Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bill Cochran's Outdoors: Biggest bow killed buck in Virginia

Bill Cochran Bill Cochran is a Roanoke Times outdoors columnist.


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Few things will grab the attention of a hunter quicker than the snap of a stick in the dead quiet of the deer woods. That’s what Brian Lytton heard on opening morning of bowhunting season last year.

He was hunting on a Pulaski County farm, where agriculture fields meet woodlands that march up the side of a ridge. He had a simple pattern that had proven accurate in previous seasons. Be there at first light when deer move out of the fields into the woods where they spend the day in thick cover.

The big decision for Lytton, a 35-year old communications technician from Radford, was which of two treestands to choose for his first-day hunt. One had a proven record. Lytton had killed a nice 8-pointer from it the previous muzzleloading season. But the stand also appeared to have a flaw.

“We had been having deer skirt us to the west,” Lytton said. “We could hear them, but never see them.”

Two weeks before the bow season, Lytton and his favorite hunting partner, his dad, Cecil, erected a new stand farther down the ridge.

Most times, stand selection wouldn’t be a problem. Lytton would hunt from one; his dad from the other. But this day his dad was taking advantage of an opportunity to hunt on trophy-rich Radford Arsenal land, so both stands were open.

Lytton didn’t leave his choice to chance. He prayed about it. As he started climbing into the first stand he said something told him to go to the next one, the new one. That’s where he heard the twig snap.

When Lytton used his binoculars to check the source of the noise, he spotted a 6-point buck in an opening about 50 yards distance. Then something else materialized in his field of view. It was a much bigger buck. And it was closer than the 6-pointer. It carried a massive rack, one destined to etch Lytton’s name in the Virginia record book.

As the two bucks browsed toward him, feeding on acorns, Lytton slowly stood up in his treestand preparing for a shot. The breeze was in his favor. At a distance of about 25 yards, the two deer disappeared behind some big trees and Lytton drew his bow in readiness.

“I am saying I was at full draw for 4 or 5 minutes when the big one stepped out at 20 yards.”

The buck took a couple of steps offering a perfect broadside shot. A minute more and Lytton wouldn’t have been able to hold full draw any longer. He put his 20-yard pin tight behind the deer’s left shoulder blade and touched the trigger on his release.

“I remember seeing a blur of white vanes and nock zip right under the deer’s brisket. I said, ‘There is no way I could miss this deer at 20 yards.”

Brian Lytton and buck

Brian Lytton and his prize.

Lytton expected to see the buck fall, but it didn’t. Instead, it took two hops and stopped. Then it started trotting off, and Lytton knew he hadn’t gotten a fatal hit. He grabbed another arrow and made a grunting sound with his mouth hoping to stop the buck.

“That deer should have torn the woods up getting out of there,” said Lytton.

But it didn’t. The buck stopped at about 35 yards.

“It was behind the only tree between me and him,” said Lytton. “I picked out the best hole I could and fired through it. I heard a big ‘whack’ sound. The deer ran off and approximately 10 seconds later I heard a big crash. But I still didn’t know whether he had just run through some brush or he had expired.”

That was about 7:15 a.m. Lytton knew he should remain in his stand 30 minutes or so in order not to spook the buck, but 15 minutes was all he could stand. He climbed down and found a blood trail that lead to the magnificent buck about 80 yards away.

The first arrow had nicked the deer; the second had penetrated its rib cage. Lytton raised the head of the buck and counted 17 points. It was the biggest deer he’d ever seen; bigger, even that it had appeared from his treestand. His first thought was, “That isn’t the deer I shot.”

At the Virginia Big Game Trophy Show in Rockingham County Sunday, officials classified the buck as a 16-pointer, scoring it at 252 8/16. It was the biggest deer in the show, which attracted 232 entries. The second largest was a 17-point Floyd County buck killed during the muzzleloading season by Les Hall. It scored 243 9/16.

The Lytton buck is an all-time bow-kill record for Virginia, topping the previous mark that John Gilliam set with a 17-point Rockbridge County deer entered in the 1998 contest. It scored 241 7/16.


12 points and above Wesley Foster, 14-point Amherst County, scored 215 15/16

9-11 points, William Phelps, 11 points, Nelson, 218 9/16

7 & 8 points, Chris Foley, 8 points, Franklin, 183 3/16

6 points and under, Samuel Old, 6 points, Craig, 147 3/16

Archery 12 points and above, Brian Lytton, 16 points, Pulaski, 252 8/16

Archery 9-11 points, Tommy Watson, 11, Bedford, 200 8/16

Archery 7 & 8 points, Hunter Patterson, 8, Southampton, 165 1/16

Archery 6 points and under, Jackie Andrews, 6, Pittsylvania, 133 13/16

Black powder 12 points and above, Les Hall, 17, Floyd, 243 9/16

Black powder 9-11 points, Robert Lam, 10, Rockbridge, 197 11/16

Black powder 7 & 8 points, Bennie Buchanan, 8, Augusta, 188 10/16

Black powder 6 points and under, Gregory Burnette, 6, Bedford, 143 11/16

Bear, Mitchell Harper, Rappahannock, 30 4/16

Turkey, Dorsey Huff, Botetourt, 76 6/16

Youth deer, Bradley Seery, 12, Accomack, 193 11/16

Youth turkey, Brett Haislip, Fluvanna, 67 8/16

Youth bear, Hunter Reed, Page, 25 4/16

Check Bill’s Field Reports for stories on bear and turkey

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