Legends are often born in the fall. Throughout deer camps across America, hunters tell of giant bucks of lore. These are deer that successfully eluded hunters year after year and will then defiantly show himself for no purpose other than to humiliate the unsuccessful.
Chad See, owner of Mountin’ Critters Taxidermy in Valley Head, West Virginia had one of those encounters. Chad’s story had a very different ending.
Chad’s story began in the summer of 2011 when his trail camera started to pick up photos of a bruising eight point buck. The wide racked rascal looked like the cover of an outdoor magazine and Chad was ready to hunt him when the season started. However, by November the buck disappeared from his hunting ground and there were no follow up pictures.
“Two weeks before rifle season he just disappeared on me,” said See “I had no clue where he had gone.”
The Sunday before the 2011 rifle season, a buddy called Chad to ask him to help move a tree stand on some property about three miles away. As they were moving the stand they spotted a big buck chasing a doe. Sure enough it was Chad’s deer.
“I told my buddy that buck is hot after that doe, one of you guys will kill it this year,” See said. “Sure enough, that’s what happened.”
As a consolation,Chad was given the privilege, or possibly the painful task, of mounting the buck for his buddy.
“That happens a lot actually,” laughed See.
Chad had forgotten about the deer until the spring when his dad made an interesting discovery on their farm. He picked up a set of massive sheds and showed them to his son.
“I said, ‘That’s the long main beam buck!’ which is what I had called him, but he’s dead,” Chad explained. “But I started going back through my trail cam picks and noticed there were two of them, they must have been twins because they were almost identical but there were slight variations if you looked closely.”
Suddenly Chad’s buck-o-meter was running again. All this past summer he put out his cameras, but got no pictures of any bucks with any size. Until his fiancé Ciara collected the memory cards on August 1. She came straight to the shop with urgency to tell him about a deer he just HAD to see.
“I was just floored,” he said. “I hadn’t had anything but spikes on the camera there. He was facing the camera so you could see the full width and it was just a full velvet monster. It was awesome.”
When he saw the picture Chad remarked, “He’s a freak!” and Ciara responded, “Yeah he’s ‘Freak Nasty’.” The deer’s nickname was solidified as was Chad’s plan to hunt for this big buck this fall.
Through the month of September and October Chad hunted during bow season for the buck with no luck. The only pictures of “Freak Nasty” during those days were night time photos and only sporadically, leading him to believe the buck was moving in and out, but not staying on his farm. His belief was bolstered when neighbors talked about seeing the big racked bruiser. Chad politely downplayed the notion of a big buck on his land and said he hadn’t had any pictures like that on his trail cams.
“Sometimes you have to protect your own,” he laughed.
But “Freak Nasty” would have to wait. Already in the 2012 season Chad had killed the biggest buck of his life with a bow in Kentucky. He had a bow hunt scheduled in Kansas in late October. He left the day Hurricane Sandy dumped three feet of snow on Randolph County. He headed out to Kansas knowing his best opportunity to take “Freak Nasty” was happening at home.
During the Kansas hunt he killed what turned out to be the biggest buck of his life with his bow. It bested the Kentucky buck and he was stoked about his season, until he returned to West Virginia.
“I get home from Kansas. I’m all fired up about the buck I had killed and I check my trail cams and what did I have? Pictures of “Freak Nasty” in broad daylight.” He said.
The first week of buck season is a crazy time for a taxidermist. Chad was covered up with work as the season started and hunters were bringing their trophies to him. He hunted a little on opening day, but only the edges of his dad’s farm in Randolph County. He left the heavier cover at the center of the property alone so as to create a sanctuary from the chaos surrounding his 200-acre parcel.
“I hunted a little with Ciara in the mornings and cringed at each rifle shot that I heard.” he explained. “There were 19 people hunting the surrounding properties. I just knew he was going to be killed.”
If a big buck was killed,Chad undoubtedly would hear about it–and probably have the head brought into the shop. But all during the first week of the season there was no news. No wide heavy beamed eight pointers to report, until Sunday in the middle of the season.
“I was talking with a customer in my shop and he says, ‘You should see that wide 8 point they killed back on Crouch Knob.’ My heart sank.” said Chad. “I knew it was over a mile away, but that is no distance for a buck to cover. I showed a few pics on my phone to the client and he confirmed my worst fears. “Freak Nasty” had been shot on opening day. I almost cried.”
On Monday afternoon of the second week of buck season once his work for the day was caught, See went home and sat on his couch. He didn’t have the heart to head into the woods, but his mind started working on him.
“I was about to take a nap and I said to myself, ‘Big bucks aren’t killed asleep on the couch,” said See.
Fate was getting a grip.
He grabbed his 30-06, which was an unusual measure. See always hunts during rifle season with a muzzleloader and hadn’t hunted with this rifle since the first deer he killed years ago. He started walking into the deepest cover on the farm where no hunter had been this buck season.
“I was walking along an old logging road really slow and I’m just seeing massive scrape after massive scrape after massive scrape,” he said. “Suddenly I caught site of a tine jutting out from a tree. I’ve looked at this buck’s rack enough to know it was him.”
Freak Nasty stood only a few yards away. See shouldered his rifle, clicked off the safety and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. In his excitement he’d forgotten it was a double safety. He remedied the problem, set the crosshairs again, and squeezed only to hear a stomach gnarling “CLICK.” He’d forgotten to chamber a round.
“I worked the bolt quickly but he was already leaving. The only shot I had was at his rear end and that’s where I held. The shot looked good but the buck kept running. I fired twice more and lost sight of the giant.” See explained “I found the impact site and picked up blood right away. I followed a short blood trail to the edge of a logging road where I saw the best sight ever, those huge, wide antlers sticking off the ground.”
Chad called it “the Dream Season.” He killed the three biggest bucks of his life and the third of those ended a year-and-a-half long pursuit. Just in case you wondered…yes he will get “Freak Nasty” mounted.
“Fortunately, I know a guy,” Laughed Chad.