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Virgel Shook Pinpoints the Bucks He Wants to Take Each Season

Virgel Shook of Amenia, New York, is 44 years old and first followed his grandfather and dad into the woods once he started walking. He took the first available hunter safety course he could find at age 14 and later his first deer with his bow. He’s been shooting competition 3D and paper targets since his mid-20s, and today, his son Christian hunts with him with a bow. He credits his wife, Tanya, with being so supportive and encouraging his hunting, and explains, “This year, I’m changing my tactics for deer hunting. Instead of hunting any buck that I see and want to take, I’m focusing on one buck and devoting my season to him.” 

New York’s Wide 8 Buck Deer That Became the Wide 13

virgel shook new york buck

I’ve got 600 acres of private property that I can hunt, which is a tremendous-sized piece of land here in the State of New York. I’m very fortunate to have found an amazing landowner who understands deer hunting. I help him on his farm, and in return he’s given me and my buddy permission to hunt there. 

Two years ago, I got the first pictures of this wide, 8-point buck. I was almost able to take him during the 2017 season with my muzzleloader. But one of the neighboring properties had dogs, and the dogs chased the Wide 8 off the land. I typically run trail cameras all year long, but when I discovered this nice 8-point buck, I moved some of my cameras to get hundreds of pictures of him. He started out as a Wide 8, but this year he’s a Wide 13. If I could put a tape on him, I believe he’d score 145-150 on Boone & Crockett, which is a really big deer for the part of New York where I hunt.

I’m concerned because lots of people know about this buck, and many of the hunters in my area don’t respect property lines. Last year, the Wide 8 buck started showing up often on my food plots. During the rut, I got pictures of him chasing does. He vanished for a while, but came back to his summer haunts during muzzleloader season. He had a running mate that was a 10-pointer. Although I didn’t get the Wide 8 in 2017, I did take that 10-pointer that scored between 125 and 130 inches. He was a super 3-1/2-year-old deer. 

This year, I’ve decided to become stealthier and not use a four wheeler and bought an electric bicycle instead. I only hunt this buck when the wind’s right to hunt him for the stands I have set up, and I’m really cautious about where I enter and exit the woods. I’m very meticulous about my scent. I want to do everything I can to prevent this buck from smelling me. When I get on my four wheeler, the scent of the gas and oil from it is on my hunting clothes. I did some research to find a way to reach the spot where I wanted to hunt scent-free quietly. The place I’m hunting has 200 acres of soybeans all around it. When you’re walking or riding a four wheeler, there’s no way to avoid spooking deer with those foreign smells. However, I can ride right by bedded deer on my electric bicycle, and they’ll look at me, but won’t get spooked. They’ll stay in the field, while I get in my stand. 

The bike I finally bought was a RadRover. The price was right, and it was available to buy close to where I live. Other bikes I looked at were much more expensive, and some models would be out of stock for months at a time. I bought my RadRover last January for less than $2000 and used it to scout, shed hunt and check my trail cameras quietly. I can travel 25-30 miles on one charge. 

I planted food plots in 2018 and set up my trail cameras around them. I haven’t seen the 13-pointer yet. On November 18, I saw a really nice 8-pointer that anyone else probably would have shot, but I didn’t take him, because I’m hunting the Wide 13. 

From New York to Big Kansas Buck Deer 

Kansas buck

A friend of mine started hunting Kansas, so I decided to go with him to see if I could find and take a bigger buck than the deer we have here in New York. I killed a 150-inch 10-pointer the first year I hunted there. We hunted with an outfitter that Pat Reeve and Matt Morrett, other Mossy Oak pros had hunted with several times before. I got to know the family of the outfitter and enjoyed being with them about as much as I enjoyed hunting the deer there. 

The big Kansas buck I took never had been seen previously, and there were no trail-camera pictures of him either. He just happened to be there, and I happened to be in the best spot at the correct time to take him. One of the reasons I like to hunt Kansas is you never know what size buck you’ll have an opportunity to take there. 

The ditches where I hunted in Kansas were full of timber, and the landowner had made food plots on the ridges. This landowner had 10,000 acres that were primarily for bowhunting, although a few gun hunters did hunt there. On this hunt, I was shooting a BowTech bow with a Slick Trick broadhead. But now I’m shooting the Rage hypodermic.  

When I first went to this stand, I thought it was a weird place to put a stand, because it stood out with very little back cover. I first saw this buck 300-400 yards away but didn’t think too much about him. I believed he was too far away to come in to where I was. I had several bucks that would score 130-140 that were closer to me, as well as one 8-point buck that would score about 148 inches. The second afternoon I hunted this big buck, he came in much closer to my stand, and I realized how big he was. In the thicket right in front of the food plot where I was hunting, the big 8-pointer had made a scrape. A big buck circled around the back side of the scrape, and then the 8-pointer came into the scrape, and the two bucks started sparring. When I looked at the 8-pointer and this other buck and saw the difference in the size of the two deer, I realized that the bigger deer was a giant. The two deer were only 40 yards from me when they started sparring. 

Something I’ve learned that’s helped me when I’m hunting for big deer is to stand up from the time I arrive at my stand until the time comes to leave. By standing up, I keep my movement to a minimum, and I can be ready to shoot to my left or to my right. Nine times out of ten, when a big deer comes in, there’ll be other deer within range, often does, but occasionally more bucks. When I’m standing up, I’m usually leaning on the seat, and I can stand like that for a pretty good while. 

The big buck was a mainframe 10 with several stickers. This loud buck fight went on for a good while. One of the things I noticed was that the 8-pointer’s rack was inside of the 10-pointer’s rack. The 10-pointer had more than a 22-inch spread of the main beams. As soon as the 10-pointer started looking up at the branch and the scrape above the branch, I was able to draw at him. I had already measured the distance at 26 yards. I aimed a little low, because I know that big bucks often try to jump the string. When my arrow struck the 10-pointer, he took off like a jet airplane. Up until that point I had been pretty cool, calm and controlled, but when I saw that big buck run off as hard and as fast as he could, I came unglued. I started shaking like a leaf in the wind, and I realized I’d better sit down, or I’d fall out of my tree stand. The buck quickly went down in a draw with his tail tucked.

Once I was settled down enough to text my wife, I told her what I’d done. Then I waited for dark. I was in the stand for at least 45 minutes before I came down. I slipped out of my stand, not wanting to push this giant buck. When the outfitter came by to pick me up, I told him I had a good hit on a really nice buck that I believed would score about 150 on Pope & Young. We returned to the lodge and ate dinner. Then my friend who was hunting with me and two guides returned to the spot where I’d arrowed the buck. We immediately pinpointed a really good blood trail and found the buck within 100 yards of where I’d shot him. The buck scored 170+ inches and weighed 305 pounds. I haven’t had him officially scored yet. That was the biggest buck I’d ever taken. Even the locals came to see this buck. 

Hard Luck - the Kansas Buck II 

Hard Luck KS buck

This 150-inch buck – Hard Luck – I took in October, 2018, had a very interesting story. Before I hunted him, another hunter, the year before, had hunted him from the same tree stand where I was hunting. I don’t know what happened, but when this hunter shot Hard Luck, he hit the buck in the leg. Another bowhunter had an opportunity to take Hard Luck, and he hit the buck high in his neck. One of the reasons I liked this outfitter I hunted with in Kansas was he tried to put his hunters in stands that should have favorable winds for that day. The stand the outfitter took me to was called the Trespasser’s Tree, since apparently he’d had problems with trespassers coming on his land to hunt. 

I was hunting during the Kansas rut in early October. When I first saw Hard Luck, he was following a doe that came out of a draw, tending her. Every time the doe moved, Hard Luck moved too. But he wasn’t chasing her. Hard Luck was running when I saw him and grunted all the way into my tree. I heard Hard Luck grunting before I ever saw him. Finally I caught a glimpse of his antlers, coming out of the draw. I then watched this buck for maybe 20 minutes as he moved closer to me. I knew I wanted to take Hard Luck. I was so focused on him and concentrating on where I would try to take the shot that I never thought about how long I watched him. But then heartbreak happened when Hard Luck disappeared but suddenly reappeared in a finger of the foot plot. By this time, the doe was behind Hard Luck. After I spotted him, the doe walked right past him.  

The way my stand was set up, the wind either blew my human odor into a big draw behind me or to the short side of the food plot. The buck and the doe disappeared into the deep draw behind me and came out 12 yards from my stand. Then apparently the doe caught my odor but didn’t totally spook. However, she did become extremely nervous. Once the buck came out of the draw, he was nervous too. I thought for sure they’d break and run at any time. I quickly made the shot, and my arrow hit the buck high in his spine. Hard Luck dropped right where he’d been standing. But he used his front legs to pull himself away from me and moved about 25 yards from where I’d shot him before I could climb down, be in close and make a second shot to put him down. 

Hard Luck scored 150+ inches. What made this Kansas buck so neat to take was that the outfitter had picked up his sheds from the previous year and had given them to me when I arrived. Actually, Hard Luck’s antlers were bigger from the year before I shot him. His shed rack would have scored about 155. However, Hard Luck weighed about 275 pounds live weight when I took him. 

Kentucky Big 8 Buck That’s Really a 7-Pointer

Virgel Shook KY buck

I have a friend, Joe Farrington, who has been my friend since we were little boys growing up together in New York. We also went to high school together. Joe took his first bow buck on some land I had permission to hunt in New York when I’d taken him with me.  As we got older, we sorta lost track of each other, and then we reconnected. I learned that Joe had a farm in western Kentucky. 

We went out in Kentucky’s late season in January. Joe had been hunting this buck very hard, had good trail-camera photos of him and thought he had the buck figured out. When we hunted together, I hunted several other stands on his property for any mature buck I could find – with Joe on one stand and me on another. Joe texted me, “I just missed the Big 8,” a name he’d given to the buck he’d been diligently hunting. I didn’t answer Joe immediately because I was looking at Big 8. Then Joe texted, “There’s no way Big 8 could get to your stand that quickly.” Joe was hunting on his land, 1/4 to ½ mile from me, and I was hunting on some property that Joe leased. An unusually cold snap had occurred recently. Big 8 was with a smaller 7-pointer. Big 8 had no idea I was in a nearby tree stand, hunting next to a soybean field. I caught a glimpse of the 7-point buck crossing a ditch and moving out into a green field. I had already stood up in my stand when I next spotted Big 8 coming to the bean field. He looked like an elk moving through the woods, due to his very big rack. His antlers also looked so big because he’d been chasing does during the rut, and his body appeared to be much smaller than it should have been. That trait caused him to look much like a Texas deer with a small body but a big rack.

Although I’d hunted Kentucky before, I’d never drawn my bow on a buck there. I drew on Big 8 when he was 30 yards away as he walked toward me. Once he was about 24 yards away, I bleated with my mouth and sent the arrow his way when he stopped walking. I hit both lungs, but the arrow didn’t penetrate his body and come out the other side. As Big 8 took the arrow, he did a mule kick and ran like his tail was on fire. Although he was at 20 yards when I took my shot, I couldn’t see where he’d fallen. By the time I’d gotten down from my tree, darkness was covering the woods. Big 8 had gone into a thicket. I decided to leave him overnight. Joe and I realized the river was close by to where I was hunting, so even though I felt I had a good hit, I didn’t want to follow up after the shot and possibly push him into the river. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I knew that the buck I shot was Big 8 because in some of the trail-camera pictures Joe had shown me of Big 8, that same 7-pointer was in the pictures.  

We got on Big 8’s blood trail at first light and followed it for 15-20 minutes. He had only gone about 70 yards before piling up in some very thick CRP ground. Once Joe and I found Big 8 the next morning, he told me, “Oh no, Big 8 is bigger than I thought he was.” Big 8 had such a big frame and had lost so much weight from his rutting activities, he might have weighed 200 pounds before the rut. Another surprise was that the Big 8 was only a 7-pointer, since one of his brow tines hadn’t grown out. 

Lucky New York 8 Buck 

Lucky buck trail camera

Mossy Oak ProStaffer Tracy Grove of Maryland is the reason I changed my hunting tactic from taking any mature buck to hunting one buck each season on the ground where I hunt. Tracy told me, “You really get a great feeling when you pinpoint a mature deer on the land you have to hunt – whether that land’s public or private – and you hunt that buck until you take him. There’s nothing like that feeling.” 

After I started getting trail-camera pictures of the New York 8 for a couple of years, I noticed he was always on the move. I saw him three or four times in the wild, but I never could get a bow shot on him. Then one evening, just before gun season arrived in New York, that New York 8 presented a shot, and I just grazed him with my broadhead. I named this buck Lucky, because he’d barely dodged my broadhead. I spent the day after I shot Lucky to make sure that I hadn’t hit him. I found some hair, where my broadhead had cut his hair but no blood. Lucky was only 15 yards from me when I took my shot, and I couldn’t believe I’d missed him. However, once I replayed the shot in my mind, I realized that I’d been hunting Lucky so hard that when I finally had the chance to take him, I got so nervous that I shot over his back and barely grazed him. 

I knew for certain that I hadn’t mentally and physically gone through my shot routine.  The mechanics of making an accurate shot just didn’t kick in for me on this hunt. After I searched for Lucky for a day, I told myself, “Lucky’s gone. I’ll never see him again.” I’d taken the shot around November 16th, and New York’s gun season would arrive on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. On opening day of gun season, I returned to that same stand and thought to myself, “Maybe, just maybe, I’ll see another nice buck come by that stand.” The deer all around where I hunted received lots of hunting pressure once gun/deer season started, and I thought perhaps the deer would be moving often. I watched six bucks that morning chasing does. However, none of them were mature bucks. I spotted a couple of bucks that were borderline shooters. But I told myself that I would wait and hope to see a mature buck. After missing Lucky, I was still licking my wounds from missing a buck like him. 

While I was glassing from my stand, I caught a flash of antler about 200 yards away through the woods. I didn’t know whether or not Lucky heard those other bucks chasing the doe over by my stand, or if he had seen them and the doe earlier. However, once I finally got my binoculars on that antler, I realized, “Holy cow, that big shooter buck is running straight toward my stand.” At that time, I didn’t know for sure if he was Lucky or not. The buck was so close that I lost him in the scope on my muzzleloader. When I finally spotted him again, I realized he was at the base of my stand and so close I could have shot him with my bow if I’d had it. The buck dropped where he stood when I shot. I put down my gun, took out my phone and texted my wife that, “I got one.” 

Since I knew that buck wasn’t going anywhere, I climbed out of my stand and went over to look at this big buck and saw where my broadhead had cut the hair off his back and made a small wound there during bow season.  I realized I’d taken Lucky. Most people probably wouldn’t have seen the wound or noticed the small patch of hair on his back being gone. But I certainly did. Lucky scored 140+ inches.

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