Ohio German Shepherd Sniffs Out a Record-Book Rack
Richard Ewing was working on the family farm in Ashtabula County, Ohio, last March when his dog Sweetie brought home a deer leg. "I took it from her, because I don't want her chewing on dead stuff," Ewing says. "But I told my wife, Barb, 'That hoof is the size of my fist. That was a big deer!'"
A German Shepherd named Sweetie led her owner to a 29-point whitetail that will rank as the fifth largest buck in Ohio and 31st in the world.
Richard Ewing was working on the family farm in Ashtabula County, Ohio, last March when his dog Sweetie brought home a deer leg. “I took it from her, because I don’t want her chewing on dead stuff,” Ewing says. “But I told my wife, Barb, ‘That hoof is the size of my fist. That was a big deer!'”
Ten days later the dog brought home another big leg. Out fixing fence not long after, Richard–with Sweetie by his side–decided to take a break and explore the area where he thought she’d been finding the bones.
“I didn’t go more than 50 feet from the fence line before I could smell it,” Ewing says. “Another 30 or 40 feet and I found the buck, right on the edge of some woods near the boundary of our property.” The bones lay just a few yards from where Ewing’s father, who died in a 2007 farm accident, hunted deer for many years.
“When I first saw it, I thought, ‘Well, that’s a decent-size deer.’ I thought its head had fallen into brush, but when I got closer I could see it was all rack. I said, ‘Oh, my gosh!'”
Coyotes had gnawed the carcass clean, but the rack was well-preserved.
Ewing summoned the game warden, who supplied a salvage tag and examined the skeleton. “He couldn’t determine exactly how it died,” Ewing says. “Maybe it got hit by a car or gut shot during the hunting season or just bred so hard in the fall that it couldn’t make it through the winter.”
“The rut story is the one all the guys are hanging onto around here,” Barb says with a laugh. “All the men are thinking, ‘Boy, he just really put himself out there for the team.'” Perhaps more likely, though, is the possibility that tremendous amounts of snowfall in the area, which borders Lake Erie east of Cleveland, contributed to the buck’s death. One storm last winter dumped 4 ft. of snow on the Ewing farm.
The couple had the buck scored by Boone & Crockett measurers Michael Kauffman and Randy Pepper, waiting until 60 days after the hide was removed in order to get an official dry score. After nearly three hours of taping on June 5, the pair came up with a final score of 263 0/8. The score was corrected to 263 4/8 after a Sept. 2 review by the Boone & Crockett Club determined an adding error on the score sheet, according to Justin Spring, the club’s assistant director of big game records. The Sweetie Buck ranks No. 5 in Ohio, where the No. 1 B&C buck (a 328-inch whitetail) was also a dead find.
The rack features 16 points on the right antler…
…and 13 on the left.
The gnarly horns boast not just one…
…but four massive drop tines. “I call them handlebars,” Ewing says. “They look like they belong on a bicycle.”
The inside spread spans 24 2/8 inches; the outside spread stretches 31 5/8.
The brow tines go 8 4/8 inches on the right…
…and 6 6/8 on the left.
The impressive G2s are perfectly matched, each measuring 12 inches even.
When Ewing, himself a hunter, first brought the rack home, his plan was to hang it in the garage, “so on opening day I could look up and say, ‘OK, guys, this is what we’re going for.'”
He changed his mind after he saw how folks reacted: People came from out of state to see the buck, and a neighbor changed his wedding anniversary plans to gape at the rack. “I came home and my driveway was filled with cars,” Ewing says.
“People kept saying, ‘You don’t realize what you’ve got. You need to get it off the premises and get it insured,'” Barb says. Now they’ve hired an attorney to help them decide what to do with the find.
Ewing’s only regret is that he never got to see the buck when it was alive, although a neighbor does have some video of the deer feeding in a bean field. “I would love to have seen him walking on our farm,” Ewing says. “I’d love to have a big picture of him to hang on the wall, because he was a beautiful animal.”
Instead he’ll settle for the rack–or a replica if the rack is sold.
The couple took Sweetie in as a stray. “She had been abused and abandoned as a pup in the middle of winter, and it took my wife almost two months to tame her down enough to bring her home,” Ewing says. Now she’s a devoted family pet, accompanying Ewing any time he works around the farm. “She even runs alongside the tractor when he discs the fields,” Barb says.
Though she was disappointed to lose her bone pile, Sweetie has adjusted well to the spotlight. “She’s getting really good at posing for pictures with the rack,” Ewing says. “She sits right down with it and says, ‘OK, do your thing.'”