Rack Magazine

Much to be Said for Autopilot

Much to be Said for Autopilot

By Dale Weddle

From zero to 60 in a matter of seconds describes not only a muscle car’s acceleration, but it also applies to this Kentucky rattler’s 2013 deer season.

The huge buck charged out of the honeysuckle with ears laid back, looking for a fight. There was no time for Dustin Shaffer to think, certainly not for him to evaluate antlers.

He barely had time to aim, and his autopilot squeezed the trigger.

Afterward, when he was sitting on the ground beside the animal, Dustin had a difficult time fathoming what had happened in the span of a few minutes. The boom from the .270 was still ringing in his ears.

It took at least five minutes before he regained his composure. A fly on a tree might’ve thought it was the first time he’d ever shot at a deer.

But it wasn’t.

“I grew up hunting; took my first deer when I was 7,” the Carter County, Ky., native said. “My dad took me out before daylight, and we set up on this bench. I was using a little .357 magnum lever-action. Of course, I wasn’t old enough to shoot anything much bigger than that. We’d been there about an hour and a half when this little spike came along, and I shot it in the neck at about 40 yards. It went right down.”

Just like this deer.

When Dustin turned 15, he started working for his father in the family concrete business. That occupation turned out to be a good one for a deer hunter.

“In early fall, I can pour concrete and go hunting in between various jobs,” Dustin said. “When the weather gets colder, the business slows, and there’s even more time to chase deer. I usually hunt three or four times a week on average. Mostly, I hunt family farms close to where I live. I’ve taken some average bucks over the years.

Three or four of those would go in the 130s or 140s.

“About three years ago, I started using trail cameras,” he continued. “I don’t put cameras over corn. I just hang them in areas that deer use. I’ve got this one spot in an alfalfa bottom and another place where deer cross a fence on a regular basis.

“The second year, in 2012, I got a couple of good deer on film, including a 180-class Typical. Then, in late summer and early fall of last year, I had cameras out and got pictures of a 12-pointer in velvet and also a 14-pointer, so I was looking forward to the 2013 season’s arrival.

“Knowing those deer were around made me more willing to pass on the average stuff,” he added.

“About the same time I started using trail cameras, I got into trapping. I catch coyotes, foxes and bobcats. Trapping really makes you pay attention to details, especially scent. It’s helped me with my deer hunting,” Dustin said.

As the 2013 season approached, he knew there were some good deer in the area, but he didn’t really have them patterned. He decided to use his knowledge of his hunting area and set up in a good travel corridor to see what happened past.

The spot he chose was on a ridge between a known bedding area and his neighbor’s cornfield. There is a low gap behind the stand site choked with brush and honeysuckle. A little pond is nearby.

“I bowhunted a few days in September,” Dustin said, “But the temperature was still in the 75- to 80-degree range. There wasn’t much deer movement, and we had several concrete jobs going.

“By October, the cornfield on my neighbor’s property was about half picked, and deer were starting to use it more. So I went back to the stand on the ridge where I’d passed up two 8-pointers and a little 6 that came by my stand, headed for the cornfield,” he said.

Much to be Said for AutopilotIn early muzzleloader season, Dustin shot a doe. He never saw a buck he wanted to shoot.

About a week before gun season, he saw a real nice 10-pointer chasing a doe. He bowhunted with hopes of a repeat encounter, but it didn’t happen.

“On the first day of modern gun season, I hunted until noon and saw one doe. That afternoon, I didn’t see anything. On Sunday, I saw the same old doe,” he said.

Dustin hunted Monday and Tuesday before work and saw a couple of little bucks chasing does, which didn’t particularly lift his spirits.

“I just wasn’t seeing the numbers of bucks that I usually see and wasn’t getting as many pictures as I nomally get on my trail cams,” he said.

“On Wednesday morning, I hunted a little bit and saw a 6-pointer. Then I had to go work a concrete job. It was probably around 3:00 that afternoon when we finished. I ran home, got my camo and was back in the stand on the ridge by about 4 p.m.  It was cloudy and about 40 degrees, and there was a slight wind in my face.

“I got settled in and had been there about 30 minutes when I took out my call, grunted a few times and then rattled. After that, it was quiet for about 5 or 10 minutes,” he continued. “Then, all of a sudden, this huge buck came out of the honeysuckle. Its ears were pinned back, and it was aggressive-looking. While sitting down, I raised the .270 and found a good rest. When the deer started to turn like it was going to go back up the hollow, I shot it right behind the shoulder and dropped it. I waited a few minutes, calmed down, and then I got down to look at the deer.

“I tried counting points, but I wound up just sitting next to it for a while. I knew it was probably a record book deer; it was the biggest thing I had ever killed,” he added.

Antler experts generally agree that truly odd racks often result from an injury to the animal at some point, and that might be the case with this deer.

Dustin’s neighbor shot a big deer a couple of years earlier and never recovered it. When Dustin’s buck was butchered, they dug out a bullet near the shoulder blade that had obviously been there for a while.

Hunter: Dustin Shaffer
BTR Score: 197
Centerfire Rifle

– Photos Courtesy Dustin Shaffer

This article was published in the October 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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Copyright 2021 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd