Another big 2015 buck falls
|Rack Report Details|
|Time of Year:||October 18, 2015|
|Place:||Hillsborough County, New Hampshire|
This is a story of challenges, and overcoming those challenges. It's about Neil Pendleton and his pursuit for a 200-inch giant. It began in 2011.
I located an area on public land isolated from pressure with good bedding cover in 2010, Pendleton said. I hung a trail camera there in June 2011, and captured tons of does and fawns all summer long. They even bedded down in front of the camera occasionally. I assumed bucks would move into the area closer to the rut.
I'd planned to check the camera midday on Sunday of opening weekend to see if any bucks had shown up, Pendleton continued, but I got preoccupied and ran out of time. During my lunch break the following day, I pulled the memory card and popped it into my digital camera. I saw the usual doe and fawn pictures as I was scrolling through, and suddenly came across a giant buck I'd never seen before. He came through about one hour after daybreak opening morning, and again that evening. Plus, he came through during daylight multiple times over the next couple days, including Sunday evening. Anxiety came over me, and I started shaking. At that point I was super-excited but also kicking myself for not checking the camera midday on Sunday, as planned.
Pendleton played cat and mouse with the deer during the remainder of the 2011 season. He hunted when work allowed, and the deer showed up on camera multiple times when he wasn't hunting. Pendleton noticed the buck's movements were turning nocturnal the more he hunted. He arrowed another mature buck that year, but the hunt for the giant had only begun. New Hampshire allows two bucks to be harvested with archery equipment and one with a firearm, but the buck eluded him that year.
Still, Pendleton encountered the buck multiple times over the next few years.
Two of the encounters unfolded on consecutive mornings in 2014 only days before muzzleloader season, he said. I was hunting a swamp edge and noticed a branch in my way, so I climbed down from my stand and removed it. Then, I heard something down in the swamp. I watched my target buck stand up from his bed, and walk around in an opening. I was backed up against a tree with basically nothing between us. I grunted several times, and he showed interest, but he never came within bow range.
I sat the same stand the following morning, Pendleton continued. I scanned the swamp for a couple hours with my binoculars and finally spotted movement - the buck in his bed. It was less than a week until muzzleloader season, and since I knew where he was bedding, I felt confident I'd get him.
Another outdoor enthusiast fouled Pendleton's concrete game plan.
As I approached my stand opening morning of muzzleloader season, I spotted a glowing fire and heard music playing near the buck's bed site, he said. I actually had a picture of the buck leaving the area the night before, but he obviously didn't return that morning because of the intrusion. This 'camper' basically torched his bedroom. I was sick.
Fast forward to October 2015. Pendleton had expanded the areas in which he hunted the buck, but trail-camera pictures led him back to the area where he'd captured his first image of the buck in 2011.
I'd made some mock scrapes in that area, and they were no longer mock scrapes because bucks had taken them over, Pendleton said. Sure enough, the big buck showed up on October 9, and began working them. He even came during daylight multiple times. I got pretty excited about hunting the area again. I actually sat it once without seeing him, and then a cold front was scheduled to hit.
On October 18, Pendleton's father traveled down from Maine to go hunting that weekend - something he's rarely done. However, he knew his son was hunting an incredible buck, and he was hoping to be there if his son connected. Pendleton ascended his strategically placed treestand well before sunup, hoping to catch the buck checking scrapes on his way to bed for the day.
I heard something just after dawn, he recalled. I only had 40 to 50 yards of visibility through the brush, and I picked up the movement of a deer; then, I could see bits and pieces of antlers. Sure enough, it was him. My heart raced, but then a calmness settled me. I zoned in and wasn't nervous at all.
Once brush obscured the buck's eyes, Pendleton drew his bow for the moment of truth. But it wasn't over yet. The same brush that helped him draw undetected now blocked part of the buck's vitals.
As big as he was, I didn't want to risk hitting the shoulder, so I held at full draw for about two minutes, waiting for a clearer shot, he said. Strangely, I was completely calm. At full draw, I reflected on all the history from the last five seasons, and I was actually grinning, knowing I was finally going to get him. He took another step, and I went through my shot checklist. I had all the time in the world, and I wasn't going to screw it up. I wrapped my finger around the trigger of my release, and my arrow hit perfectly.
Pendleton and his father tracked the deer a short time later, an event he'll forever cherish since his father was the one who'd introduced him to hunting many years ago.
Once we found him, I raised my hands in the air, but mixed feelings soon overtook me, he said. Of course, I'm excited to finally have him, but I also realize the chase is over. He'll no longer show up on my trail cameras, nor will I anticipate encountering him each time I go hunting. It's over. That's a bittersweet feeling.
Looking back, Pendleton stated that he's glad he didn't check his trail camera opening weekend way back in 2011.
I consider hunting this buck for five seasons a privilege, he explained. In many ways, I'm fortunate I didn't check my camera that opening weekend in 2011, because I may have had an opportunity to take him then. Great stories and fond memories formed throughout the 1,490-day quest. I'm so thankful I got him. It's a great reward after investing hundreds of hours into hunting, scouting, and checking trail cameras. Someone else actually shot him at one point in time, because we found bullet fragments while skinning him.
You hear the term 'buck of a lifetime' referenced often, but this truly is the buck of my lifetime, especially since I took him on public land, he said.
All reliable sources rank New Hampshire near the bottom on the list of states that produce record-book bucks. That fact makes Pendleton's 2015 Granite State buck exceptional.
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