A text brought Mike Speaker home, right to the buck of a lifetime.
The avid McKean County, Pennsylvania, deer hunter had planned to spend November 30, the opening day of rifle season, at a friend’s camp in nearby Marshburg. However, when his daughter, a fifth-year pharmacy student who attends school in Ohio, said she wanted to go the first morning, Speaker decided to hunt with her on the 34 acres he owns behind his house. He’d known for about a year that a large double-drop-tine buck roamed the area, but the deer wasn’t on his mind that day.
“I was just looking to have an enjoyable opening day,” Speaker said.
Speaker and his daughter hunted separate stands that morning, each seeing a few deer. At about 11:45 a.m., his daughter shot a 5-point buck. Speaker walked to her stand, field-dressed the deer and hung it in his barn. His daughter left for school, so he returned to his stand at about 1 p.m.
“I was just sitting there relaxing after climbing up the hill,” Speaker said. “Twenty minutes went by, and I looked over my right shoulder and saw a deer. I looked over again…and as soon as I saw him, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s the drop-tine buck.’”
Speaker watched the buck for about five minutes. The deer seemed to be relaxed, just feeding and working up the hill toward the stand.
“It was tough not to stare at his antlers, but I kind of talked to myself,” Speaker said. “‘Quit looking at his antlers. Find your lane, find the shot.’”
Soon, the buck walked broadside into an open lane 65 yards away, and Speaker fired.
“He ran about 20 yards and then stopped again,” Speaker said. “I’m a little nervous at this point, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, did I miss?’”
Speaker chambered another round, but the buck began to teeter. Then, the animal’s front legs went out, and it snowplowed 20 yards and went down.
“I really don’t remember coming out of my tree stand,” Speaker said. “I can’t tell you if I went down the ladder or if I jumped.”
Speaker didn’t touch the buck for at least 15 minutes, sitting in awe of the deer. He tried to call his daughter, but she didn’t answer. Then, his son, who was hunting in Marshburg, texted and asked if he’d fired, as a friend who hunted nearby had heard the gunshot. Speaker replied that he’d shot the double-drop-tine buck, and his son called immediately. Soon, his son’s friend walked to the scene, and they admired the buck. They eventually brought the deer to the house, and Speaker’s daughter, having heard the news, returned home to see the buck. Then the group took the deer to the Marshburg camp.
Later that week, some friends scored the buck. The rack has 21 score-able points, including three drop tines, two of which measure 9 inches. It features double split brow tines, double split G-2s and matching stickers on both sides. It green-scored 195 6/8 gross nontypical inches.
“He’s probably a 150 main-frame buck with 45 points of junk,” Speaker said. “He’s just got junk hanging everywhere. He was just a phenomenal deer to see coming through the woods.”
Still, Speaker doesn’t believe the buck was very old. It wasn’t large, either, weighing just 122 pounds, field-dressed.
Numbers aside, the deer will always hold a special place in Speaker’s memory. He’s hunted Pennsylvania for 44 years, but this season was special because he was with his daughter, on his own land, carrying his deceased father’s rifle.
“It was a pleasure to shoot this buck on my own land, with my own handholds,” Speaker said. “This was the first year I carried (my father’s) rifle, and I’ll probably never carry it again. I’ll retire it.”
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