(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.)
A lifelong hunter and a relative newcomer each took home big bucks this past year. They are Brandon Dangle, 25, and his girlfriend, Destiny Molino, 26, both of Pleasant Valley and graduates of Williamsport Area High School.
Starting off buck season with success in early December, Molino killed a nine-point deer weighing 180 pounds with an inside spread of 18 inches. It was the biggest deer either Molino or Dangle had ever seen on the property on which Dangle and his family hunt every year.
Well, at least until Dangle shot his buck, an eight-point, 195-pound behemoth that he will have shoulder-mounted in his basement because he doesn't believe he'll ever shoot a bigger deer.
"I had some bragging rights for a few days," said Molino, who teaches preschool at The Wasp Nest, a group child-care home on Lycoming Creek Road.
That her boyfriend claimed the bigger buck doesn't negate Molino's achievement, as she only began hunting three years ago when Dangle took her out near his family farm in Cogan Station.
"Three years ago, I was not into hunting," Molino said. "My whole family hunts, but I was never into waking up early and going out into the cold. Brandon had a nearby tree stand and portable heaters that eventually convinced me to try it out."
Her first year hunting, Molino shot at and missed an eight-point buck about 190 yards away from her.
"I was so mad that I said I wouldn't try again next year," she said.
When she did in fact try again a year later after Dangle persuaded her, she passed up a five-point deer.
Her nine-point buck is the first deer she's ever shot.
"I was very, very excited and a little nervous," Molino said describing how she felt afterward. "But I felt some sadness, too."
She is having the deer's skull dipped in camouflage and will display it in a European mount.
Asked if she plans to continue hunting, Molino was emphatic: "I'm definitely going out next year," she said. "Shooting your first deer gives you buck fever."
Introduced to the sport by his father and grandfather, Dangle went on his first hunt when he was 12 years old. That same year, he killed his first deer, an eight-point buck.
"It was an OK deer," Dangle said. "But not as good my latest," which has an inside spread of 21 3/4 inches. "This was my lucky year, I guess. I've shot plenty of bucks since I started but this one took the prize because it was the biggest."
Dangle normally displays just the antlers of the deer he's killed - about 14 in all - but the taxidermist was impressed enough with Dangle's latest that a shoulder mount was suggested.
The buck in question was taken on Dec. 7 following a massive snowfall the day before.
"There weren't any visible deer tracks in the snow, suggesting that no deer had come out of their fields yet, so we knew we were going to have a good day," Dangle said.