Buck: 13-point typical; gross score 186 5/8 inches
Hunter: Andrew Friel
Location: Fort Campbell
Time of Year: Nov. 16, 2012
Weapon: Traditions Pursuit XLT Accelerator muzzleloader
Army helicopter pilot Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jason Friel had just returned from Afghanistan. His son, Andrew, a 20-year-old college student (Fairmont State University) had come home on Thanksgiving break. The two were spending their reunion time side by side in climbing stands overlooking a large thicket in Training Area 19 of Fort Campbell. Like many military posts, Fort Campbell, with land in both Kentucky and Tennessee, is open to controlled public hunting. Training Area 19 is on the Tennessee side.
“It was a real jungle, but there were some openings where we could see clearly and get a good shot,” Andrew says. “It’s just the kind of place that big bucks would feel secure.”
The Friels got on stand at 12:30 p.m. for an afternoon hunt. Forty-five minutes later, Jason spotted a big 10-pointer.
“The deer was downwind from us, and he winded us and ran away before I could get a shot,” Andrew says. “Fifteen minutes later, Dad tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, ‘Buck coming. Get ready; he’s a big one.’ This deer was approaching from the same direction as the 10-pointer. I could see that he was a giant. He was around 130 yards away in the thicket.
“I’d have let him come closer, but he raised his head and started testing the wind,” Andrew continues. “I was afraid he would get our scent and leave like the 10-pointer did. Besides, I practice taking long shots all the time, and I was absolutely confident I could take that deer at that range.”
Andrew aimed carefully and squeezed the trigger.
“When I fired, the buck tucked his tail and ran,” Andrew says. “I thought I’d made a good hit. And as he turned to go, I got a good look at his rack. That’s when I knew he was really special.”
After 10 minutes, Andrew and his dad went looking for the deer. They found blood, but not much – only a speck every couple of yards. They trailed the buck several hundred yards until he crossed a road into another training area.
“We didn't have permission to follow him into this new area, so we backtracked to get our stands and went home,” Andrew says.
The next morning, Andrew obtained a hunting assignment for the area where the buck had gone. He drove to where the deer had crossed the road, parked and picked up the blood trail again.
“Sign was more plentiful there,” Andrew says. “The buck was bleeding more by the time he got here. And then I found where he’d gone down, and blood was everywhere.”
Andrew trailed the deer into a large broom sedge field, and suddenly the blood just stopped. Andrew circled the area, but couldn’t pick up the trail again. So he called his dad and explained the situation. Jason came out to help Andrew look.
“There were a couple small thickets in the field, and Dad suggested, ‘You should go look in that thick stuff,’” Andrew says. “When I walked up to the first one, I could see horns sticking out of the bushes. The buck had crawled up into that little cover patch and died.
“I was amazed when I saw him,” Andrew continues. “I just couldn’t believe he was that big. And I was so glad I decided the night before that I wouldn’t give up looking for him.”
Andrew’s giant buck had 13 long-tined points. Its inside spread measured 25 1/2 inches wide. The rack gross-scored 186 5/8 inches (typical). It is awaiting official scoring, but it has certain inclusion near the top of the list of Tennessee’s all-time biggest whitetail bucks.
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