Gary Gusler of Burlington knew an astounding whitetail lived at a farm where the hunter had taken three nice bucks the previous three seasons, but he didn’t have a trail-camera photo of the 14-point non-typical wall-hanger. On Nov. 22, he finally got a close up look at the deer after he shot it.
“I knew he was big because of the trail he walked in a cutover,” the 53-year-old farmer said. “It was like a pig’s, wide and all tore up. Doe trails are narrower, and they make smaller tracks.”
Gusler should know about pigs. He had to do all he could to eradicate them from his 200-acre farm to make it suitable for deer, who shied away from the property when the wild pigs were running rampant.
In two years, Gusler shot 23 feral pigs including a 350-pounder.
“Once we got rid of them, the deer situation improved pretty fast,” he said.
Then Gusler managed his land for quality whitetails, letting small-rack bucks walk and harvesting does to create a balanced herd.
“We don't use corn for baiting but plant a mixture in food plots,” he said.
His plots were spread over eight acres, and included a biologic mix of chicory, clay (cow) and snow peas, wheat and turnips. Gusler cut trails through a cutover and planted sections. He placed stands where he had good lines of sight to the food plots.
“(Deer) seem to like the green stuff more than anything else,” he said.
“I don’t like trail cameras because a deer’s eyes are a lot like a night-vision scope,” he said. “They see the light, I think, from trail-cam flashes, and that makes them spooky.”
Nov. 22 started as a foggy morning with the air temperature in the mid-40 degree range when Gusler climbed into a 16-foot two-man stand before daylight.
“The stand is in some pines, 8 to 10 feet back with some good natural cover where I could see one of the shooting lanes,” he said. “(The buck) came out of thick cover into the lane. I first saw him at 114 yards. When he stopped all I saw was his rack. I put my Remington 700, loaded with Weatherby .257 belted cartridge 110-grain Accubond tip bullets, to my shoulder, put the crosshairs behind his shoulder and pulled the trigger at 7:20 a.m.
“The bullet made the same size hole coming out as it made going in and destroyed his heart,” Gusler said.
He called a friend, Jason Marshall, to help drag the buck out of the cutover, where it’d run about 40 yards before falling. They hoisted it onto a four-wheeler rack and it nearly lifted the front wheels off the ground.
“It was huge,” Gusler said. “It weighed 240 pounds.”
Randleman taxidermist Mike Taylor is preparing a life-size body mount.
“My taxidermist estimated a gross score of 170 to 180 (inches),” he said. “The thickness and mass extends all the way to the tips. And (the rack) is colored like a piece of furniture. It has veins of color.”