OUTDOORS – If you have been on any New York hunting forum in the last few weeks, there has been a huge buzz around an absolutely giant buck taken with a muzzleloader on the very last evening of the Holiday Hunt, and rather locally to boot.
I had a chance to sit down with Eric Gray of Oppenheim last week and get the real details on the giant, 16 point buck he harvested; and just for the record it is so much more impressive in person than any photo could ever convey. For reference, the bases are the exact thickness of the bottom portion of a Stewart’s coffee cup. The wow factor is extreme.
The story of a buck known as “Weirdo” first came to fruition three years prior when a good friend almost had a shot at very large buck, “…it was great buck”, his buddy said, “had a really weirdo of a rack.” The name stuck and at that time little did the hunter’s know this would be a buck that would keep them awake at night throughout the duration of the next three seasons.
No more encounters occurred throughout the 2020 season but Eric did have a plethora of trail camera photos of him, proving he was still around.
Weirdo had made is first appearance of the next year on Thanksgiving of 2021 and proved he was indeed alive and well. This season he had put on both significant mass, and tine length, not that he was a small buck during the 2020 season by any means, but now he was a true giant, a super high and rather tight buck, he easily pushed into the mid-160s. Weirdo held his rack until February 12, 2021. Despite his best efforts of hunting down his sheds, Gray was unable to find either side during the Spring of 2022. However, another local area hunter found his left side.
Moving forward to summer and early fall of 2022 yet again “Weirdo” had yet to make an appearance even though Gray was sure he had made it through the 2021 season unscathed.
Eric owns a good chunk of property, and leases another bordering property; all in all the hunting grounds consist of about 250 continuous acres. He firmly believes in providing a sanctuary area which is totally off limits to any and all intrusion, no matter the case.
October 8, 2022. That was the day that the giant buck made his very first appearance on Eric’s property of the ’22 season; and what a giant he was. The buck had easily surpassed “Booner” status and put on significant mass and became non-typical. From that point, it was game on. Weirdo frequented the property at night throughout the month of October but then abruptly disappeared from November until mid-December. This fact was ok because Eric’s business keeps him excessively busy throughout the month of November.
From this point during mid December on the buck was on the property almost on a nightly basis, but for the majority of the time he would come from the northern zone stateland only after dark and leave prior to dawn.
On December 14, 2022 Gray laid eyes on the massive buck for the first time ever, it was a quick glimpse right at last light. To his knowledge, it was the first time the buck had ever remained on his side of the road, at this point he knew he was killable.
As the regular season transitioned to late muzzleloading season, Weirdo was on camera every single night. Gray never missed a sit, no matter the conditions he was out there, morning and evening, every single day of late season muzzleloader. To no avail, the giant never showed.
Enter the newfangled Holiday Hunt. The newly created season runs from December 26 to January 1. Gray also hunted every single morning and evening of the Holiday Hunt as well.
The last day. The morning of January 1 was cold; Gray opted to sit in a box blind overlooking standing beans, for only the second time ever he caught a quick glimpse of the giant trailing a very small doe down into the sanctuary of the swamp. He knew he had to make a move. Trail cameras showed the buck had never once came into the standing bean field during daylight hours. Around two o’clock Gray snuck into a bow stand upon the edge of the swamp near the area where he had seen him earlier that morning. A couple uneventful hours ticked by. Then around 4:30 a small doe emerged from the thicket, low and behold right behind her there he was! Weirdo, in all his glory, not 40 yards away. Gray exclaimed, “I didn’t even have time to get nervous or excited, he was right there, I centered the crosshairs and instantly took the shot” the big buck went down in sight. “I reloaded my muzzleloader and climbed down” said Gray, “The reality didn’t hit me until I made my way to him. Then the shakes and the hooting and hollering started.” Shortly thereafter Gray’s daughter Callie and another family friend who was hunting in the same blind Eric had seen the giant from earlier joined him on scene to celebrate and take photos.
Gray went on to say, “I was in shock for a full week. I couldn’t even sleep.” The big buck green scored 181 2/8″ gross and netted 177 3/8″. The rack will be scored again in early March after the required 60 day drying period. Being taken very late in the season I would be willing to bet the monster buck’s rack does not lose very much at all. Perhaps an inch or two. Meaning it will absolutely net in the the top 10 New York muzzleloader bucks off all time and probably flirting on the edge of the top 5 slots.
This is one of the warmest winters we have had in a very long time. I know this seems to be along the lines of “beating a dead horse” so to speak, but please be extra cautious when venturing upon any water frozen body of water. The recent snowfalls have made everyone super gung-ho about getting back out on the sleds. Please just stick to land. There are many locations that still will not even support foot traffic, let alone the weight of a sled as well. For the ones that say, “Oh, sleds will skip right over open water” sometimes yes, I’ve done it plenty of times myself. However, the slushy conditions will conceal danger until it is too late. You will already be past the point of no return before you even realize it. Just do not do it, think about your family and loves ones. Even if you think you know the lake intimately well; everything is different right now due to the extreme water levels. Any type of wheeled vehicle is totally off limits at this point in time.