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Courtesy Katherine Cochran
Al Clary's 20-point Sussex County buck was the top deer from the 2012-13 season at the Virginia Big Game Trophy Show.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
You get an idea of how dedicated a deer hunter Al Clary is by the fact that during the final hour of the 2012-13 season he was giving a Sussex County swamp one more look before hanging up his deer gun, something many hunters had already done.
It wasn't that the 45-year old Hanover sportsmen hadn't enjoyed a stellar season. He had killed deer with bow, muzzleloader and modern firearm.
"I've been successful. I have killed a lot of deer," he will tell you, with no bragging intended. In 1991, one of his bucks scored 161 Boone and Crockett and placed high in a Virginia Deer Hunters Association contest.
As the past season ebbed with the sun, Clary and his hunting partner, Jay Rideout, heard a couple of dogs working a deer on Hunt Road Hunt Club property located in the thick of hound-hunting country. Clary isn't sure whose dogs they were, but he quickly set up to be part of the final chase of the season.
"I'm just glad I wasn't lazy and sitting in my truck," he told me at the Virginia Big Game Trophy Show this past weekend in Franklin. The event has been sponsored by the Virginia Peninsula Sportsmen's Association for 74 years. (Check for statistics on www.vpsa.org.)
What Clary saw striding his way was something most hunters only dream about, or observe on the cover of Field & Stream. It was a buck with a massive rack and it was passing within a stone's throw. Clary is certain he'd seen the buck before, on a trail camera image in 2011. But not since.
Clary and his buddies have a special name for big bucks-"Mahulla." He even has the word on the license tags of his truck. This time, he was looking Mahulla in the eye. He pulled the trigger on his 10-gauge, Browning pump, sending a load of OO's into the deer's chest. But it kept on running. That puzzled Clary.
"I just don't miss," he said.
With darkness closing in, Clary and Rideout searched for the deer, penetrating the edges and interior of the swamp where it last was seen. Club members joined them, and even members of other clubs
"Man, that is a gigantic deer," Clary keep telling them. "Mahulla!"
The search for the dead deer was resumed on Sunday. No luck. Then again on Monday and Tuesday. Still no luck.
"We were just looking in the wrong place. I wasn't giving up," said Clary.
On Wednesday he got a call from a hunting buddy, Craig Phelps. The buck had been found. It had only gone about 100 yards into the swamp when it dropped.
"Is it Mahulla?" Clary asked.
"Oh, it is fairly nice," he was told in deadpan fashion.
Nice? The 20-point buck was the biggest in the 2012-13 state competition, scoring 224 8/16 under Virginia's unique measuring system. There are a lot of bucks in the record book ahead of it, but it is a true Mahulla. It scored approximately 190 Boone & Crockett.
The largest buck in the 9-to 11-point class was an 11-point Craig County kill by Donald Sledd that scored 211 13/16.
The top deer in the Western Contest didn't show up for the state competition. The 17-point bow-killed buck from Amherst County, taken by Ed Muse of Goode, would have placed first in the state bowhunting competition with a score of 215 0/16. Instead, Campbell County archer Dewey Carwile won with a 12-pointer that scored 195 2/16.
For information on the top bear and turkey in the state contest, check Bill Cochran's Field Reports.
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