incredible story with us earlier this year for our “Art of the Hunting Story” contest, and although it didn’t win, we knew you’d still enjoy this tale of the hunt for an incredible buck. Huge congrats to T.J. on this amazing Missouri buck! – MK
By T.J. Pugh
It was the morning of October 30th, a day before Halloween and the first day of Missouri’s 2010 Youth Firearms Season. While I would be heading to the woods with a stick and string, I adorned my orange vest as is required during any Missouri firearms season. Feeling like a festive pumpkin, I made my way through the darkness to my stand location. I would be 20 feet up a tree near the south east corner of a winter wheat field, about ten yards inside the timber on the south edge of the field.
This would be the third morning inside of a two week period that I had hunted this spot. I was after a wide racked 150’s class ten point that I had previously spotted twice in this field, but he had yet to give me a shot opportunity. The south side of the field was littered with giant tracks, and I knew deer used this location as a travel corridor to filter from east to west in the evenings and back again in the mornings. So with a southwesterly wind in my favor and the morning’s temperature in the low 40’s, I made my way back to that stand with high hopes.
As I got settled in for the morning hunt, the night gradually gave way to day, and a distant movement from the left caught my eye. In the morning shadows I was able to make out the ghostly figure of a big-bodied buck adorning what appeared to be decent headgear. I could tell it was not the 10-point I was after, but a good buck non-the-less. He was about 70 yards out, and at a slow trot he was closing the distance fast. My bow was already in hand, so as I stood I tried to get a better look through the breaks in the trees. Though not very wide, I could tell he was extremely massive and had what looked to be possibly another main beam at the base of his right antler! I was sold.
I immediately drew back my Mathews and waited the few seconds required for him to drift into my shooting lane. He was moving east, skirting along the field edge, a path that would bring him right into my lap. The shot distance was not going to be a problem, but the pace at which he was traveling posed some concern. He was moving fast and I would more than likely need to stop him for a good shot.
All at once a million thoughts began to run through my head. What if I try to stop him and he spooks? Should I just try to shoot as he passes by? What about the wind? If he gets too far past me he’ll smell me. All these thoughts occurred within nano seconds, as I franticly debated my options.
I quickly cleared my head, however, and concentrated on the task at hand. He was nearly in my shooting lane now, and thankfully he had slowed his gate to a brisk walk. Still following his every move at full draw, I made the decision to stop him once I had a clear shot. If I let him get too far, however, he would surely catch my wind and this would all be over just as suddenly as it had begun.
As the heavy racked buck entered my window he began to quarter away, presumably to cut across the corner of the field. I decided it was now or never. I now had a clear shot and needed to stop him before he caught my wind. Be that as it may, the moment had already past. I was too late. The buck had caught my scent and immediately came to an abrupt halt. I was somewhat surprised by his sudden stop, but still prepared and at full draw. Knowing I had only moments, I cushioned the pin on the offside shoulder and gently squeezed the release. My Carbon Express arrow flew true and the 20 yard quartering away shot was more or less perfect.
I watched as the lethally hit brute sprinted across the field to the north. He made it roughly 80 yards before expiring within site of my perched position. My two-blade Rage Broadhead was true to form and “put ‘em down” within a matter of seconds. Overwhelmed with emotions and joy, I reached for my binoculars. I knew he was a shooter buck, but with the early morning light and everything happening so fast, I never got what I would call a real good look at him. Now with him lying in plain view I eagerly glassed my trophy.
At first I did not believe what I was seeing. There seemed to be points and tines coming from every direction. I automatically assumed that there was something wrong with my binoculars, or that the excitement had momentarily gotten the better of me. So, I cleaned the lenses, took a breath, relaxed my nerves, and attempted a second glance.
That’s when it hit me. I wasn’t seeing things. This was real. I had not just shot a “nice” buck, but a world class giant! The next few minutes of my life are understandably somewhat of a blur. I had to have lowered my bow and climbed my way down to the base of the tree, but I do not remember a bit of it. Next thing I know, I’m running across that winter wheat field at speeds any Olympic sprinter would be proud of.
Out of breath, but some how floating at the same time, I approached my buck. The feelings I had at that instant cannot be put down on paper. I’ll never forget how that felt, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to adequately describe it either.
In late December 2010, I had the buck officially scored by a Pope & Young scorer. The rack tallied an official net score of 197 7/8, and grossed 213 7/8. What makes this buck’s rack so unique is how massive yet compact his 24 point non-typical frame is. Though his inside spread is only 13 4/8 wide, he has nearly 50 inches of non-typical antler. Including a 10 inch “kicker” at the base of his right antler, as well as matching tines protruding out the back of each main beam.
With bases almost 7 inches in circumference and mass measurements totaling around 40 inches, this buck is a true southwest Missouri brute. Regardless of score, this is truly a unique monster that any whitetail bowhunter would be proud of. I know I am!
– T.J. Pugh