By Verlin Hale, as told to Dave Hurteau I've always been into handguns. As soon as I turned 21 I got my permit, bought a .44 mag. Smith & Wesson, and shot my first deer--a 161-6/8-inch buck that at the time was the third-biggest handgun buck in Indiana. The only problem was that after that, I got it in my head that I needed to take something bigger. I spent the next 21 years trying, passed up a lot of good bucks, and was half ready to give up on the notion when I first spotted this buck last fall. Verlin Hale
I was carrying a Colt Anaconda in .44 mag. with an 8-inch barrel and a Simmons 2X scope. My S&W was stolen in 1999, along with my other 78 handguns, rifles, and shotguns. The collection would be worth about $80,000 today. The police recovered a little more than a dozen guns, but the Colt was the only hunting handgun I got back. Verlin Hale
On the morning of the 19th, I was watching a small woodlot on a 500-acre farm my buddy and I have permission to hunt. At around 9:30 a.m. I got up to stretch my legs, looked out from the edge of a huge cut cornfield, and saw antlers silhouetted against the sky. I knew they were more than 600 yards away, but they looked much closer. I lifted my binoculars and my jaw dropped. On a little rise, smack in the middle of this wide open expanse, lay the biggest buck I’ve ever seen, bedded with a hot doe. Verlin Hale
I hit the dirt and belly-crawled down a fencerow for 400 yards but eventually had to slither into the open field. Edging forward only when the deer were looking away, I told myself I didn’t care if it took me hours to inch up to them. Instead, it took them minutes to spot me–and it was over. I hunted the area every possible moment for the next two days but never saw him. Verlin Hale
That Saturday, I spent a cold, clear morning watching a fencerow between a cornfield and a beanfield. At about 8:30, I became convinced I was in the wrong spot. So I circled around to the opposite side of the field and–of course–spotted three does standing right where I’d been. When I raised my binoculars, a fourth deer stepped out, nose to the ground, dogging the does’ trail. He lifted his head and I thought, Oh my God! Verlin Hale
He was about 320 yards away. Back on my belly, I crawled across a long dip in the cornfield. When I crested the knoll, he was 120 yards out and making his way back into the woods. I had to make a quick decision. When I shot, he jumped straight up into the air and spun around. I could see he was hit back a ways. But as he bolted to his right, he gave me a perfect broadside shot, and I hit him in the right front shoulder. Verlin Hale
After 21 years, I’d finally gotten my bigger buck. I had no idea it was the biggest B&C typical for 2008. I figured any Indiana buck would be small potatoes compared to Iowa or Illinois. But this summer I was leafing through B&C’s Fair Chase magazine, which lists the top bucks, and there I was at No. 1. According to Safari Club International, it’s also the largest typical whitetail ever taken with a handgun. Verlin Hale
You know, there’s nothing fortunate about getting your whole gun collection stolen. But killing a world-class whitetail with the only hunting handgun you get back? I guess you’d have to call it a lucky gun. Verlin Hale