Outdoors: Where (deer) giants roam

At the age of 21, Trevor Draves of La Porte got himself a true giant deer recently.

It’s an oft-discussed topic in deer hunting circles: What is a “shooter” buck? This is a question that can only be answered by the shooter.

For some hunters, this is far from a conundrum and any buck that waltzes past is toast. The same guy that shoots a young buck with short antlers may be heard saying, “If it’s brown, it’s down.”

In the big scheme of deer hunting there is nothing wrong with that philosophy. That said, of game animals, White-tailed deer are likely more encumbered by “trophy status” than any other.

In part this is due to the fact that more people hunt whitetails than any other mammal on earth. Like bass fishing, deer hunting eventually evolved into a contest of sorts. It’s been that way for a long time; the Boone and Crocket Club which set the standard by which deer are scored and thus recorded was started by none other than Theodore Roosevelt over a century ago and named after frontiersman, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.

Deer hunting is big business and per capita there are more hunters in North America than any place else. The good old days of deer hunting have likely passed. But that’s not to say that it will ever be as good as it was again. Most hunters seem to forget that the whole idea of deer hunting is to reduce and maintain deer populations at an acceptable level. Deer management is a complicated thing.

Suffice it to say that through harvest and natural mortality such as disease and calamity, deer numbers have been drastically reduced in many areas. There is much consternation and lament from the deer hunting crowd.

These hunters have to blame somebody of course, so they point their fingers at the DNR and come up with all kinds of conspiracies: Black helicopters using boom sprayers to saturate swamps with the virus that causes Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) or spreading Chronic wasting disease (CWD) — both diseases wipe deer out with the most heinous of slow deaths.

I can’t say if these claims are true of false, but I find it unlikely in the extreme that chronically underfunded fish and wildlife agencies at the state and federal level have the time, money or motivation to kill animals through covert operations.

Deer are an economic windfall for local and state economies and eliminating them may increase profits at insurance companies addled with millions of dollars in coverage for deer related vehicle damage, but the economic hit for the rest of us would be easily measured.

The money hunters spend is staggering and no group spends more than deer hunters; in regions with a strong deer hunting heritage such as parts of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I once lived, deer season is likely one, if not the biggest shot in the arm local businesses will see for the entire year. When deer are scarce, bad things happen to merchants.

La Porte may not be a hot bed of deer hunting, but we’ve got it pretty good. Besides healthy deer numbers in many parts of the county, we also have true trophy deer. I often hear guys complain about how terrible the deer hunting has been or how we don’t have big deer. My advice … A) Find a spot that has more deer and get permission to hunt, and B) Try a little harder.

Many deer hunters go their entire hunting careers without seeing a true giant. Then there are the guys that do it right and bag the buck of a lifetime when they are relatively young. A couple of weeks ago, 21-year-old Trevor Draves of La Porte did just that.

The day I saw the photo of the buck on Facebook I thought it was a joke. So, I texted Trevor. Turns out it was no joke, Trever had arrowed a true giant. I had to see the deer in person so I raced up to Elkins Taxidermy and Deer Processing and there he was in the midst of being skinned. I examined rack. It was spectacular. Like nothing I’d ever seen certainly.

The other night, Trevor brought his rack over and told me the story. I’ve known Trevor since he first started hunting. The first time I met him was when he was 12 years old and I took he and his father Scott goose hunting on one of their spots. As luck would have it, not only did Trevor harvest his first geese, one of them was wearing a leg band. I should’ve known he had that kind of luck.

As my friend Colin Clark put it recently, “Bow hunting is a grind.” I can’t argue with that. When done properly, a hardcore deer hunter spends the entire year scouting and surveying with the deer population with trail cams.

Trevor had done all that and told me he’d hunting roughly 20 times before that fateful evening, when the big boy ground his way through the brush into Trevor’s life.

Here are the cliff notes: His hunting buddy had been hunting that spot for four years. They had images of this buck multiple times over the course of several years. Trevor had found sheds from his buck twice over the past four years.

With about a half-hour of legal time left, Trevor randomly rattled with a Flextone Black Rack and grunted on a tube call. He glassed a thicket and saw the unmistakable sight of antler peeking through the heavy foliage so he rattled and grunted again.

Trevor had no idea how big the deer was at that point, but it was fired up and clearly responding to his calling routine. As he approached Trevor’s stand, the deer thrashed the brush and rubbed his antlers on small trees. He was putting on quite the show.

With 20 minutes of legal time left the deer stood, slightly quartering towards Trevor as he released an arrow. At that point he knew he had hit the deer and he also knew it was a big one. Little did he know that he had just killed a true giant.

After about 20 minutes, Trevor climbed down out of his tree stand and briefly tracked the buck. He found some blood and half of his arrow. Wise beyond his years, he decided to back out.

About an hour and half later he and his father Scott and their neighbor returned and to track the blood trail. He’d his him high so the trail was light and required some crawling. He knew he had to be getting close and as he was looking down for more sign, his father tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Look!”

Seventeen points, field dressed at 225 pounds and green-scored at roughly 185 inches. I think you would agree he’s definitely a “shooter buck.”

Dream well fellow hunters, giants do live here.

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