"I knocked on his door, and he stepped out onto the porch and said, 'I'm guilty, I know I did wrong, I knew I screwed up when I did it.' I never had to ask him a question."
The buck sported a huge 11-point rack that included a massive 10-point main frame with a 7-inch drop tine on one antler.
"The rack gross-scored at 180 2/8, and ended up netting 169 and some change," Ballard said. "Without that drop tine, it would have been a new state record."
The rack's 22-inch spread cost the poacher dearly. The enhanced replacement fee for deer with spreads greater than 20 inches is $2,500, the maximum allowed under the law.
"All told, the young man paid $3,070, which included the standard $200 replacement fee, the enhanced fee, fines and court costs," Ballard said.
The Mingo County buck was killed near Delbarton, and it too was shot by a man who exceeded the allowable limit.
"The initial complaint we got about this buck was that the guy had killed it off someone else's hunting lease [property]," Ballard said. "We talked to the guy who killed it, and he said he didn't kill it on that leased land.
"We questioned him about a couple of bullet holes in the deer's hide, and he admitted it appeared to have been shot with a rifle but claimed he didn't know how who had shot it."
The officers then asked the man if he had killed any other deer during the season.
"He said he had killed a 5-point buck near his house. We asked if he had check tags for both deer, and he did. At that point, it was immaterial whether the big buck was killed on private property, because it was clear the guy had gone over the bag limit."
The buck's massive rack gross-scored 185 inches using the Pope and Young system, and after deductions came in at 171. Had it been legal, it would have ranked among the top 10 bow-killed bucks in state history.
The man pleaded guilty to the charges against him, and paid fines, replacement costs and court fees that amounted to a little more than $3,000.
Ballard believes including the two huge trophies in the agency's Wall of Shame exhibit might help discourage future violators.
"They'll definitely catch people's eye," he said. "If folks realize poaching a big buck could end up costing them thousands of dollars, they might think twice before they pull that trigger or release that arrow."
Reach John McCoy at 304-348-1231 or e-mail johnmc...@wvgazette.com.