Jody Dalton had killed some mighty big bucks in his lifetime, but nothing like the one he saw walking toward him on a remote Wyoming County hillside.
“When I first laid eyes on him, at about 40 yards, I was like ‘Oh, my God, this could be a state record,” Dalton said in an interview with WV MetroNews. “And he gave me a perfect, broadside 30-yard shot.”
A few hours later, Dalton laid hands on a set of antlers that might, indeed, break West Virginia’s state record for bow-killed, typical-rack deer.
Unlike many hunters who seek trophy whitetails, Dalton didn’t go to great lengths to pattern the buck’s movements. He had seen a single photo of the big buck captured Oct. 26 on a game camera, but chose not to focus specifically on that deer.
“There were one or two [other] deer in that area that I had my eye on,” he told MetroNews. “In November, you never know. The big bucks travel miles.”
Dalton said he always sets aside time to hunt in early November, when the whitetail rut gets cranked up and bucks begin chasing does.
That strategy has worked well for him. In 2009, he downed a buck that measured 154 inches on the Pope and Young scoring scale. In 2011, he took a 142-incher, and in 2018 he bagged a 138-incher. He said he consistently takes bucks of that size because he’s willing to pass up shots on deer that other hunters might consider trophies.
Before he killed this year’s big one, he had already let walk “a smaller 10-pointer and a couple of smaller 8-pointers. You’ve got to let them grow up to get [even bigger].”
Dalton told MetroNews he has “eaten his tag” on several occasions by passing on smaller bucks and waiting unsuccessfully for a bigger one to come along.
“If you’re willing to let bucks walk, they get big,” he added.
He killed this year’s buck in a rugged, remote section of Wyoming County. “The mountains are straight up and down, and I don’t know of any houses within miles,” he said during the radio interview.
When he shot the buck on Nov. 5, Dalton did what most veteran bowhunters do — he waited an hour to begin tracking the deer, just in case it didn’t die quickly. As it turned out, he didn’t wait long enough.
“I jumped him up, and my heart sank,” he recalled.
To give the buck more time to expire, Dalton went to his side-by-side and began a 35-minute ride to his father’s house. Two hours later, he and his father returned to resume the search. They found the buck just 50 yards from where Dalton jumped it up.
The massive 12-point antlers sported 26-inch main beams, an 8 ½-inch inside spread, 10-inch G2 tines, 12-inch G3s and 10- to 11-inch G4s. Those rough measurements put it squarely in the class of the current state-record typical, a 188 7/8-inch McDowell County giant taken in 2014.
A Division of Natural Resources biologist green-scored the rack on Nov. 9, but the agency will not disclose the results until the antlers are officially scored after the required 60-day drying period.
“This was not an official scoring,” said DNR director Steve McDaniel. “Our biologist gave the results to Mr. Dalton, and Mr. Dalton requested that the information be withheld until the rack is officially scored sometime in January.”
Not surprisingly, photos of Dalton’s buck have spread rapidly throughout the state by way of social media. Curiosity abounds, but West Virginia’s deer hunters will have to wait with bated breath until the official scoring takes place.