For four years Virginia hunter Les Spradlin hunted what he thought was a trophy buck. It turned out to be an 18-point doe instead!
What kind of deer would receive the nod for the rarest kind of trophy whitetail? How about an antlered doe in full velvet — especially if that doe flaunts 18 points and measures 11 1/2 inches at its base? Bedford County, Virginia’s Les Spradlin pursued this broadbeam for four years until November 2014, when he killed it during the state’s general firearms season on his own land. When the 42-year-old hunter rolled the animal over to begin the field-dressing process, he began to realize he might have accomplished something unique.
The story of the Virginian’s quest for the doe began in 2009 when the animal was first glimpsed in October during early bow season. The deer’s cactus-like antlers were too small to make the deer a shooter, and the animal was slight in body size as well. In 2010, Spradlin saw the animal only once, and that was on a September trail camera photo showing the whitetail feeding under a white oak.
Scanning trail camera photos the following September, Spradlin once again noted an image of the deer under that same oak. But this time the deer — with its jumbled mass of antlers larger and much more impressive – was definitely worth pursuing, and Spradlin decided to devote his 2011 season to the trophy. Les has killed several dozen bucks scoring 125 inches or better in his 30 years of hunting and is a confirmed trophy hunter.
Although Spradlin captured one more photo of the deer in September 2011, he never saw it during hunting season.
“Both times I had trail camera photos in 2011, the doe was with a group of bachelor bucks, some of them quite impressive,” he said. “I figured that he was just on my land during the summertime and went elsewhere come fall. One of my deer hunting philosophies is that a big buck doesn’t want competition for his does, so he goes where he can be the undisputed number one when the pre-rut begins.”
In 2012, Spradlin observed the deer during hunting season for the first time in three years. The doe, which he had now named Crazy Deer, walked by at a distance of 85 yards — well out of bow range — and proved to be the only sighting that year. The following year brought more frustration as the deer was either observed well out of range or only captured on camera.
“By 2014, I was totally frustrated with Crazy Deer,” said Spradlin. “I had determined that it had about a home range of just 200 yards on my 600-acre property, but I also had decided that the deer went nocturnal during the rut because it was such a wise, old buck. I decided that putting up numerous stands in the core area and hunting from them only when the wind direction was perfect was my best chance at success.
“Some stands were placed because of wind direction, others were put near heavy cover (that section of my land has numerous 2- to 3-acre thickets with open fields in between), and some were what I call observation stands. Those types of stands don’t give me much of a chance of killing a trophy but are positioned at places where I can see a long way and can help me decide where to put a stand where I can have success. After all my analysis, I put up five different stands positioned in places where I thought I might be able to kill Crazy Deer.”