Half-Buck has what it takes to shake up the records, as well as the man who tagged it!
Mike McKinney doesn’t care if the buck he arrowed back in 2008 might’ve grunted in a higher pitch — eeerping instead of uuurping — or that it might’ve been only “half” interested in making scrapes and chasing does. Because whatever the Franklin County, Ill., whitetail was lacking downstairs, specifically one testicle, it sure made up for it up top.
The bowhunter from Benton, Ill., was hoping he’d one day cross paths with the gigantic buck he saw three times in 2007, but he wasn’t holding his breath. Deer of that caliber rarely make mistakes.
Mike devoted a lot of time searching for the buck’s sheds the following spring. He never found them, but he did stumble across a sign-riddled thicket that stuck in his mind like a set of coordinates in a GPS receiver.
And it wasn’t that far from his house.
“The thicket was a perfect place for the deer to bed down after eating in the nearby soybean fields,” he said. “I had never hunted that area before, but I knew I was going to hunt it after that.”
His first visit to the woody sanctuary was on the crisp afternoon of Nov. 8. The 5- to 10-mph northwest wind was perfect for hunting there. It was about 40 degrees when Mike strapped his climbing stand to the four-wheeler, got his bow and drove through the field.
After parking and walking the rest of the way, he chose not to plow through the middle of the thicket. Instead, he chose to scale a large oak tree just west of it. He listened to squirrels foraging for the next hour, and then he heard a not-squirrel.
“I slowly stood and turned,” he said, “and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the monster buck I’d seen the previous year, coming out from beneath some Russian olive bushes.”
The deer was downwind of Mike — uh oh — and straight east of his tree. As the wind continued to swirl, he’d never been more conscious of the scent-absorbing clothes he was wearing.
“As the deer approached (almost head-on), I drew my bow and waited for a better shot,” Mike said, “but then the buck stopped and lifted its head into the wind. I knew my time was running out. I had to act when I saw the buck wrinkle its nose.
“In an adrenaline-pumped, nearly instinctive shot, I released. The arrow hit the buck between the shoulder and brisket — a shot I wouldn’t normally take,” he added.
The skewered buck reared and ran, but it managed to cover only 30 yards before collapsing. Mike had been holding his breath the whole time, gasping afterward as if he were a sufferer of sleep apnea.
“I was amazed that it all happened so quickly,” Mike said. It’s certainly not the image most hunters have of their finest hour; it was more like finest two minutes!
Certain the dead buck was not going to turn into zombie buck and flee, Mike descended the oak and walked over for a closer look. It was actually more to convince himself that he wasn’t dreaming. He half expected to touch bedpost instead of antler when he reached out to grab the enormous rack, which he hadn’t noticed was still encased in velvet.
Even with the buck of his dreams at his feet, a new state record among velvet bucks harvested by compound bow, Mike had a hard time believing he’d done it.
After admiring the rack and gloating privately, he called his wife to share the news and ask for her help. The phone call helped clear his mind.
When he flipped the buck over, he noticed that it had only one testicle, which explains the velvet and might account for Mike’s inability to find any of its sheds. Bucks with a testosterone deficiency often never drop their antlers.
When Mike and his wife returned home, their ecstatic 8- and 11-year-old kids were waiting in the driveway.
— Photos Courtesy of Mike McKinny
Hunter: Mike McKinny This article was published in the October 2010 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
BTR Official Score: 170 7/8
BTR Composite Score: 191 2/8
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