In May, scouting a 200-acre farm he and a couple other guys have permission to hunt, Kreager walked to a fence crossing on the inside corner of a 50-acre woodlot where the farmer had commonly seen deer. Kreager put down a pair of Trophy Rock mineral licks and set up a Moultrie scouting camera. Returning in June, he pulled the card and saw this. “Wow!” he says, remembering his reaction to the first photo. “It was dated 6/10/10, and I figured he was 24 inches wide already. I named him ‘Wide 10.'”
Less than two weeks later, on this photo dated 6/23, you can already see his tines beginning to shoot up.
By the beginning of July, he’s getting quite tall.
And by the first of August, he is a bona fide jaw-dropper. “It was just incredible to watch this buck’s rack just blow up over the course of a couple of months,” Kreager says. “I couldn’t call him just ‘Wide 10’ anymore. I renamed him ‘Booner.'”
By September, after he’d shed his velvet, the buck was becoming more and more nocturnal, says Kreager. “I was getting a lot more pics at 4 a.m. and 10 p.m. But he was still in the same area. I’d read in a book by Greg Miller that you need to be within 100 yards of a big buck’s core area prior to rut. I felt like I was within that range, and I was still getting a few daytime pics toward dusk.”
Kreager planned an evening hunt…”I hung a stand there back in July and wanted to sit it on the archery opener, but I needed an east wind and got northwest. So I took my 11-year-old daughter Kelly out, and she made a perfect shot on a doe. It was a great start to the season.”
Kreager got the wind he needed on the second evening, and got in his stand early–around three. “I was so excited about the hunt, I stood the whole time. By 6 p.m. I hadn’t seen a thing. Still, I picked up my bow and got in the ready position. I wasn’t going to let anything screw this up.” Not long after that, he spotted five or six does coming straight toward his stand from the north, heading for the fence crossing about 30 yards away.
“The does starting milling on my side of the fence,” Kreager remembers. “Then the lead doe looked off to the east. I looked to…and there he stood, just 30 yards away on the edge of a thicket. To my surprise, I wasn’t totally freaked. Having seen him on the trail cam so many times helped me stay calm.”
“I drew and he blew right through my first shooting lane at 25 yards, heading for the does,” says Kreager. “He started shoving the females out of his way, showing off, throwing his weight around. During the commotion, with all the deer facing away, I let down.” Eventually, the buck turned back onto the trail leading to the fence crossing. “He came by me at 15 yards, and stopped. He was quartering to. It’s not my favorite shot, but at 15 yards I know it’s lethal with my setup. I put the pin right on his shoulder, released, and the arrow plowed through.”
“I knew I’d double-lunged him,” says Kreager. (Later, he found the broadhead just under the skin behind the far leg.) “At the shot, he bolted west through the fence crossing and got only 40 or 50 yards into the field before piling up. That’s when I finally sat down–and took a deep breath. It was amazing. I waited 5 or 10 minutes, then got down. Grabbing hold of his rack, I realized he was even more massive than I thought. From my cam pics, I’d written down a guess of 189 gross. But now I knew he’d be into the190s. Later that night a friend and official P&Y scorer taped him at 195 green gross.”
Kreager is an unabashed big-buck fanatic. “It’s what I live for, and I’ve been lucky enough to make it part of my business.” He runs three hunting websites: American-Hunter.com is a hunting blog that focuses on big bucks; NextHunt.com is a hunting travel site with over 4,400 outfitter listings, word-of-mouth advice and outfitter reviews; and HuntInfo.com features the largest database of independent outfitter reviews by hunters. Among his other trophy deer is this 214-inch Colorado muley…
…and three P&Y whitetails from last season alone, including this tall buck from Illinois…
…this fine Missouri 10-pointer…
…and another nice Ohio buck.
“This ‘Booner’ will probably be the biggest typical I ever kill,” Kreager says, “but I don’t think it will be the only big one. I fully plan on taking more B&C-class bucks. I have a lot of good fortune, and I’m blessed with a wife and family who understand my passion”–as evidenced by this photo of his 8-year-old son Jared with the buck he arrowed on September 29. “This is what I was meant to do.”
Eventhough archery seasons opened just a month ago in most states, the biggest typical buck of the 2010-11 season may already have been taken by JT Kreager in Ohio on the second day of the state’s bow season. Dave Hurteau tracked down the hunter and got the story of his collosal, near-perfect 10 with a green score of 188.