Seasoned hunter finds a gem in a secluded and almost forgotten spot

RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va. — John Lewis of Helen, West Virginia had not given a lot of thought to a secluded spot where he had hunting privileges in the early days of the 2023 hunting season. However, that all changed in October when a camera he had left in the area showed him a vision he had never seen before.

“The hunting club that has it has a one tree stand rule. So I pulled the tree stand to comply, but I thought I could still hunt off the ground and left the camera there,” Lewis explained. “I went back November 14th because I hadn’t checked that camera all year and low and behold on October 31st I had him on camera. Then November 18th or 19th, he’s in there with two eight points chasing does around. I thought I might have a chance.”

Lewis decided the secluded spot, less than a mile from his home, was where he planned to spend at least the first part of the West Virginia gun season. That plan however was slightly derailed when his grandson wanted his company on opening day.

“The number one priority is that grandson,” laughed Lewis.

Hunting in a different area his grandson killed a nine-point buck. It was a thrill for Lewis, but he also knew it clear his path for an opportunity to pursue what he considered the buck of a lifetime.

“I’ve killed a lot of deer. \I have 15 bucks mounted on the wall and I’m telling you, this is the biggest buck I’ve ever seen,” he explained.

The pictures showed the big buck with a deformity on the end of his left main beam. The antler tip appeared to have been split in two directions with a piece of it still protruding from the beam. It was a huge rack and the oddity only added to its allure. Lewis still thought he had a good chance at killing the buck.

He hunted the area a few days and actually had a chance to kill one of the eight point bucks he had seen on camera, but decided to hold off in hopes he might be able to bring down the big prize. Thanksgiving Day, the opportunity arrived. John got to his position in the the early morning darkness hoping not to spoil a pattern he had noticed on camera. The deer had been arriving in the area between 4:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. The camera revealed they would be there a short time, then leave, but would return.

“It was so foggy I couldn’t see 40 yards. A doe comes in and I thought that was it that he would come in trailing her. But then she leaves and I thought my window of opportunity is closed if she doesn’t come back. But about 8:00 she came back,” he explained.

Just as John had imagined, the doe dragged the big buck with the split antler behind her.

“I looked out this bench and I’m in a little chair blind and out of nowhere this big buck walks in between me and her. He’s 20 to 25 yards, I could have shot him with a bow. I didn’t think I could get the rifle up he was so close. Luckily, he put his nose to the ground and was headed to her,” he said.

Using the distraction of the rut, John shot the buck once behind the shoulder and he ran about 30 yards then stopped and looked back. A second shot sent the buck and the doe over the hill. John found him a short time later about 50-yards away on the ground.

“It happened so fast once he came into view, you knew that was the target buck you were looking for,” he said.

John is a man who isn’t easily moved by big deer, but this buck was a different story.

“He is a buck of a lifetime, I promise you,” he said.

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