Like many West Virginians, Mark Shabdue travels outside the state to hunt for trophy bucks. He also hunts here in the state, and therein lies a story.This past hunting season, Shabdue and his family enjoyed the sort of success most hunters can only dream of. Much of that success came in the big-buck Mecca of Illinois, but ironically the biggest buck came practically in Mark's Putnam County backyard.Regular readers will probably remember that in late October, I wrote about how Shabdue's 15-year-old daughter, Chelsea, killed a handsome 11-point buck during the Illinois youth season. A few weeks after the story ran, Shabdue contacted me and told me that he and his brother had returned to the Land of Lincoln and had each killed 11-pointers of their own.While filling me in on those hunts, he added wryly, "But you know, a buck I got right here in West Virginia between those Illinois hunts put all those other bucks to shame."My ears perked up.Shabdue told how he and his brother had captured on a trail cam the image of a big 10-point whitetail roaming a piece of property they lease near Buffalo."Not only did we have pictures of it, a neighbor also had pictures of it," Shabdue recalled. "We didn't hunt for it until early November, though. We were waiting for the right wind."On Nov. 2, Shabdue got the conditions he wanted and headed toward a tree stand he'd set up."I hadn't even reached the stand," he said. "I had eased up onto a little hump just downhill from the stand and peeked down over the hill toward a thicket.
"I saw a small buck lying down. And then I looked down the hill a little farther and saw another deer lying beside a log. I could tell it had a big rack, but I couldn't see how big."Shabdue estimated that the buck was 35 yards away. He drew his bow, centered its 35-yard sight pin on the buck's chest, and released an arrow."He jumped up, whirled and ran down over the hill," Shabdue said. "I thought for sure I'd hit him too far back [to have a quick-killing shot]. I thought I heard something crash down the hill a ways, but wasn't sure."Shabdue didn't want to trail the wounded deer and risk spooking it onto surrounding posted land. He decided to give the deer ample time to expire before searching."I went back to my house and sat there for about 30 minutes," he said. "But then I started wondering what would happen if the deer had died and someone else came in there and found it. I drove back up there and sat in my truck from 4 p.m. to dark to make sure no one else came in."The next morning, Shabdue and his brother returned to search for the deer. They didn't have to look long.
"We spread out; he took the lower flat and I took the higher one," Shabdue said. "We had only covered about 100 yards when my brother yelled out that he'd found the buck."The shot had been a good, humane one after all. The buck went just 70 yards before it died.The massive 10-pointer "green-scored" at roughly 175 inches. The rack is still at the taxidermist's, and Shabdue has not yet had it officially scored."It's pretty wild when you go to a big-buck hotspot and kill big deer, and then you come back home and kill a deer that's even bigger," Shabdue said. "This was, by far, my best hunting season ever. Between Chelsea, my brother and me, we have four trophy bucks at the taxidermist's right now. That's a heck of a season."