Everyday Outdoors: The Crooked Tree Buck

Bucks I have known: Part X

This is the latest in a multi-part series of columns about memorable deer that stand out from decades of whitetail hunting.

The Crooked Tree Buck

1986 was a good year for me as a young hunter. I had been at my first long-term job for two years. The previous year, I had been able to purchase my first new 4-wheel drive vehicle, and some better hunting gear. In September of ’86, my brother and I had travelled for the first time to hunt, making to trip to Canada to successfully hunt black bears.  When we got back to West Virginia, it seemed it was going to be a good year for deer hunting, with several nice bucks sighted in areas where I could hunt. In October, I was fortunate to take a nice 8-point buck with my bow. It was the biggest deer I had taken with archery equipment at that time. With a couple of even bigger bucks known to be in the same area, I was really looking forward to firearms season.

The first morning of the 1986 West Virginia general firearms season — “buck season” to local hunters — I was perched in a favorite spot in Western Morgan County. I had first hunted there four years previously, and had already killed a couple of nice bucks from it. This spot, which I have described in previous articles, was a leaning tree growing out from a very steep hillside. The game plan was to sit astraddle the tree’s main trunk, while using a wide fork at the top as a rifle rest to shoot across the hollow to the opposite ridge. The distance to the trails I was watching varied from around 150 yards to about 350 yards, which in those days I considered to be fairly long distance.

As I sat in my tree, looking through binoculars at the other ridge, I noticed movement almost straight below me. I looked down at a wide set of antlers towering above the laurel. The buck took another step and disappeared into the heavy cover. The steep hillside was rocky and bare under the laurel bushes, with well-worn game trails deeply cut in. Even being so close, the big deer had not made a sound. I mentally kicked myself for being so focused on the opposite ridge that I had allowed this nice buck to slip in and leave.

But he had not left! At least 20 minutes later, I once again saw movement in the laurel. The buck had only taken a few steps. I shot him at a distance of about 40 feet.

Even though I had taken a couple of other bucks while hunting from this same tree from 1982 to 1986, this was the biggest one. He was also the last one. The tree was dying, and in another year or so it had fallen over. Those bucks are all special to me, but this one is a little extra special. In my memories, 1986 will always be a great hunting season, and that deer will always be The Crooked Tree Buck.

Wade Shambaugh has lived in Morgan County his whole life and is a lifelong outdoorsman.