Mel Johnson, the Illinois bowhunter whose 1965 buck remains one of the longest-reigning world records in the BTR, died in May at the age of 84.
Mel arrowed the deer while hunting next to a soybean field near his home near Peoria. He’d stopped there after work at the Caterpillar plant on Friday, Oct. 29.
He originally planned to hunt from a treestand that day, but he had a change of heart en route to it. Twice earlier, he’d seen a huge buck feeding along the edge of the field, well beyond bow range. No sense in admiring the animal from afar a third time, he thought.
To get closer to where he’d seen the deer, he used brush to build a ground blind near the field’s edge.
To his surprise, this giant emerged almost immediately from the timber on the opposite corner of the field about 300 yards distant.
The buck stood and surveyed the field carefully before venturing any farther.
Mel’s heart pounded when he realized the buck was coming his way. Finally, after what seemed like hours, the enormous whitetail was only 10 yards away – too close for Mel to chance drawing.
He let the buck pass by, and then he pulled back his 72-pound-draw recurve while the deer was quartering away from him. The southpaw’s arrow pierced both the animal’s lungs. (He was reportedly hunting with a Howett bow, 29 ½-inch fiberglass arrows and a Zwicky broadhead.)
The buck rocketed back across the field, disappeared into a swale, and then reappeared on higher ground, where it stood for a moment before it ran out of sight.
Mel took off, too, and he saw the buck lying on its side, still moving, when he cleared the ridge.
The field-dressed deer is said to have weighed 270 pounds, which meant it was between 300 and 350 on the hoof. The buck was the Pope and Young world record long before it was entered into the BTR’s recurve/perfect category in 1996.
Bass Pro Shops now owns Mel’s Bean Field Buck, which has a BTR score of 212 7/8 inches.
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