By Nick Pinizzotto
That short phrase summed up Tyler Sellens’ thoughts about a monster buck roaming one of the many great properties he manages with friend and partner Josh Turner at Riverview Outfitters in western Illinois. The outburst also provided a fitting name for the giant deer that represents all that we love about the challenge a mature whitetail buck can pose to even the most seasoned hunters.
Only three photos of this deer exist, and the first time he triggered a camera was on September 29 at 4:46 a.m. Although the date on the above photo says 2011, it was most certainly this fall. Almost immediately after pulling the photos the guys posted it on their Facebook page with the comment, “Look who came strolling along.”
Those of us who know Tyler and Josh well realize that they must have been excited because they uploaded the picture so quickly. It’s not uncommon for a few of us to give them a hard time about being slow to post photos, but that wasn’t a concern in this case.
Exactly one week later, the massive monarch strolled past the same camera.
When the buck triggered the same camera one week later, it seemed like this would be the first of many photos of the old bruiser. That’s where the story takes an all too familiar twist. Like the biggest and most experienced bucks have a knack for doing, he simply disappeared. Despite several cameras being out, there were no more new photos.
Despite several different clients hunting the property and using a number of scattered stand locations, the buck was never seen. When I returned to hunt in early December I thought I was the first person to lay eyes on him across a long field, but after reviewing my mental images and comparing them to the photos, I’m almost certain it wasn’t him. I saw some good bucks that evening, but I have to believe if this guy stepped out it would have made a special impression on me. He simply vanished.
When the season ended with no new photos or a single sighting, we assumed the buck was either shot on a different property or that the deer simply spent a week in the area and just happened to pass by one of the cameras. I guess none of us was willing to believe that The Bastard Buck eluded us.
Although you hear stories all of the time about great bucks that made an appearance and then disappeared for months or even entire seasons only to turn up again, we just couldn’t let ourselves believe that it could happen to us. Just a few weeks ago, Tyler sent me a message that brought a smile to my face while also providing a harsh reality check. “You’re not going to believe this, but we got another picture of that buck.”
Despite being a bit thinner after the rut, The Bastard Buck was alive and well just before Christmas.
Two days before Christmas, The Bastard Buck sent a loud and clear signal that he was alive and well, and still haunting the Riverview Outfitters property. At 7:23 a.m. on December 23, the magnificent stag made a daylight appearance on the opposite side of the property from where the earlier photos were snapped. Just like that, he was back into our lives and imaginations providing fuel for the fire as we look forward to next season.
Already a great buck, the fact that he has been a bit of a mystery only adds to his trophy status. How many times did hunters walk right by him on their way to a stand? Did he ever get to his feet during daylight hours while hunting season was in? How could he avoid all of those hunters and cameras for several weeks, especially during the rut when he would have been most vulnerable? Did he simply leave the area for a few months and eventually meet up with some girls from across the tracks during the rut? All we can do is guess.
bastard (adjective): of abnormal shape or unusual size,
of unknown origin.
It appears that the buck has at least 13 scoreable points and he has good mass and long main beams. I’m not going to estimate a score as it would be a disservice to this great deer, but I know it is way up there. Although I would love to see what this buck looked like in mid-November in his peak, I feel pretty confident saying that the deer is likely 4 1/2 and possibly 5 1/2 years-0ld.
I’m going to lean toward 4 1/2 because he still has some room on his frame for growth and his neck is still fairly well defined. Regardless, the buck will very likely add inches to his rack this year and there’s no telling what he’ll look like. With any luck, Tyler and Josh will locate his sheds in the next few weeks and we’ll have a better understanding of how big The Bastard Buck really is.
As Tyler pointed out the other day, “If he just walked out on the first day and you didn’t have to hunt him, what fun would that be? That’s what drives a whitetail freak.” I couldn’t agree more. We’ll be thinking about this buck all summer long. He’ll be in our minds when we’re at the range, and increasingly in our dreams as the season approaches.
What makes a great buck legendary is the story behind him. It’s the pursuit you remember. Just knowing he’s out there somewhere and hearing a twig snap will be enough to send our hearts racing. We have no way of knowing how the story of The Bastard Buck will end, but with any luck he’ll make a dream come true for one of the Riverview Outfitters clients. In case you’re wondering, there are still a few spots left for next fall.
Nick Pinizzotto blogs at www.WhitetailWriter.com. He is the Chief Operating Officer of Delta Waterfowl. The Western Pennsylvania native currently resides in North Dakota, where his passion for the outdoors is put to good use on a daily basis.