(Editor's Note: After receiving numerous photos of hunters who shot hefty-antlered deer with wide spreads, the Sun-Gazette Outdoors section decided to feature their stories in a special series called Monster Bucks. The stories will be published on an ongoing basis, and hunters who would like to be included may submit their photos for consideration. Call 570-326-1551, ext. 3116, for details.)
Rod Brooks, 42, of Loganton, didn't think this year's buck season would mark a highmark in his 30 years of hunting.
However, his 14-point buck now is awaiting a shoulder mount at a local taxidermist.
In addition to the number of tines, the buck's antlers feature webbing, an abnormal characteristic known as palmation.
Palmated antlers in white-tailed deer are thought to be caused by genetics. Moose antlers are naturally palmated.
Brooks' buck, which had a 17 3/4-inch spread. was green-scored by the taxidermist Terry Whinker of Lock Haven, green at 153, using rules from the Boone and Crockett Club. Brooks said all of the 14 points were scored.
Brooks said the deer's antlers had a lot of mass with the right side being webbed.
"The left side is more perfect," Brooks said.
On the afternoon of Nov. 27, Brooks joined thousands of other hunters in the woods for the second day of rifle deer season. He and his friend were sneaking along, somewhere in the forests of Lycoming County.
The pair spotted the buck at 3:15 p.m. in a remote area, and Brooks raised his .25-06 Sako and fired a shot at about 175 yards uphill.
"I shot and basically stood there. The fella with me said, 'You better shoot again,' " Brooks recalled.
He worked the bolt but really can't remember what was going through his mind at the time. His friend, looking through binoculars, told him, "Forget it."
"He (the deer) actually did take two steps and just fell over. That was it," Brooks said.
He knew the deer had decent antlers, but he didn't know what was in store for him until he got up to it.
"It's luck," Brooks said, shrugging his shoulders.
The 14-pointer wasn't what Brooks had set out to get that day.
"I knew where he had been seen, but he had been seen a lot of different places and covered lots of ground," he said.
Brooks said he would have taken whatever buck came across his path that day.
"I wasn't out for him," he said. "He could have been anywhere."
Perhaps the big-antlered buck is some form of outdoor karma for Brooks. Years ago, he was involved in a hunting accident. Even though it had left him with a crutch and a limp, it didn't hinder him from hiking through the woods one bit.
"How many people get shot hunting turkeys? I did," Brooks said. "You don't think it's ever going happen to you. People go out hunting in Pennsylvania all the time, and I didn't think it was going to happen to me. I am a safe hunter (but) it happened."
'It worked out'
The deer, which Brooks plans to eat, weighed 157 pounds dressed.
"He was rutting and lost some weight. He was run down and had some battle scars and puncture wounds from other bucks," Brooks said. "It was a really good shot. When we cleaned him out, his heart was in like three or four pieces. At that range, I didn't have time to adjust the scope. I just took the shot and it worked out."
It was the biggest deer he has shot. He believes it was well beyond four years old, which is considered mature for a wild whitetail.
Word about the trophy traveled fast. Brooks, who is a gunsmith at National Sporting Goods in Jersey Shore, has received calls of congratulations and curiosity from people he barely knows, as well as from strangers.
"One (person) called this morning and said, 'I heard you got a really nice buck.' How in the world did he find that out all the way over there in Elmisport," he said.
Brooks plans to have the buck scored using Safari Club International rules instead of going with the Boone and Crockett Club. Because the deer's antlers are not symmetrical, Boone and Crockett scoring will deduct points.
He believes, under SCI scoring, its number should reach into the 160s.
"I have been lucky. I killed one with a bow one time and it was scored at 146," Brooks said, noting that was not a Boone and Crockett score.
"Do I think there are big deer like this in Pennsylvania? They're there," he said.