Muzzleloader buck one of N.Y.’s best

Baldwinsville, N.Y. – Mike Smiley was almost late for his own
rendezvous with greatness, but when the smoke cleared, the
Baldwinsville sportsman was looking at one of the biggest bucks
ever taken in New York state with a muzzleloader.

Smiley shot the 19-point monster Dec. 7 near Baldwinsville, on a
day when he got out late in the afternoon and was ready to settle
for a doe.

The 155-pound buck green scored 1787/8 points. Scorer Dallas
Sumner of Baldwinsville told Smiley that would put his trophy in
line to be the second largest nontypical buck ever shot with a
muzzleloader in New York. Donald Hayton’s 181-1 Livingston County
16-point brute stands of 1999 in the New York State Big Buck Club’s
record book as the largest nontypical taken with a
muzzleloader.

Smiley’s big buck capped what was already a sterling season for
the avid whitetail hunter.

“Back in bow season, I shot my best buck ever (at the time), a
big 9-pointer, so this has been a pretty good year for me,” Smiley
said. “I usually get small ‘basket’ eights or something like that.
There were some men on the property who said they did see a pretty
big deer around the area, but I didn’t think anything of it.”

Smiley hunts in a zone (Wildlife Management Unit 7F) where
centerfire rifles are prohibited, so during firearm season he’ll
carry a shotgun when he plans to hunt areas with thick cover. When
he’s heading toward more open terrain, Smiley grabs his Thompson
Center Pro Hunter 50-caliber muzzleloader, topped with a Nikon
Omega scope.

He was carrying his smokepole Dec. 7 because he planned to hunt
around some farm fields in Van Buren, in an area where 200-yard
shots are not uncommon.

Smiley noticed a harvester working a field adjacent to his
hunting area, and he hoped the activity would push some deer his
way. As he was walking in to his hunting spot, Smiley spooked a doe
and was prepared to shoot that when a second doe came out.

He was deciding which of the does was bigger when a third deer
came out of the woods and chased after the first two. This one had
antlers, and suddenly all of his attention was focused on the
latecomer.

“He was running. I was standing in the field. I didn’t have
anything to lean on (for a shooting rest),” Smiley said. “I just
followed him and took the shot. He went down right away.”

Smiley went back two days later and measured the shot at 94
yards. He was aiming for the neck and said the slug grazed the
buck’s skull.

Smiley admits it was a bit of a lucky shot, but he said he felt
even more lucky when he closed in on the fallen buck and saw just
how huge it was.

“As I approached the buck laying in the corn lot, I saw a big
rack, but I told myself, ‘I need to focus and make sure he’s dead
first.’ I touched him with the end of my barrel and nothing,”
Smiley said. “I took off my jacket and set my gun on it. I walked
over to his head and picked it up. I said to myself, ‘Oh my God. Is
this really mine? Thank you, Lord.'”

After texting a few friends, Smiley called his friend Dave
Blaisdell and asked him to come and help drag a deer out. Smiley
left out any details about the size of his buck.

“As the headlights came upon me I picked up the head of the deer
and Dave started blowing the horn and driving faster. I thought he
was going to run us over,” Smiley recalled. “He jumped out of the
truck and yelled, ‘Smiley!’ and gave me a manly hug. As I field
dressed the deer, Dave was on the phone calling everyone. We loaded
the deer onto the back of the truck and showed him off for a few
hours that evening.”

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