GALLATIN, TENN. - A Tennessee man bagged what state wildlife officials hoped would be world-record whitetail deer earlier this week, but he said the kill was days in the making.
Stephen Tucker, 26, of Gallatin attempted Saturday to shoot the trophy buck with a muzzleloader, but his gun misfired. He saw the animal again later in the day but was too far away to get what he thought would be a clean shot.
"I was just hoping I would see him again after I passed up the shot the second time I saw him," said Tucker, who estimated he was about 150 yards away at the second sighting. "My thinking was the second time I saw him was as far away as he was and as big as he was, I wanted to make sure that I killed him. I didn't want to cripple him. I said to myself, 'If I cripple him, nobody will get to kill him.' The last thing I wanted to do was be the guy who crippled a deer like that."
Tucker saw the buck again two days later, about 6 a.m. CT Monday, and killed him with a shot from about 40 yards away.
"There's no doubt it's going to be the new state record. I mean, that's an absolute," said Capt. Dale Grandstaff of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. "As far as the world record, (the rack) is about an inch over the world record."
Since the rack, the buck's antlers, must dry out for 60 days before it is officially measured, the measurement could change slightly. And because the number now is so close to the world record deer killed by a hunter, it might not stand up.
However, it easily beats Tennessee's record.
Racks are measured from side to side at the farthest points and inside the spread of the main stems using the official Boone and Crockett scoring method. The Boone and Crockett Club, founded in 1887 and named after Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone, created the first big-game scoring system.
Grandstaff, an official Boone and Crockett scorer, measured the 47-point non-typical rack at 313-2/8 inches gross. The net score after deductions was 308⅜ inches.
A nontypical rack is asymmetrical and does not have the same number of points on each side like a typical rack.
The current Tennessee record, a buck killed by Dave Wachtel in Sumner County in 2000, grossed 256 points and netted 244⅜ inches.
The world record deer killed by a hunter came in 2003 from Tony Lovstuen in Albia, Iowa, had 38 points and scored 307⅝ inches net. The world record nontypical whitetail deer came in at 333⅞ inches on a 44-point buck in St. Louis County, Mo., but the 5-year-old animal was found dead in 1981 with no visible wounds.
Tucker's deer is pending an official Boone and Crockett score by a panel, which will include Grandstaff and take place after the 60-day drying-out period.
"When we panel score it as a group, we could come up with a similar score right at what it is now," Grandstaff said. "It may be an inch less than what I have it at. It may be an inch or two or three more. It just depends on how we as a group decide it needs to be scored. Right now it's a green score because I just wanted to give (Tucker) an idea because I knew he would get a thousand phone calls once word gets out and they're all going to say, 'What did it score?' "
Saturday was the opening of muzzleloader hunting season in Tennessee.
Tucker, who farms for a living, did not weigh the deer before having it processed, but he estimated it weighed just more than 150 pounds.
Grandstaff said the deer was likely 3½ years old.
After killing the deer, Tucker said he thought it could be a state record, and that's and that is why he notified the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
"I realize there's only a possibility that it's going to be a world record. All we're worried about right now is that it's the state record," Tucker said. "If it is the world record, that would be great. But I'm not getting my hopes up on that."
Regardless, Grandstaff said Tucker should be happy with his unique kill.
"A deer like this deer doesn't come along very often," Grandstaff said. "The field pictures don't really do it justice. You would have had to actually see it to understand the amount of nontypical growth it has."