Like the saying goes, records were made to be broken.
However, breaking an antler record for whitetail deer is no easy feat. No one sets out to break a record of bone mass that establishes a mark that becomes the pinnacle for Empire State big game fanatics.
Phillip Pless, a disabled veteran from Newfane, is on the verge of becoming the next state record holder when it comes to a nontypical archery buck. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“I always had a dream of shooting a big nontypical drop tine buck, bow or gun,” said Pless. “I’m still on cloud nine and can’t believe my dream is becoming a reality.”
On Nov. 8, he arrowed a 210-pound Niagara County buck that is in line to become the new state record. Shot in the Town of Newfane, it has a green score of 222 6/8 (gross) with a net of 213 7/8 inches. There are 19 scorable points.
The previous nontypical archery record was a 23-point buck taken by Mike Giarraputo of Suffolk County while hunting Nov. 3, 2011. The gross score of his deer was 218 4/8 inches, and the net was 210 4/8 after drying out.
Pless was home watching the Buffalo Bills beat up on the Seattle Seahawks with his kids when his wife, Elizabeth, came home early from running errands around halftime of the game. As he sat there contemplating what he should do, he had a feeling that he needed to be up in his tree stand. He grabbed his Hoyt Maxxis 31 bow set for a 65-pound draw weight and off he went. He was in his tree stand by 3:15 p.m.
After he was situated for about an hour, his wife texted him to see if it was OK to bring the kids over to the farm he was hunting. He said it was fine, but not to come past the ditch. He would wave from his stand. However, after he put his phone down, he looked to his left and he saw the big drop tine buck step from the woods into the field across from his stand with a doe. He grabbed his phone, took a photo, and texted it to his wife. The text with photo read: “Don’t come back. Drop tine is out.”
It is not the first time that Pless has seen this buck. In fact, he has been following this deer’s growth history the last four years through trail cam photos. He knew that this buck was special. Then three does came out.
The original doe that came out with the buck moved closer to Pless. It appeared that the buck preferred the original female he walked out with. As the buck moved closer, Pless was hoping that the big deer would move into range before legal shooting time ended. It was about 4:45 p.m. when he let the arrow fly at 50 yards, hitting it solidly in the shoulder.
“I normally wouldn’t shoot anything past 40 yards,” said Pless, “but I had purchased a new Trophy Ridge bow sight and I have been practicing with it all summer long out to 70 yards. I was pretty confident that I could get the job done.”
The trophy buck staggered away. Soon, the four does ran up to him and surrounded him. They all moved away to another spot, but Pless watched the big buck drop about 80 yards away. Pless hesitated climbing out of the stand. He was shaking too much. And he realized he forgot his flashlight. He called family and friends. He also called his wife, but she didn’t believe him.
After calming down, he slowly walked over to where he saw the deer drop. The deer was gone. Some friends and family – Kevin Austin, Scott Pipiles, his brother Jason, and his nephew Connor – arrived with flashlights. It did not take them long to help Pless find his dynamic whitetail, just 25 yards from where he had disappeared.
The memorable buck was pegged at 5½ years old by Tim Young of Trophy Room Taxidermy in the Town of Niagara, sporting a 33-inch neck. Young will be performing the mount.
Don Haseley of Sanborn, the official scorer who measured the antlers for a green score, was hesitant to say that it will be a new record. However, he was clearly excited about the big deer as he viewed it again at Young’s Trophy Room shop. The official measurement will be taken 60 days from the date of kill or Jan. 8, 2021.
“With the way the mass is spread out on the antlers, it could even score slightly higher after it dries out,” said Haseley. “It’s the buck of a lifetime.”
Taking a big buck could be in the family’s genes. Phillip’s grandfather, Clarence Pless of Ransomville (who Phillip never met due to his death at a young age) shot a big buck in Greenwood, Steuben County, in 1942. It was certified by the New York State Big Buck Club, an 11-point rack that scored 154 7/8. Phillip now has the mount and the certificate thanks to his Uncle Glenn Pless of Ransomville. Phillip also has the Ithaca Model 37 12-gauge that Grandpa used to shoot the animal.
“I think my grandfather was watching over me when I shot this trophy buck,” said Pless.
When the 60-day drying period is up, Haseley will be there with his measuring tape and two other scorers to help document the history-making animal. However, there is a good chance that Pless will not be there. His wife is 32 weeks pregnant and her due date is Jan. 5. The trophy animal was also an early birthday present for Pless. He turned 43 on Nov. 9.
If the late Charlie Alsheimer of Bath were still with us, he would not be surprised that a record buck came out of Niagara County. He would often say that Niagara offered the perfect combination of genetics and nutrients in the soil, along with a rich agricultural base. Too bad he is no longer around to see his prediction come true.
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