Bowhunter Luke Muldoon of Bowie, Maryland, loves to watch whitetails year round, especially during the warm months when bucks start putting on horn. The story of his short-but-sweet hunt of this 180-class, double-drop-tine giant shows how long hours of summer scouting can pay off with quick fall success.
Muldoon, a 22-year-old U.S. Air Force logistician, spent this summer glassing deer on property he hunts in Prince George’s County in southern Maryland. In April, he spotted a couple of promising velvet bucks.
He suspected that the buck in the foreground was the same deer he first encountered last October. The deer was one of three 160-class whitetails Muldoon scouted in 2009. “I dedicated over half of my hunting season to pursuing him,” Muldoon says, “but I never saw him once when I was in a tree.”
As summer progressed, the buck’s rack got bigger …
… and bigger.
By June, Muldoon had seen enough to convince him the buck was the same deer he’d pursued last year–with some notable improvements.
“He was starting to grow two matching drop tines, and I saw those big bases on him and those huge brows,” Muldoon says. “That’s when I knew I was going to dedicate my whole fall to getting him.”
The buck continued to use the same area throughout the rest of the summer, always running with a 130-class 10-pointer. “They were always together, and they never moved more than 300 or 400 yards in a day,” Muldoon says.
The longtime hunter has always been a glassing enthusiast, scouting bucks year round and even on Sundays during the season–when Maryland law prohibits hunting. With such a good buck on the line, his interest was particularly passionate this summer. “I loved going through my day, when I was working my butt off and sweating in 100 degree weather, knowing that night there was a chance I could go out and see him.” Then in August, about three weeks before opening day, the buck disappeared.
On September 14, the night before the Maryland archery opener, Muldoon was glassing at sunset when he saw the buck, velvet still clinging to his drop tines, emerge from a tree line and step into a pasture clearing. “Now I knew where I’d be putting my stand on opening day,” he says.
Muldoon decided to focus his efforts on an evening hunt and hung a stand 10 yards back in the woods, where he’d be well hidden in heavy cover but still command a shooting lane that would cover three-fourths of the pasture clearing.
The stand site put him about 10 yards downwind of where he saw the buck on the previous evening. “I was anticipating a 10-yard ding shot, but he ended up coming out about 30 yards farther than expected.”
“I was covered in deer all night, but about sundown the 10-pointer came roaring through the clearing at 100 miles per hour,” Muldoon says. “I thought that was a bad sign. He and the big buck were always together, and I started wondering what was wrong. I’d seen 25 to 30 deer with no sign of him. Turned out he was the last one to show, about 10 minutes after sunset.”
“I first spotted him when he was 100 yards behind me, but I could see only his hindquarters walking toward me. As he got closer his head came out and then everything else followed. I tried not to look at his rack, drew back and got settled in.”
“He was almost trotting, heading from point A to point B with no intention of stopping. I whistled and he didn’t stop. I grunted. Finally, I had to shout–I yelled, ‘Yo!’–and he stopped at 40 yards.”
“He was on alert, and he ducked the arrow a bit,” Muldoon says. “The shot hit about six inches higher than I wanted. He turned and headed right back where he came from.”
“My dad and a buddy and I searched until about 11:30, tracking him back toward a swamp where I’m pretty sure he’d been bedding. We got the toughest tracking done that night and pulled out until morning. I couldn’t eat that night or the next morning, couldn’t sleep. I’d waited more than a year for that deer and had so much history with him. I was stressed out thinking I might not find him, that he might not be dead.”
Early the next morning Muldoon headed back out with his dog, Ike. “Ike can do pretty much any hunting task you can imagine,” he says. “He’s found deer in the past. He won’t give up; he’ll keep going and going until we find it. He got downwind and started getting goofy, and when I saw Ike was hot I knew we had him.”
With the dog’s help, Muldoon found the buck tangled up in thick brush where he’d crashed headlong, about 200 yards from where he stopped tracking the night before and almost a quarter mile from where he made the shot. “He was a horse, and you’ve got to figure if you shoot a horse he’s going to run. It was all downhill, and he just kept going.”
The 12-point rack yielded a green gross score of 183 6/8 nontypical. Muldoon, who has shot several 150-class bucks, estimated the buck weighed well over 200-lbs. field dressed. “I’m a big guy, 6-foot-5, and he makes me look like a normal sized person,” he says.
Though he says he’s “not big on scoring,” Muldoon does plan to have his taxidermist officially score the buck.
“I am curious to see how he ranks, but I have so much history with him after watching him all summer that I didn’t care how he scored by the time I got him,” Muldoon says. “This year I learned how to put the summer scouting together with the fall hunting. I feel a lot better about getting a deer when I put in that much work: When I look up at the mount on the wall, I’ll think about everything that went into it.”
Maryland resident and bowhunter Luke Muldoon spent the spring and summer scouting a monster buck he first spotted last October. He watched as he grew a serious rack that developed double drop tines by opening day. Steve Hill talked with the hunter and learned how patience and a dedication to glassing landed Muldoon this elusive 180-class giant.