By Gita M. Smith
If David Bertsch had any doubts that the buck in the back of his truck was worthy of being converted into a pricey piece of wall art, they evaporated soon after he pulled into taxidermist Rick Busse’s driveway.
“I’ve been doing this for 31 years, and I thought I’d seen everything,” Busse told him. “But I’ve never seen a buck like this.”
Busse doesn’t blow smoke. Those words — from a man who has immortalized some of the planet’s most bodacious bucks, including a couple of world records — validated the Middletown, Ohio, hunter’s own estimation of the rarity of his still-in-velvet 18-pointer.
By the time he left Busse’s home-based shop, David was a glow-stick in camo.
The deer was well known where David hunts in Warren County. Farmers and hunters had been seeing it in fields and on trail camera photographs for two years.
And no matter the season — even as the buck’s rack added mass and the points grew longer — the antlers retained their velvet covering.
David retrieved trail camera photos of it in the winter of 2011, and then the deer vanished. It reappeared on Sept. 18, 2012, and that’s when David fell in love.
“That photo blew me away,” he said. “The rack was so tall and wide. That’s when I decided I’d REALLY like to harvest that deer.”
The next photo was taken on Sept. 23. Already smitten, David was also overcome with a sense of urgency.
“We’d had trouble with trespassers in the past, and the fear that someone else might run into my buck put the hurry-up on me,” he said.
Two days before the Buckeye State’s bow season opened, David spotted the velveteen buck while erecting a pop-up blind. It was as big in body as it was beneath the velvet.
“I guessed it probably weighed 240 pounds, field-dressed,” he said. “I decided to set up my blind 150 yards closer than usual to where I park my quad, which would allow me to get into the blind quicker in the evenings.”
David hunted hard, but he didn’t see the buck again until three days before Halloween.
Oct. 28 was the weekend Hurricane Sandy smacked the Atlantic states. Her effects were also felt in Ohio.
Regardless of the strong and swirling gusts, David spent the afternoon at a 160-acre farm about 25 minutes from home.
“I was in a permanent treestand that was moving around. I watched the stand actually separate from the tree at one point and thought seriously about hunting from the ground,” he said.
But David had chosen that spot because it seemed a perfect pinch point, and he wanted to give it his best shot. He’d parked his four-wheeler and walked 300 yards to reach it. Several deer were already in the bean fields, and he even had to pause long enough to let two bucks ease back into the woods before continuing on to his stand.
He was aloft by 2 p.m.
Almost immediately, he saw three does feeding in the bean field about 40 yards from his setup. A few hours later, he spotted two shooter bucks approaching the does from 150 yards away.
“One buck wound up chasing a large doe within 20 yards of my stand. A very big buck showed up a couple of minutes later. As soon as it came to the edge of the field, I saw the velvet antlers,” he said.
The brush was too thick, however, for David to consider launching a crossbow bolt through it.
“The buck turned right, looking for the hot doe, and started walking. When it got to where I’d walked in to my stand, it followed my tracks until it was facing me from 30 yards,” he said. “The whole time I was worried the other two deer were going to bust me, since the wind was blowing my scent right to them.”
David already had his crossbow up and pointed at the buck. He was merely waiting for it to step into a clear lane.
“It stood there for five dang minutes, not scraping, not eating … not doing anything. I had to hold off because I was determined not to take a bad shot,” he said.
When the buck finally offered a broadside target, in the clear, David squeezed the trigger. The buck fell as if it had been smacked by a wrecking ball instead of a broadhead.
Convinced that the last few minutes had been too easy, David re-cocked his crossbow and sent another bolt through the downed deer’s lungs. He then waited three hours to make sure it wasn’t going to rise again.
A friend helped David load the animal. They handled it with kid gloves, careful not to damage the velvet.
“I wanted to be extra gentle so as not to scrape off the velvet,” David said. “I wanted to get that rack to Busse in as safe a condition and as soon as possible.”
David, a supervisor in a lab where aircraft materials are tested, learned after the fact that bucks which fail to shed their velvet often have a testosterone deficiency. The ones that never shed it often have undescended testicles. Those that suddenly lose the urge to rub it off might have suffered testicular damage from jumping a barbed wire fence.
David says his buck’s testicles were intact, though smaller than normal.
Not that he’s complaining.
Hunter: David Bertsch
BTR Score: 223 6/8
– Photos Courtesy David Bertsch
This article was published in the Winter 2013 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
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