Dog finds massive rack in northeast’s Ashtabula

Owner’s canine stumbles across remains of massive,
record-breaking buck

Ashtabula, Ohio – In life, the impressive Lenox Township buck was
an enigma.

In death, the buck still remains something of a mystery.

However, the full measure of the buck’s enormous rack is no longer
shrouded in secrecy. All thanks to Sweetie, a 5-year-old,
happy-go-lucky German shepherd mix owned by Richard and Barb Ewing
of Ashtabula County’s Lenox Township.

It was Sweetie – who likes to patrol the Ewing’s Lenox Pinzgauer
Farms   that first came upon the worn remains of the gargantuan
29-point nontypical, record-book buck.

And so the buck – which the Boone and Crockett Club has initially
scored at 263 inches  – is being called “the Sweetie Buck,” in
honor of the dog-gone good white-tail-finding wizard.

Other vital statistics include that the rack has a outside spread
of 315⁄8 inches, an inside spread of 242⁄8 inches with 16 points on
the right antler and 13 points on the left antler. Each antler also
sports a lengthy drop tine.

No doubt the Ewings will reward Sweetie with some tasty treats
along the way, too. That’s because the Ewings have retained Chardon
attorney Casey O’Brien to represent them in marketing the buck’s
skull and rack to the highest bidder. Such trophies can easily
fetch many thousands of dollars.

And the fact that the Sweetie Buck’s rack will likely become the
fifth largest such headgear ever scored by the Boone and Crockett
Club in Ohio, the Ewings will be in a great position to say “show
me the money.”

Richard Ewing said that back in March, Sweetie kept returning to
the house with parts of a deer carcass, one leg bone at a
time.

So, while mending fences that were damaged by last winter’s heavy
snows, Ewing thought he’d use Sweetie as a guide dog. The buck’s
remains laid about 70 feet from the fence line on Ewing’s
property.

The buck also fell within only a few feet of where Ewing’s late
father typically took a stand during the deer-hunting season.

“I could smell it from 50 feet away and I could see that it had
been picked over by coyotes and other predators,” Ewing said.

But not the skull and antlers. Perhaps protected during the winter
by the abundant snow depth last winter – which topped off at around
five feet on occasion – the calcium-rich antlers were spared the
gnawing of small rodents like field mice.

“We don’t know how it died. It could have been shot and wandered
over here to die or maybe it was hit by a car or maybe it just died
of old age and the deep snow,” Ewing said.

Determined to recover the rack, Ewing detached it from the rotting
remains of the deer’s body. He then called the DNR Division of
Wildlife officer assigned to Ashtabula County, Jason Hadsel.

Hadsel visited the farm and paid particular attention to where the
buck’s remaining remains laid.

“He couldn’t find any slug and no broken bones that would indicate
the buck had been shot or hit by a car. The wildlife division
estimates that the buck was six or seven years old,” Ewing
said.

Hadsel also issued the Ewings a permit so they could salvage the
skull and rack, making their ownership of the antlers and skull
perfectly legal.

Ewing said that once that paperwork was completed the rack was
taken to Linesville, Pa., taxidermist Jim Vorisek. But Vorisek
spent less than four hours cleaning the skull plate and making it
presentable both to the eye and to the nose.

“He didn’t want to keep it; he said his insurance wouldn’t cover it
if it were stolen,” Ewing said.

Though no estimate could be determined as to how large was the
buck’s body when the animal was alive, there is a hint of that
detail. That is because the Ewing’s neighbor, Art Kroepel, had
taken a lengthy video of the deer on July 19, 2009.

The buck was recorded feeding in a soybean field with Route 11
traffic clearly whizzing by in the background and about
three-quarters of a mile from where its remains were found several
months later.

Its size grows ever larger in the several-minute video as well.
This fact becomes obvious when three other bucks are seen making
their way into the field. Each of these other bucks sported
respectable racks of their own. However, their headgear and their
bodies were both dwarfed by what is now-known as the Sweetie
Buck.

“My neighbor was trying to pattern the buck because he archery
hunts. But just before the season started the buck became totally
nocturnal,” Ewing said.

Even so, every now and then someone would catch a glimpse of the
shadowy buck. In one case, a Route 11 driver thought he saw the
buck dash across the four-lane highway. In another possible
encounter, a young deer hunter thought his eyes were deceiving him
when a large-antlered animal floated by in the day’s pre-dawn
darkness, Ewing said.

“He asked if there were any elk farms in the area,” Ewing
said.

For now, the skull and rack are being kept under lock and key,
secured in an undisclosed location, O’Brien said.

And after the Boone and Crockett Club examines the antlers one more
time with a panel of judges, the Ewings will work with O’Brien in
finding an eager buyer. That shouldn’t be a problem, O’Brien
says.

“We have the names of the country’s top six buyers of deer racks,”
O’Brien said.

Among them is likely Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Of the Top 50
Ohio racks scored by the Boone and Crockett Club, Bass Pro Shops
owns five and Cabela’s owns one. In fact, the currently ranked 13th
rack came also from Ashtabula County but now resides as property of
Bass Pro Shops.

What’s more, O’Brien says, the Ewings have purchased Kroepel’s July
19, 2009 video. Which will be bundled as part of a package, O’Brien
says.

“There’s been a lot of racks sold but I bet there aren’t too many
sales that also have included a video of the buck when it was alive
and well,” O’Brien said.

Besides the likely big bucks the Ewings will get for the rack, they
also will ask for a replica mount. That way they can continue to
marvel at the trophy without the worry of owning an item of such
high value.

The trail may not end here, either. While trekking through his
woods this past spring, Ewing came upon a right antler shed. If
assembled with the other half and topped off on a live buck, the
whole affair would in itself be a once-in-a-lifetime trophy.

And given that the shed antler bears some of the same
characteristics found on the Sweetie Buck rack, well, the question
remains whether there is a Son-of-Sweetie Buck lurking somewhere in
the matrix of woodlots and farm plots of Ashtabula County’s Lenox
Township.

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