This was early July. Both bucks' antlers were still growing. I've done a little checking on the Internet, and judging from the growth-rate photos I saw, both bucks' racks should gain another inch or two in height before they max out.
Two or three other guys in the dining car were hunters, too, and they were equally astonished to see two such honking big trophy-class bucks - and in Hardy County, of all places!
"Bucks like that just aren't supposed to be here!" one said.
Now before my friends in Hardy County get bent out of shape and start e-mailing me about the nice bucks they've killed or have seen, let me acknowledge that any West Virginia county can grow trophy bucks.
On average, though, bucks from Eastern Panhandle counties - Hardy included - tend to grow substantially smaller racks than, say, bucks from the state's southern and southwestern counties.
I've photographed and written stories about more than a dozen state-record or near-record bucks.
All of them, save one, were killed south of Interstate 64 and west of Beckley.
If I'd seen the two Hardy County bucks while driving through Wyoming County, I might not have been as surprised but I still would have been impressed. They were that big.
The timely, burning question is whether the Hardy County wall-hangers were a fluke, or if they represent part of the widespread increase in rack size DNR game-checking crews have noted during the past few seasons.
Last year's Trophy Buck Contest honored big-antlered whitetails from a whopping 34 counties, far more than in past years. Don't be surprised if two from Hardy County show up in this year's roster.