Gadberry, who owns an auto body repair shop in Unionville, Missouri, recalls every moment of the 1998 hunt when his dad shot a buck that measured 195 5/8 on the Boone & Crockett scale. “I was a year short of being old enough to hunt in Missouri,” Gadberry says, “and I remember sitting with my dad and watching a lot of young bucks–any one of which would have made a heck of a first buck for someone–and him saying, ‘I think we could have got you one today.'” It was Zach who spotted the deer, when they were walking through a gate moving from one hunting spot to another. “I can remember him shooting it. We didn’t realize how big it was at that point, but it’s been a joke with him ever since that I’m chasing him, trying to get a bigger one.”
Gadberry’s grandfather farmed the land in north-central Missouri for 40 years and his father has hunted it for 25 years. “I know it like the back of my hand,” Zach says of the farm, which the family sold but still hunts. “I know where the deer bed and where they tend to come out.”
On November 13, the second day of Missouri’s firearms season, Gadberry headed out for an afternoon sit. Joining him was buddy Jeff Ryals, who’d filled his tag on opening day. The wind was blowing 20 miles per hour and the temperature was 65 degrees–“not exactly prime rut conditions,” Gadberry recalls. The weather convinced Zach’s father to stay home, and Gadberry switched his plan for a treestand hunt and decided instead to sit on the ground overlooking a switchgrass slough where he knew does like to bed.
By 2 p.m. they were settled on a hillside overlooking the slough. Joking with his buddy around 4 p.m. Gadberry said, “I bet you a deer will stand up right by that cedar tree in the middle of the draw.” Five minutes later a doe stood up 25 yards in front of the cedar, which Gadberry had ranged at 250 yards. A half-minute later a buck stood up behind her.
“He started bumping her with his nose and she got moving, heading west, right toward us. When they got 200 yards away, she stopped and cut back east. I had my scope on his chest, and when he turned to follow the doe he stopped broadside for just a second and gave me a shot. I put the crosshairs right behind his shoulder and pulled the trigger.”
The buck ran about 50 yards before dropping over a hill. “All I could see was antlers over the hill, and all of a sudden they disappeared.” They packed up their gear, stalling to give the buck a few minutes, then walked out to the spot. “I walked over the hill and saw him laying there, and I said, ‘Jeff, what did I do?’ He said, ‘I think you finally got the Booner you were after.'”
A green score of the rack tallied a gross of 214 3/8 and a net of 209 1/8 nontypical. The mainframe 10 has 15 scoreable points. Both G-2s are split, as are both brow tines, and the G-3s measure around 13 inches each. The main beams measure 26 5/8 and 27 4/8 inches, and the spread is 20 inches.
Though he didn’t know it at the time, Gadberry had a history with the buck. Last year, on the last weekend of Missouri’s December muzzleloader season, Gadberry was walking that same pasture when he took a 150-yard shot at what was then a 180-class 10-pointer. He’d caught the buck on trail cam earlier that year while it was still in velvet.
Although the shot was well within his range, Gadberry missed cleanly. He figured out later that his scope was defective. “Just a week before I’d been driving tacks with the gun when shooting with some friends. I don’t know if I bumped it or what happened, but I had to replace the scope because it wouldn’t hold zero. I think that’s why I missed.”
Gadberry says he never found the sheds for the buck and wasn’t sure it made it through the 2010 season. This year, it never turned up on his trail cam and he never laid eyes on it until it stood up 225 yards in front of him. It took a couple of days before he figured out that last year’s 180 was this year’s 209.
In the end, his knowledge of the farm paid off. “I know deer usually bed in that slough, because there’s a big alfalfa field to the east and a bean field to the north. Usually there’s at least a doe or two in there–and it seems like during the rut where the does are the bucks are gonna be there too.”
Also paying off was his willingness to hunt despite less-than-perfect conditions, and his determination to adapt his approach to make the most of the weather and wind. “I would never have seen that buck had I been in a treestand,” Gadberry says. “That 20 mile south wind did me a favor that day.”
After recovering his buck, Gadberry was anxious to get back to town. “I wanted to show my dad, that was the biggest thing. I called him and said, ‘Well, you should have gone out.’ He asked why and I told him, ‘I think I finally got a deer that will beat yours.'”
“Nothing is official, of course, until after the 60-day drying period,” Gadberry says, “but right now I’ve got him by 14 inches.
“I’ve decided not to put him on the wall with my other deer; he’d dwarf them,” says Gadberry, who already has mounts of a 150-class and a 160-class deer at home. “I’m going to put him on a different wall–even if I have to build a new one.”
Zach Gadberry was a 10-year-old tag along too young to hunt when his dad killed a Boone & Crockett buck on the family farm. He’s been looking for his own Booner ever since. Thirteen 13 years later he found it, downing this 200-class nontypical on that same farm with a 200-yard shot during Missouri’s rifle season.