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Courtesy John Konkel
John Konkel with his two bucks, the larger one a Dixie Deer Clasic trophy winnter
Thursday, March 21, 2013
John Konkel calls himself a "freezer hunter." The Exmore man has a wife and five kids to feed.
"We put six to eight deer in the freezer each year," he said.
Looking for freezer fodder was his objective on an Election Day morning hunt last season. He had found a perfect natural blind, under a huge oak that had been toppled by Hurricane Sandy. He had his .50-caliber CVA muzzle-loader ready.
It was a perfect morning to catch up with a deer; a few degrees above freezing; a light breeze. "Gorgeous" is the word Konkel used to describe the Accomack County setting in a scrapbook he would compile later.
A few ticks of the clock into legal shooting time, Konkel heard a deer approaching. When he spotted its 8-point rack, thoughts of meat hunting were abandoned.
The deer came out of a thicket, and when Konkel raised his rifle for a shot it stopped a mere 10 yards away. Konkel couldn't see a thing through his scope. He realized it was fogged up.
"I used my fleece glove to clear the scope glass. I looked back through the scope and could clearly see the buck this time."
He pulled the trigger and the deer dropped, kicking and splashing a few seconds in a puddle of water. Konkel thanked God for his good fortune, took some pictures with his cellphone and sent text messages to his sons and friends. Problem was, all of them still were in bed. It was just 6:15 a.m.
So, with time to spare, Konkel decided to hang around for a chance at a mature doe, because the county had a two-deer-per-day limit. Ninety minutes later, he caught a glimpse of another buck. This one was enormous, so big it would earn a trophy in the recent Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh, N.C. The Classic has been around for 33 years and is one of the major deer hunting shows in the country.
There had been reports of a giant buck in the Eastern Shore areas since 2009. A fellow member of Konkel's hunt club had clipped him with an arrow during the bow season. Some named the deer the "Quinby Buck," after the small seaside village where it had been spotted. Others called it "The Elk." Most just kept their mouth shut, revealing what they knew only after Konkel killed it. One hunter showed him some shed antlers believed to be from the buck; another had trail cam pictures.
Konkel was to learn how elusive the buck was. It disappeared into a thicket, reappeared, then walked off without giving him a shot. With the buck slipping away, Konkel grabbed his Tru-Talkergrunt call and Primos bleat can and began grunting, bleating and praying.
Two more deer appeared, both does. Ordinarily, they would look good to a meat hunter, but by now Konkel was deep into trophy hunting. He held fire on the outside chance that the big buck would return.
Suddenly the two does lifted their heads with intensity and began staring to Konkel's right. When Konkel looked that way he spotted a third doe, and 8 yards behind it was the big buck. "He had come back!" Konkel said.
Konkel put the crosshairs of his muzzle-loader on the broad, grey neck of the buck and dropped it in its tracks. The distance was 58 yards.
"I was speechless when I saw the buck up close," he said. "I had never harvested a deer like this, and all I could say for about a minute or more was, 'Thank you, Jesus' over and over."
At the Dixie Deer Classic, the 10-point buck scored 169.5 Boone and Crockett, the highest score in the typical class for a deer taken during the past muzzle-loading season in Virginia. Konkel described the rack this way:
"He was a main-frame 8-pointer with a sticker off his right G-2 and a forked split on his left G-2. A main frame 8-point that scores 150-plus B&C is rare anywhere in the United States."
As for comparisons, the all-time highest-scoring Boone and Crockett buck from Virginia is the atypical state record taken in Warren County during the 1992 muzzle-loading season by Jim Smith of Front Royal. It scored 257-4/8 and ranks 49 in the all-time Boone and Crockett record book.
The top typical buck from Virginia in Boone and Crockett scored 189 2/8 and was taken by Jerry James in Buchanan County in 1999. Konkel's buck is expected to rank about 30th among Virginia all-time typical bucks in Boone and Crockett records.
What might be even more impressive about Konkel's buck than the rack was the weight, which doesn't count in the scoring. On the FHA Hunt Club scales it weighed 215 pounds before being dressed.
Konkel already is making plans to enter his buck in the Virginia Deer Classic scheduled for Richmond in August and the Eastern Region Virginia Big Game Contest set for September in Southampton County.
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