Very few bucks make it to old age. Even fewer if they happen to live on public land. This is what makes the deer that Patrick Shemwell killed during the Kentucky archery season special. Well, that, and the fact that it grosses just over 205 inches and features 21 scorable points, including a 7-inch drop tine.
Patrick didn’t just luck up on the buck. The dedicated public land bowhunter first discovered the giant deer after the 2014 season while scouting a new spot. While working his way through a thicket, Shemwell jumped the monster buck from his bed. He knew immediately that the buck was special and quickly made the decision to hunt the area.
Two weeks later, Patrick returned to the area to hang a few Covert scouting cameras. Shemwell prefers the company’s wireless cellular cameras that send the photos directly to his phone and email. “I don’t like to go in and out of the area any more often than necessary, the cell cameras let me stay out for long periods of time, but still know what deer are around and when they are on their feet,” Patrick said.
While he was in the area hanging cameras, Shemwell was surprised to find a shed from the buck from the previous year. He knew then that he was in the buck’s core area. The hunter looked around for the other shed, but never located it.
As summer turned into fall, the buck was a regular on the scouting cameras. Shemwell set about preparing a plan to hunt the big deer. Unfortunately, work got in the way. Forced overtime kept Shemwell out of the woods for much of the 2015 archery season. “I would be at work and look at my phone and there would be a picture of the deer up on his feet during daylight. It was killing me,” he said.
On the few days he was able to hunt, Patrick was careful to hunt the wind, always keeping it in his face with his stand choice. Despite his careful planning, the big buck caught his scent on several occasions before coming into bow range. Shemwell couldn’t figure out how the deer could consistently catch his scent from upwind. An early stand departure one evening answered the question. The buck’s core area was down in a bowl, surrounded by ridges on all sides. While the wind was consistent down in the bowl, once Patrick reached the rim of the bowl, he felt the wind swirl around his head and blow from the opposite direction. He knew the big buck had been checking the thermals before he entered the area. Shemwell even went so far as to try coating himself with mud from the area to try to mask his scent. The buck never offered a shot.
Once Kentucky’s modern firearm season kicked in, Shemwell says the area was shoulder to shoulder hunter orange. Hunters packed the area and Patrick feared the big buck would fall to one of them. His cameras weren’t helping. While other deer made regular appearances, the big buck had disappeared.
Then, in the last days of the season, Patrick got what he was hoping for. Photos of the buck once again started lighting up his phone. With the firearms season over, and archery season soon to close, Patrick was confident the buck would make it another year.
During the summer of 2016, he was pleased to get photos of a large-bodied buck with heavy based antlers starting to grow. From a nearby hillside, Shemwell would spend summer evenings glassing the area. He began to see the buck on a regular basis. As the antlers began to harden, Patrick knew the deer was even larger this year and that he had grown a nice droptine.
Shemwell had hoped to get on the deer during the early days of the 2016 archery season. He adjusted his stand locations to play the swirling wind and made sure he was camouflaged from head to toe. “I chose Realtree Max-1 because it really matched the area well. There was a lot of open space and several evergreen trees near my stand and I had confidence that the Max-1 would hide me,” Patrick said.
As the days slipped by, the buck never showed. He also disappeared from Shemwell’s cameras. With the Kentucky two-day early muzzleloader season looming close, Patrick made the decision to investigate a thick area of brush near his hunting location. As he made his way through the dense vegetation, Patrick heard a deer jump up just feet in front of him. As soon as he saw the deer, he knew it was his buck. He realized the buck had moved deeper into the area than he had last year.
Patrick began to scout the new area for possible stand locations. The sight of a large antler on the ground in front of him soon drew his attention. It was the buck’s shed from the previous season, the same side as the first shed he had found the year before. When he got home to compare the two, it was obvious that the buck had grown. Patrick thought to himself that, with this year’s growth, the deer might break the 200-inch mark.
Five days after the 2016 early muzzleloader season, the wind and weather were right for Patrick to get into the new area. The dense undergrowth took nearly an hour to pick through on the way to his stand location. Patrick settled in for the evening.
Soon, the hunter could hear deer moving around him in the thick growth. The sounds of antlers clicking together kept his attention. He then heard what sounded like a buck chasing a doe through the thicket nearby.
Something made the hunter look up from the sound of the running deer. A deer materialized at 60 yards. It was the buck, and this was the closest Patrick had ever been to him while actually hunting. The buck’s attention was directed at the running deer Shemwell had just heard. The big deer slowly began to walk in the direction of the other deer. And right toward Patrick.
At 20 yards, the buck stopped. Shemwell drew his bow. “I’ve shot a lot of deer and I have never been as tore up and excited as I was right then,” Shemwell said. “I kept telling myself to take a deep breath and calm down. I couldn’t even hold the sight pin still on the deer’s shoulder.”
Patrick released the arrow and watched the Toxic broadhead hit perfectly. The buck jumped, and began to trot straight toward Patrick’s tree. When he reached the base of the tree, the buck began to topple from side to side.
“He fell right there. I was so excited. At the same time, I was sad. I had been chasing the deer for so long that I felt like I knew him. Now it was over,” Patrick said.
In a testament to just how close the deer had come to falling to another hunter, the taxidermist pointed out several old wound scars from previous close calls the buck had survived.