DANVILLE, W.Va. — West Virginia’s 2018 archery hunting season opened last Saturday. It didn’t take Boone County hunter David Miller long to burn his first tag. Although the season runs roughly three months, Miller had a buck on the ground before dark on day one. What a buck it was.
“I’ve killed 17 bucks that I have mounted and this one will be number 18. I’ve been chasing these things since I was ten years old,” Miller said in an interview for West Virginia Outdoors. “My biggest buck was #5 in the Pope and Young Records in West Virginia. I think this one will top him.”
Although it may have seemed like a quick bow season for Miller, the quest which ended after only a few hours of hunting in 2018 actually represented a much longer period of planning, strategy, and anticipation along with a considerable amount of luck.
Miller first saw the buck in 2016 and thought he might someday be a head turner.
“He was about a 110 inch eight point. I thought he really had potential because he had good mass and a wide base,” Miller explained. “From three and a half to four and a half he went from a 110-inch 8 point or in that ballpark to a 155 to 165 inch 11 point last year.”
It was the 11 point rack which easily could be hanging on Miller’s wall from a year ago—but he wouldn’t be the one telling the story.
“Last season opening day, I took my wife out that buck came in to 13 yards,” laughed Miller. “I told my wife, ‘Honey if you want to take him, take him.'”
But the wife had her eyes on a bigger prize and after declining the 11 point, 30 seconds later put an arrow through a massive eight and a half year old buck which had been king of the woods for several years. Her buck is a story for another day.
The property where Miller killed the big buck is in Boone County and although it’s leased and private–he fretted about the real possibility somebody else on an adjoining property might be the one to take him. The concern was amplified since Boone County has rifle hunting.
A buddy of Miller found one of the buck’s shed antlers on public land near the property back in the winter. He learned somebody else found the other one. The buck’s existence was no longer a secret and Miller said he knew this would have to be the year to take him if he got the chance.
Knowing the buck’s haunts, Miller deliberately tried to avoid putting pressure on the beast. He avoided the property other than minimal visits, planted food plots in the spring and late summer, and did some selective timbering to optimize and diversify the property’s habitat. All of the effort paid off opening day.
“I almost didn’t hunt because where I thought he would come from the wind was blowing straight in that direction,” Miller explained. “But I thought if I got high enough in the tree, the wind would carry my scent over him.”
It was clear immediately that wasn’t the case as the buck trotted into the area about 5:15 p.m. on opening day.
“He knew something wasn’t right. His nose was in the air, he was winding everything,” said Miller.
Although he felt confident in a shot out to 75 yards, Miller wanted to get the buck within 40 yards before taking the shot. The buck stopped at 46 and refused to take another step. He eventually retreated into the woods.
Figuring this would not be the day, Miller remained in his stand and continued to watch other deer in the field nearby. A half hour later, he caught a glimpse of movement in the nearby foliage.
“He was coming in below me through the trees at about 35 yards,” Miller explained. “He stepped into the field and started walking the edge an the first place he popped out was 18 yards.”
At full draw, Miller grunted, the buck stopped, and the arrow was on its way. After running about 150 yards, the buck collapsed and for Miller, a three years quest was finally at an end.
It will require two months of drying before the official Pope and Young score can be tallied, but Miller feels confident the score will be in the 170’s.