Justin Gilmore could hear the 22-point buck long before he spotted it. When the stag finally stepped out of the shadows, Gilmore almost couldn’t believe his eyes.
The Independence man had been hunkered in a stand on his family’s 42 acres in Camden, part of Ray County, since the crack of dawn. He, along with his uncle and cousin, set out opening day of the firearms portion of deer season and were hoping to harvest some deer.
Gilmore donned clothes he set outside days before to lose his human scent, sprayed his boots and watched does and small-point bucks pass through the trees.
As the day progressed, Gilmore pulled out a doe bleat call and spotted a small 6-pointer chasing after a doe. He switched calls and started using a grunt. Another buck came dashing through the forest when Gilmore heard a buck’s grunt farther in the tree line. A doe peeked around a brush pile, but there was still no sign of his buck, aside from the grunting.
At long last, the buck came into view, but still wasn’t stepping out in direct sunlight.
“He always stayed in the shadows of the trees,” Gilmore recalled.
Time crept by as the buck walked down a hill, getting closer and closer. Gilmore told himself that this was part of the “long waiting game.”
“I finally got an open shot, and he didn’t take another step,” Gilmore said.
Using his scope, Gilmore knew the buck had at least 14 points on one antler, but he couldn’t tell for sure just how many were there.
With so much movement in the woods and his family working to get their own kills, Gilmore didn’t immediately rush to the harvested buck.
“I waited an hour and a half before I even got out of my stand to go check and see what I had, and that was the longest hour and a half of my life,” Gilmore said.
Once out of the stand, Gilmore’s thoughts started tumbling as he walked up to the buck.
“We’ve got cameras and stuff set up, and I’m thinking, ‘Have I seen him on camera?’” Gilmore said. “’Where did he come from?’”
Later, Gilmore would find one photo on a game camera from back in June, but that was the only evidence of the buck in the forested area that rests between corn and bean fields.
The buck’s head was propped on a tree where he fell, and Gilmore began counting how many points. There were 16 points on one side, with six on the other.
“We’ve been out there for 13 years, and we’ve never seen one like this,” Gilmore said about the 22-pointer. “I’m thinking wow, this is unique as can be.”
The antlers would have had 24 points, but two were broken.
“Before, he would’ve had 18 on one side,” Gilmore said.
For almost an hour, Gilmore sat by the buck, taking it in. He took photos and inspected the antlers before heading back to the house to make a sandwich and get cleaned up.
“It was about 36-37 degrees, and I obviously knew I had to get him out of the woods, but I knew I didn’t need to rush it,” Gilmore said.
With help from his uncle and cousin, the trio were able to drag the buck out of the woods and onto a four-wheeler to take him back to the house. While being interviewed by the News-Leader, Gilmore was on his way to Craig Jones Taxidermy to drop the head off to be mounted.
“I kept telling myself, this is a once-in-a-lifetime buck,” Gilmore said about his time in the woods. The biggest of the bucks he had harvested previously was a nine-pointer.
Since Saturday, many people have been heaping praise and congratulations Gilmore’s way.
“I actually had a guy offer me like $2,000 for the antlers,” Gilmore said. “Everybody that I’ve talked to, they’re like, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that.’”
Missouri Department of Conservation Media Specialist Francis Skalicky inspected a photo of the 22-point buck during a recent interview with the News-Leader. The “unique” antlers could be for several reasons, including genetics, nutrition, age and more, Skalicky said.
Sara Karnes is an Outdoors Reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow along with her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Sara_Karnes. Got a story to tell? Email her at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Independence man gets 22-point buck during Missouri deer harvest 2021