Didn’t get a shot at your most-wanted whitetail this season? Wait ’til next year.
Patrick Shemwell became aware that a world-class buck lived near his hunting grounds while driving around a piece of public land with his cousin, Shane Avery, in 2014. They saw the wide-racked whitetail in late August, not long before Kentucky’s bow season opened.
The deer’s rack was in velvet, and it had not yet developed the characteristic drop tine that would make it so easily recognizable later. But it was still impressive.
Patrick didn’t see the brute again that year, but he retrieved trail camera photographs of it in 2015, and the animal quickly went to the top of his wish list.
“The buck liked to hang out in a big bowl-shaped area at the end of a long valley,” Patrick said. “There was plenty of hardwood mast and browse there.
“Early in 2015, I found his right shed from the previous year. I thoroughly searched the area for the other side, but I never found it,” he said.
The next summer, Patrick set out trail cameras in hopes of monitoring the buck.
“In July, I hung about seven or eight on fields, at pinch points and near funnels. Right away, I started getting photos of the buck,” he said. “After that, it was on the cameras regularly.
“The deer was easy to spot in nighttime photos because it had one eye that wouldn’t glow. I felt sure it was blind in that eye.
“From a distance, I watched the buck browsing out in the open numerous afternoons. It was just a big, wide, mainframe 10-pointer,” he said.
Despite collecting thousands of photos of the wide whitetail and logging many hours in a treestand, Patrick never got an opportunity at the deer during the fall of 2015.
“I saw it one time during bow season,” he said, shaking his head. “It was about 40 yards away. It got too dark to shoot, and the deer never came any closer.
“That was in the latter part of September, and I never saw the buck again that year,” he continued. “I had taken on a new job that really cut into my bowhunting time.
“There were tons of gun hunters in the area on opening day of the modern firearms season, and I thought chances of the big one making it through were slim. Thankfully, after gun season, the deer showed back up, and I started getting photos consistently.
“In February 2016, I got a picture after the buck had shed one side of its rack. I went looking for the shed antlers and found the right side in the exact same spot I’d found it the previous year.
“I never did find a left side,” he added.
More determined than ever to tag the big deer, Patrick left his trail cameras out all year in 2016.
“I watched that deer grow day by day,” he said. “Around the first of May, I could begin to see evidence of a drop tine on the left side. By July, it was a full-blown drop, and I could see lots of other trash points.”
Patrick was excited at the prospect of arrowing the big deer while its rack was still in velvet, since Kentucky’s season opens in September. But that didn’t happen.
“I always heard a deer blowing when I entered the area,” he said.
“To try something different, I even went so far as to coat my whole body with mud to try and mask my scent. That didn’t work either,” he added.
Patrick finally realized the big buck was taking advantage of the thermals created by the unique depression it had chosen for its core area. The realization spurred a rethinking of strategy.
“In October, I decided to look around in the only place I hadn’t searched for sheds. As I was walking through some thick brush, the buck jumped up 13 feet away from me and took off running.
“I had found the buck’s bedding area! Knowing the direction it would have to go from there to where it was feeding, I figured I had it patterned,” he said.
“After seeing the deer up close, I called my cousin and told him the buck had to be at least a 200-incher,” he added.
Based on what he knew about the deer’s bedding and feeding areas, Patrick moved his stand to a different location and planned a new route to get to it. Muzzleloading season was approaching, and he hoped the big deer would survive the onslaught of smokepole hunters.
Patrick’s first chance to visit his new setup came on Oct. 21.
“It took me an hour to get to the stand because the brush was so thick,” he said. “I didn’t have high expectations of seeing the deer because there weren’t a lot of pictures of him that month, but I went anyway. It had turned cold.
“I got in my stand about an hour before daylight, and I heard what sounded like deer sparring and chasing in the distance. That went on until daybreak.
“Fifteen minutes after that, I saw a deer about 60 yards away and knew it was the drop-tined buck. It was making its way toward me through some cattails in a small field.
“I was sitting down in the stand, and it was coming from my 1:00 position. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and I began to get scared that something would go wrong.
“In about 45 seconds, the buck closed to within 20 yards and I drew my bow.
“The deer stopped suddenly and looked back over its shoulder at the sound of other deer. It was broadside and looking the other way when I released the arrow. I saw it hit, right in the lungs.
“The buck jumped, ran to the base of my tree, swayed back and forth and went down for good,” he smiled.
This article was published in the August 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
• Furnace Stoked: You know it’s cold when the thought of field-dressing the first deer you see clouds all other notions.
• Dream Season: After two strikes, Kentucky bowhunter hits a home run during his third time at bat.
• Donnie Doesn’t Lie: Land of the Giants is everything this nonresident was led to believe.