Joining a 415-acre lease in Perry County, Tennessee, might be the best investment Mike McCrary has ever made.
So sayeth the man’s taxidermist, not his banker or stockbroker.
The 43-year-old traveling salesman from Hampshire, Tennessee, hunts deer during both the bow and firearms seasons. He saves up his vacation days from Emerson Electric to spend in the woods.
The fall of 2017 was his first to hunt the tract he and four friends threw in together to lease. Encouraged by the trail camera photographs they’d collected, all of them were in stands on Nov. 4, opening day of the blackpowder season.
Mike’s morning was unforgettable. He saw four bucks and shot the last and largest with his .50-caliber T/C Encore.
The bull of the woods was no stranger to him. In August, he retrieved photographs of it in velvet from five of the seven cameras on the property.
Mike left his house at 4:30 a.m. to allow for enough time to drive to the property and be in a tree at least 45 minutes before the muzzleloader opener.
He chose to scale a straight white oak he thought was the right size for his climbing stand. It was near the edge of an 8- to 10-year-old clear-cut that had been replanted in pines, about a third of the way down a slope.
On his way up, he sawed eight or 10 limbs as quietly as possible.
From his 20-feet-high perch, he saw four deer that morning, all bucks. The first, a 7-pointer, came through about 7:30. A half-hour later, Mike heard a commotion he thought was a tree falling about 60 yards away. That notion was dispelled soon after, however, when a small 8-pointer arrived, followed by a decent 9-pointer.
The fourth buck was the big one, and it walked the same ridge, but from left to right. Mike never heard its approach before spotting its silhouette. It was only 50 yards away when he realized it was the big non-typical on everyone’s wish list.
“I didn’t have a lot of time. I picked the gun up, pulled the hammer back … I didn’t even know how big it was until it stepped into a clearing,” he said.
He would’ve shot it immediately, but the deer’s rack was in the way of its shoulder.
“I didn’t want to shoot through those antlers,” he said.
Mike didn’t panic, however, because the deer was walking toward him. When it was a mere 15 yards away, Mike shot the animal while it was looking at him, aiming for where its neck met its chest.
The buck’s BTR score is 189.
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