Like many West Virginians, Mark Shabdue travels outside the state to hunt for trophy bucks. He also hunts here in the state, and therein lies a story.
This past hunting season, Shabdue and his family enjoyed the sort of success most hunters can only dream of. Much of that success came in the big-buck Mecca of Illinois, but ironically the biggest buck came practically in Mark's Putnam County backyard.
Regular readers will probably remember that in late October, I wrote about how Shabdue's 15-year-old daughter, Chelsea, killed a handsome 11-point buck during the Illinois youth season. A few weeks after the story ran, Shabdue contacted me and told me that he and his brother had returned to the Land of Lincoln and had each killed 11-pointers of their own.
While filling me in on those hunts, he added wryly, "But you know, a buck I got right here in West Virginia between those Illinois hunts put all those other bucks to shame."
My ears perked up.
Shabdue told how he and his brother had captured on a trail cam the image of a big 10-point whitetail roaming a piece of property they lease near Buffalo.
"Not only did we have pictures of it, a neighbor also had pictures of it," Shabdue recalled. "We didn't hunt for it until early November, though. We were waiting for the right wind."
On Nov. 2, Shabdue got the conditions he wanted and headed toward a tree stand he'd set up.
"I hadn't even reached the stand," he said. "I had eased up onto a little hump just downhill from the stand and peeked down over the hill toward a thicket.
"I saw a small buck lying down. And then I looked down the hill a little farther and saw another deer lying beside a log. I could tell it had a big rack, but I couldn't see how big."