Today marks 20 years since Kentucky’s biggest buck of all-time was harvested by Mount Sterling resident Troy Wilson. The velvet monster, with its 48 scorable points and over 300 total inches, was a sight to behold back in 2001, and I believe it deserves a reintroduction into the deer hunting community two decades later.
I spoke with Wilson about this monumental achievement and the memory of a lifetime, and I believe it could not have happened to a better man. Wilson is as humble as they come and says it was just a lucky occurrence that allowed him the chance to kill the state’s largest trophy buck.
It was the opening day of Kentucky’s muzzleloader season, and Wilson, along with his father and brother-in-law were just getting back from a Colorado elk hunt, in which Wilson harvested a nice 5×5 bull elk.
The plans were simple – Wilson would go to his stand, but not hunt. His job that morning was to drive deer to his partners. But that wasn’t quite how it turned out. Wilson’s attempt to “drive” deer to them, became his opportunity of a lifetime.
“I told them I was going to go to my stand and sit 45-minutes to an hour, then I would get up and move around and try to drive deer to them,” said Wilson. “Well, I went up there and sat down and the deer came toward me. He came in about 80 yards and I thought, ‘Well, it’s now or never,’ and pure luck, I had a good shot. It didn’t go 30 or 40 yards. It was just about a perfect shot. Pure luck.”
Perhaps the most mind blowing part of this story is the fact that this was the first time Wilson’s eyes had ever seen this particular buck. He and his hunting buddies had hunted this farm for five years, and no one had seen it before that morning.
Keep in mind, this was 2001 – before social media, before cellular trail cameras, and before a picture of a big buck could circulate the Internet in a matter of minutes. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time and taking the right shot. All of that fell into Wilson’s favor, as he took Kentucky’s biggest buck down.
At the time of the harvest, the buck owned two world records, according to Buckmasters. One, it was the largest velvet buck to ever be killed, a record that still stands today. It was also the largest buck to ever be taken by a muzzleloader. That record stood for close to two years, before it was eclipsed by an Iowa buck with 16 more total inches.
But, it’s not the 48 scorable points, over 300-inches of antlers, the two world records, or the notoriety that brings joy to Wilson when he thinks back to the hunt. It’s the opportunity to hunt with his father, share the buck with strangers, and even the chance to touch peoples’ lives because of it.
Wilson’s favorite hunting memories involve his dad, who passed away just two years after Wilson bagged Kentucky’s biggest buck. Sitting around at deer camp, reminiscing and sharing memories is what comes to mind when Wilson thinks back on a life in the woods.
“When dad was alive, we talked deer hunting year ‘round, basically. Those are priceless memories to me, laughing and cutting up,” said Wilson. “Things we said and done around the camp are precious to me, to be honest. We’re a close family.”
There was also a moment when Wilson was traveling to trade shows, with the buck on display, that sticks out to him. While in Alabama, he was asked to sign portraits of the mounted buck for those who wanted one. One man came through the line twice, but declined to take a print. On his third pass through, he obliged, and was touched by the message that Wilson, who is a devout Christian, wrote on the photo.
“This man had come through the line two times, and I asked him each time if he wanted a portrait and the first two times he said no. The third day he said ‘Yeah, I want you to sign me one.’” said Wilson. “They gave me a gold pen and when I signed it, I always wrote ‘God bless. Happy hunting.’ When I signed it, he started to cry. He said, ‘That’s the best part of it.’ Maybe it hit home to somebody.”
While Wilson knows he’ll likely not top Kentucky’s biggest buck again, he still enjoys getting out and hunting when he can. He and his wife, Marsha, spend the first three months of the year in Florida, and when they aren’t down south, he is back in Mt. Sterling enjoying his grandkids.
As for the buck, it has come to its final resting place in Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife Museum in Springfield, Mo. The mount is presented as a world record trophy buck and remains Kentucky’s biggest buck of all-time.