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Freak Bucks Non-Typical

Mike Carney’s 192-Inch Illinois Trophy Buck

by Mike Carney   |  November 26th, 2013 2

“Wow! That’s a very, very nice buck,” I thought to myself as I looked 150 yards up the edge of the cornfield.

Doing my best to hide my face behind my bow’s riser, I watched an attentive group of three does and five brawling fawns gorge on oats and clover below my stand. The plot was hidden in a field corner, shielded by a big corn stand and a nearby woodlot. The wind was starting to get fickle, but the sun was at my back, keeping me undetected in the exceptionally sparse, two-row treeline.

The deer below me had no idea I was observing them, and thanks to my ozone machine, the shifting winds hadn’t given away my location. But my arm was starting to ache. I desperately wanted to put my bow back on the peg and lift my binos to eyeball the massive buck. He was traipsing in and out of the cornfield, ever so slowly progressing toward my stand. It was November 2, and I was in great position to have an opportunity at an exceptional cruising buck I’d not seen before.

As the does ate their fill, they started to meander off one by one and I finally got to hang my bow and grab my glass to get a better look. The last sparring button bucks were now chasing after their mothers, eliminating the need to stay stock still. That was a good thing as I nearly buckled over after getting a good visual on the monster, now 120 yards away and closing…

I live in a state that grows a lot of exceptional whitetails. My second year of bowhunting here I was fortunate enough to take a beautiful 160-class animal that I smugly took to a local, prominent taxidermist, thinking I would have one of the better bucks in his shop. He barely acknowledged it as he took me to his basement shop. When I saw all the skulls in the rafters, from just that season, I was astonished—multiple 180 and 190 bucks, and some I didn’t even know how to evaluate they were so freakishly large and bizarre. And this was just one taxidermist, in one little town! “My three biggest up there are from public ground,” he said flatly.

I also hunt in an area that has a lot of highly skilled bowhunters, guys who know exactly how to play the game. They scout smart, hunt hard and intelligently, and do all the year-around tasks necessary to be successful on big bucks. Rarely does a good buck go undocumented for long where I live. Eventually word travels the circuit of the hardcore, with trail cam pics, sheds, and sightings as evidence. And there are also plenty of new hunters just learning the game, who are making animals aware they’re being hunted, taking bucks that need a year or two to reach their true genetic potential, and yes, wounding some, all part of the learning curve.

Three years ago, while winter shed hunting, I came across a single right antler that was one of the biggest I’d ever found. What intrigued me most about the find was that neither I, or my hunting partner Ryan Olson, had seen the buck all season—and we hunted every weekend of the bow season as well as every day of the first two weeks of November. Where did he come from? Could we do something to keep this particular buck on our property?

That spring, Ryan and I set out on an aggressive bedding improvement project with hinge cutting, field prep for native warm-season grasses, and designs on an improved year-round nutrition program for the overall deer herd. We had silent hopes of providing the ideal habitat that Mr. Big would make part of his core area. That summer, a neighbor told me about the left side of a rack he had found that belonged to a buck known as Curly in his hunting circle. Various neighbors had also accumulated an impressive collection of trail cam photos of Curly in a three-mile radius of my farm. Curly apparently liked to roam.

In the late summer and early fall of 2011, we collected a number of trail cam photos of Curly and by October he was a regular resident with multiple pics scored each week, but with one interesting development: his left side was now nontypical, with a swooping main beam and an irregular G-2 with multiple kickers. I love non-typical racks, and I vowed to take Curly, which we promptly renamed the Freak, if given the chance.

That fall I had one good sighting of the Freak tending a doe at 45 yards from our Lookout Stand, but he was in tall bedding grass and never presented an ethical shot. One week later, I caught the Freak cruising slowly on a windy morning coming up over a ridge at 37 yards. But he was quartering to me and on high alert, so I elected to pass again. Ryan and I never saw him from a stand the remainder of the season. We continued to get photos of him after the gun and late archery seasons, but he had a busted up left side. We were elated he’d survived.

In March 2012, while pulling cards from hidden security cameras, we looked out into our main cornfield and spotted something white on the edge. My 10×30 Zeiss binos quickly confirmed that it wasn’t blown over cornstalks—it was the Freak’s rack—both sides!

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