Manchester, N.Y. — Maybe it was luck, or it could have been persistence and skill.
Or perhaps the bucks just grow really big in Isaac VanBortel’s corner of Ontario County.
Most likely, it was all of the above, but whatever the reason, VanBortel last fall shot one of the biggest bucks in New York state and among the biggest in the Northeast.
VanBortel, who said he’s been interested in hunting since he was old enough to follow his father into the woods, said the buck also enabled him to come full circle in a way.
“When I was 19, I shot a 145-inch deer on the same property. It was my grandfather’s farm," said VanBortel, 32, who owns his own trucking business. “I bought the property this year. It’s my home. It’s a 97-acre farm. This is the first deer I’ve shot there since I owned the property.”
As good as his earlier buck off that property was, the encore was so much better.
VanBortel had been tracking a bruiser on the land for a few years and had several trail camera images of the big nontypical.
He spotted the buck in velvet early in 2014 and, after patterning his movements, set up a treestand in an area where he hoped he would have a shot during archery season.
Unfortunately, while VanBortel saw the buck on several occasions, it never wandered close enough for a shot.
When gun season opened Nov. 15, VanBortel took to the woods again, this time armed with a scoped .270 caliber rifle.
VanBortel didn’t have to wait long to see his trophy again and, ironically, this time it walked right in close – close enough for an arrow.
“I couldn’t get him with a bow. He seemed to sense I was there and ran off. During gun season, two hunters were talking in the woods and scared him right to me,” VanBortel said. “I had a broadside shot at 30 yards. Sixty yards was the closest I got to him in bow season. It was 7:10 a.m., 12 minutes after sunup. Everyone in the woods heard the shot. (The deer) went down on his belly. He only went about 16 feet. I double-lung shot him. It was the same treestand I shot the other deer out of.”
Same treestand, but even bigger deer. In fact, it turned out to be the biggest deer he ever shot.
VanBortel’s prize sported a 19-point rack and field-dressed at 175 pounds. His final official score was 191 4/8 inches, and VanBortel said that ranked No. 2 among nontypical bucks shot in New York state in 2014 and 14th overall in the Northeast Big Buck Club’s measuring program.
The area where VanBortel hunts must have all the right ingredients to produce big bucks. Last year, a friend of his shot an even bigger buck – scored at over 202 inches – just six miles north of his property.
There’s another ironic twist to VanBortel's experience.
Even though he had an eye on his monster buck for a few years, VanBortel said he’s not normally a trophy hunter, and very nearly settled for a much smaller deer opening day.
“I've shot a lot of deer. I mostly hunt for meat for my family,” he said. “I would have shot the doe that was leading him, but a tree was in the way.”