Claiborne County yields opening-week trophy buck

Patrick McManus held off shooting a buck with his bow for years, waiting on a trophy to walk by. That patience paid off Oct. 3 when he arrowed this 160-class Claiborne County 9-point.

Massive 9-point is avid bowhunter’s first archy buck.

Having grown up hunting his family’s farm in rural Claiborne County, 23-year-old Patrick McManus is no stranger to massive whitetails. His walls are adorned with a number of these monsters, but none had been taken with stick and string.

An avid bowhunter since the young age of 12, McManus has harvested dozens of does with archery gear; however, due to an intense deer management program combined with his own personal choice to hold out for a mature whitetail, McManus had yet to realize his dream of taking a trophy buck with his bow.

That would all change on the evening of Oct. 3 when what has been estimated to be a 160-class buck stepped out.

McManus is a firm believer in utilizing trail cameras to help identify the bucks in his hunting area. And in early September his cameras began capturing images of several racked bucks, but one massive 9-pointer stood out from the rest.

Click here to see a trail-cam photo of the monster deer.

McManus knew instantly that this big boy was the buck he would target when archery season opened.

McManus’ plan was to wait until the weekend prior to opening day and place a lock-on stand on the edge of a harvested milo field the buck had been frequenting. However, heavy rains prevented him from making preparations.

Preferring afternoon hunts, McManus decided to try his luck from one of his dad’s old tree stands that had been in place for several years. His first hunt on opening day was by no means a bust, with several does, a few spikes and a number of racked bucks feeding near his stand.

However, the big 9-pointer failed to show up.

McManus returned to the bottleneck in the milo field on Oct. 3 with a climbing stand in tow.  Arriving early enough to check the images on his trail camera and still have time to hang his stand, McManus was optimistic that the elusive 9-pointer was still in the area.

Turns out, he had reason to be.

“The trail camera I had set up near the area I planned to hunt had a picture of the big buck feeding on acorns at 5:30 p.m. the previous day,” McManus said. “My confidence soared as I scanned the area for the perfect ambush site.”

With very few trees in the area suitable for a climbing stand, McManus finally found a rather small tree that would have to suffice.  After climbing to what he felt was a suitable height, McManus pulled his bow up and settled in for the evening.

After sitting patiently for over an hour and a half, McManus finally detected deer activity.  Around 6:30 p.m. a small spike and several does came out and began feeding on the acorns that covered the ground around his stand.

Moments later, he spotted a bachelor group of bucks feeding in the cut milo field to his right.  Even with the limbs around his stand obstructing his view, McManus could tell that the four racked bucks were slowly feeding in his direction.

In order to avoid detection from the wary eyes of the does feeding nearby, McManus limited his motion by watching the bucks out of the corner of his eye.

That’s when things began to unravel. McManus’ right contact (his shooting eye) popped out and landed in his lap. But even with blurred vision, he was able to identify the buck bringing up the rear of the bachelor group as the monster 9-pointer.

“I knew that if I stood any chance at getting a shot I would have to get my contact back in my eye,” McManus said. “Holding my bow in my left hand, I carefully picked up the contact that had fallen and stuck to my pants leg.

“After a bit of a struggle using one hand, I was finally able to get it back where it belonged.”

The three bucks in the lead worked their way down the trail that passed by McManus’ stand, but the big 9-pointer decided to stop and feed on acorns. The short pause gave McManus time to plan his attack: He would wait until the monster walked behind a pair of giant oak trees, and then draw his bow and shoot him when he reappeared in the opening on the opposite side.

But everyone knows the old saying about the best laid plans.

As soon as the big buck’s head went behind the oak tree, McManus carefully pulled his Mathews Helim to full draw. Unfortunately, the three lead bucks spotted his movement and spooked, causing the big 9-pointer to freeze in place with his head behind the tree trunk and his body exposed.

McManus knew it wouldn’t be long before the big buck would spook, as well. Quickly, he squatted low enough in his stand to clear a limb blocking the deer’s shoulder.

Calmly placing his 20-yard pin on the sweet spot behind the buck’s front leg, he squeezed the release trigger, and the Gold Tip carbon arrow found its mark.

“I knew it was a good hit because I could see my arrow sticking out of the buck’s shoulder as he broke for cover,” McManus explained. “He only went a short distance before falling into a deep creek bed.

“Then everything got really quite, so I knew he was down.”

It didn’t take long for McManus to lower his bow, descend the tree and make his way to where the buck was standing when he shot him. A quick blood-trailing job brought McManus to the bank of the creek.

Lying in the bottom of the creek bed was the monster buck McManus had only dreamed of taking with his bow.

“I have passed up lots of small-racked young bucks with my bow waiting on a buck of this caliber,” said McManus. “It was definitely worth the wait!”

The massive 9-pointer greenscored a tad over 160 inches of antler. The rack’s mass extends throughout the entire rack with circumferences measuring 5 inches at the bases and get even larger along the main beams. Those thick beams make the 18 ½ inch inside spread appear much narrower.

The buck’s main beams taped out over 22 inches and carried G2 and G3 points measuring 10 inches in length.

McManus’ monster 9-pointer was aged at 6 ½ years old and tipped the scales at 225 pounds.

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