For Matthew Sandel, March 12 can’t get here quickly enough — and the wait will be excruciating to say the least.
That’s the day the mandatory 60-day drying period will elapse on the 10-point buck he killed in Adams County on Jan. 12. It has been green-scored twice and produced a net Boone & Crockett score of 172 5/8 inches.
“Thing is, it’s nearly perfectly symmetrical, with like only 2 inches of deductions between the right and left main beams,” Sandel said. “That doesn’t leave a lot of room to spare for dry loss.”
B&C requires a minimum of 170 inches for typical antlers to get a permanent listing in the record book.
“It’s going to be close,” Sandel said. “I really expect it to end up being in the high 160s, but 170 is a possibility. I’m hoping it makes it, but even if it doesn’t, it’s going to look good on my wall.”
Sandel has already successfully beaten one deadline. The native of Natchez now living in Gulfport is a directional driller for an oil company. He’s currently drilling wells in Texas and had to start his next long shift on Jan. 13.
“With me being scheduled to go back to work, Jan. 12 was the last day of my season,” he said. “By the time I get back to Mississippi, the season will be over.
“My timing was perfect, not only for that but because that day appears to have been the day that the bucks chasing does hit its peak.
“In all the years I’ve deer hunted — and I started as a kid — I’ve never seen it that hot. I killed this buck pushing a doe at 1 p.m., and that morning I’d seen so many bucks chasing does. It was crazy.”
The day started kind of kooky, too. Sandel and his hunting partner and friend Beau Bogard had a late start, and in the confusion Sandel grabbed the wrong rifle.
“I grabbed my son’s .243 instead of my .270 short mag,” the 35-year-old Sandel said. “Turns out that was a good thing: Where I was hunting, in that thick cover in the woods, the flat-shooting .243 was actually the better gun.”
He wasn’t worried about the gun’s knockdown power, either.
“My son Cameron is 8 years old and he is nine for nine with that rifle,” Sandel said. “And he knocked all nine of them down where they stood. It’s a great-shooting Remington Youth Model 700 that I bought two years ago, and it’s a hot-shooting little gun.”
Sandel has spent most of this season hunting with Cameron, and the youngster had killed a nice 130-inch 10-point.
“I haven’t had much time to hunt by myself, and he wanted to go that day, too,” Sandel said. “But I told him he had to go to school.”
Sandel, who had missed a 160-inch buck with his bow on Oct. 1, was confident when he and his partner reached their stands that Tuesday morning.
“We knew the rut was happening and the chase was on,” he said. “Beau had killed a 145-inch 10 point the afternoon before, and he went back to that same stand. I went to the stand I had hunted the day before, where I had passed on several nice bucks.
“We were hunting a friend’s place, and they told me there was a big buck in the area. They’d seen in two or three times. I had never seen it, at least I’m not sure; that morning, when I got to the stand right at daylight, I saw a big-bodied buck for a few seconds. I think it was him, but I’m not sure.”
The conditions were ideal. It was a cold morning, very cold.
“It was like 26 or 28 degrees when we got there,” Sandel said. “Even though we were late, I got to my stand and it was still too dark to see the deer with my binoculars. Every time I went to look through them they’d fog up from my breath, so I never got a good look at that buck.
“But it was a big buck with a lot of antler; I’m just not sure (if it was the same one he later killed).”
The rest of the morning, through to 10 o’clock, was entertaining. The big buck never reappeared, but Sandel said there were plenty of other nice bucks pushing does.
“It was busy, but Beau texted me about 10 (a.m.), and said he needed to go back to the truck and file some paperwork on his computer,” Sandel said. “I told him I needed a break, so I met him at the truck. He got his work done, and at about noon I told him I was going back to my stand.”
No sooner had he ascended the 15-foot ladder to the two-man platform than Sandel noticed movement.
“I looked up and saw a doe walking from my left to right about 70 yards in front of me,” he said. “I looked behind her, and all I could see was antlers coming through the woods.
“There were four bucks, all of them nice ones — all at least 130 inches — with this big one up front. He was bumping that doe, with the other bucks trailing about 20 feet behind him.”
It didn’t take long to make a decision.
“I was watching through the binoculars, and decided he was no doubt the bigger and better buck and one that I would shoot,” Sandel said. “The problem was that every time I would put the binoculars down and pick up my gun, I couldn’t find him in the scope.
“This went on for at least 30 seconds or a minute. I’d see him in the binoculars, but couldn’t find him in the scope.”
The doe finally stopped, and the buck was right on her tail. That gave Sandel a better opportunity to find the beast in his rifle scope.
“I made him out, but right there he was behind a tree,” the hunter said. “The tree perfectly blocked his shoulder and vitals, and I had no other shot, so I just waited. He bumped the doe with his chest and she took about three or four steps, and he followed.
“When he stopped it was perfect. He was broadside and in a clear shooting lane. I put the crosshairs on his shoulder, squeezed the trigger and he went down right where he was standing.”
The rut had worn out the buck.
“The body didn’t match the rack,” Sandel said. “He weighed 225 pounds, but I bet it was more like 255 or 260 back during archery season. He had loose skin hanging all over his body.”
But that rack was massive.
“I couldn’t believe the size and the symmetry,” Sandel said. “The first thing you notice is the symmetry.”
The inside spread was 21 2/8 inches, and the right main beam was 25 2/8 and the left 25 3/8. The brow tines reached respectable lengths of 6 1/8 (right) and 5 2/8 (left).
Other right side-side measurements included an 11 6/8 G2, a 10 4/8 G3 and a 4 2/8 G4.
The left side carried an 11 4/8 G2, a 10 1/8 G3 and a 4 6/8 G4.
The four circumference measurements were nearly perfectly matched: both bases taped out at 5 inches, followed by 4 5/8 (R) and 4 6/8 (L), 4 6/8 (R) and 4 7/8 (L) and both had 3 6/8 on the final measurement.
“It’s going to be a long two months,” Sandel said. “I can’t wait for it to pass.”
Click here to read other big-buck stories from the 2015-16 season.
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