A big buck, then a bigger buck for Steuben hunter
Double drop tine 13-pointer nets 171 inches
By Jeff Murray
Prattsburgh, N.Y. — Matt Byington shot a beautiful 13-point buck during the 2016 archery season, and that would have been more than enough for most deer hunters.
But Byington didn’t stop there. The veteran hunter shot an even bigger buck in the waning days of the firearms season, on a day when he almost didn’t go afield. Byington’s trophy racked up more than 180 inches and turned him into an instant rock star among the locals.
Byington, who lives in the town of Prattsburgh in whitetail-rich Steuben County, has been hunting since he was 14 and chases everything from rabbits and grouse to predators.
During the summer he and his family also like to fish on Keuka Lake, but in November and December you can usually find him in a deer blind or treestand. Such was the case Dec. 5, when he got home from his construction job around 3:30 p.m. and decided he didn’t really have time to go hunting – at least not in his favorite treestand.
But as he was sitting at his kitchen table, Byington made a fateful decision and grabbed his gear.
“I said, ‘to heck with it, I’ll just go stand in the hedgerow of a soybean field next door to me,’” said Byington, 45, who is married with two teenage sons.
“I made it to a spot where my youngest son and I had built a ground blind the previous year,” he said. “I knew the distance was 175 yards to the top of the field, so I felt like I was in good position that if a good buck popped out I would have a good shot.” At that moment, Byington had no idea just how prescient that thought would turn out to be.
Byington wasn’t even settled into the ground blind when two does wandered into the field. He managed to avoid spooking them and watched the does for about 20 minutes when they were joined by a third doe. And that’s when the action really started to heat up.
“I saw a huge set of antlers coming through the brush entering the field trailing that third doe. I honestly had no idea it was the double drop-tine buck that everyone in town was talking about,” Byington said. “I tried to take all of my focus off of the antlers and make sure I had a good rest. When I got ready to shoot, I couldn’t get my safety off. My wife called it nervousness but I called it bulky gloves. I took my glove off without spooking any of the deer and let the shot go with my Savage .270 rifle. The deer ran into the middle of the soybean field and stopped.”
Knowing it was no ordinary buck he had shot, Byington put two more rounds into the deer to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere. He didn’t realize just how big it was until he got close.
“As I was walking up to my buck, I still had no idea it was the double drop-tine buck; I just knew he was big,” Byington said. “When I finally got to him and put my hands on those antlers, I was in disbelief. Not only did I shoot a 13-point during bow season, I shot and killed the double drop-tine buck as well.”
Byington’s next challenge was finding someone to help him drag the big buck out. He tried unsuccessfully to reach his brother-in-law, his close friend and his father and finally called his wife to come lend a hand, when his father called back.
Byington’s buck green scored at 183 6/8 inches, and the final official score was 180 6/8 nontypical gross and 171 net. His achievement made Byington and instant celebrity and now he’s just enjoying the afterglow while planning his next trophy hunt.
“I had people in my driveway before I could even pull in with the deer. It was a crazy few days but some of the best days of my life,” he said. “He was definitely my biggest buck, and my next biggest was the 13-point I shot a few weeks prior. That’s a whole different story for a different day.”
The big buck now hangs in Byington’s living room. “Jason Underhill from Underhill’s Taxidermy Studio did a fantastic job, I couldn’t be more proud,” Byington said. “For an encore I would love to have my sons have the chance at a deer like that, but if they can’t I’ll gladly do it again.”