CHAPMANVILLE, W.Va. — When West Virginia’s 2020 archery hunting season opened in September, Brock Dalton of Chapmanville had a pretty strong feeling. It was a feeling of confidence. He was fairly certain if conditions were right, he was going to be able to take a big buck.
However, like most who pursue big bucks in one of West Virginia’s four archery-only counties, Dalton’s confidence had been backed up by a lot of leg work in the preseason. Actually, in several previous seasons of hunting the same area.
“I’ve hunted this place for over ten years now. I’ve learned year after year what these deer do. I know where they bed, where they feed, and what they do,” Dalton shared on a recent edition of West Virginia Outdoors.
Since he’s spent a decade on the property, Dalton has been able to learn the habits of the deer, but he’s also been able to adjust his own habits to insulate them from his action.
“I let my cameras be my eyes. I don’t go in there often. I’m always scent free and I always check the wind. I use those in my favor so I don’t spook any of those deer out,” he explained.
The buck Dalton intended to pursue leading up to the 2020 opening day was one he knew well. He had spotted the deer as an 8 point buck three years ago. He estimated at the time, the young buck had potential. He spied the buck on camera for the next couple of years and in 2019 decided it was time to try and take him.
“He was four years old and he was probably 140 inches. I kind of hunted him and I saw him a few times, but I never got a shot at him. Thank God!,” Dalton said. “This year he just blew up,”
The massive rack on the huge whitetail transformed from a really nice deer, to one of those legendary bucks hunters have become accustomed to seeing in the steep hills of the West Virginia coalfields. It also turned out, in 2020, the buck wasn’t bashful.
“I was able to get him on camera in the daylight hours every day from July until the day I shot him. I knew if the conditions were right, I’d be able to kill that deer on opening day,” he shared.
Turned out, conditions weren’t right on opening day. It was warm, very warm. Dalton explained the conditions a week earlier had been much better with cooler temperatures. However, you hunt when you can and he climbed into the tree on opening day. Conditions may not have been perfect, but they were obviously good enough.
“I had deer all over me. Probably 11 or 12 deer when I spotted him about 6:30 (p.m.) about 100 yards away coming down the hill. Another buck jumped and spooked those deer and three of them ran right under my tree stand,” he explained.
He feared the does would give away his position as he attempted to draw his bow. He was able to get to full draw without anything in the woods taking notice. The challenge became holding the pose indefinitely as the buck wandered closer.
“It seemed like a long time before I was able to take the shot. He finally gave me a broad side shot and I hit him and the arrow broke off, but I had pretty good blood coming from him,” Dalton explained.
He called up some good friends like David Miller and others who were much more adept at recovering downed deer to come help him track the animal. They held back for about four hours as Dalton sweated it out.
“I was pacing in my garage like a caged tiger,” he laughed.
The group returned to the area armed with flashlights around 11 p.m. They quickly picked up the trail. The bruising deer was located 60 to 70 yards from where Dalton put a perfect shot on his shoulder just a few hours earlier. He was finally able to get his hands on the antlers of a giant.
“That feeling of seeing that buck and how big he was means everything to me, especially the people I got to share it with,” he said.