Record Quest: Public Land Buck

My New York deer season started weeks ago with a scouting mission at Bear Spring Mountain WMA in the Catskills. I had never hunted in New York before and my only option was public land. While the Empire State isn't known for record breaking bucks, it does have large stretches of public hunting land, so I had plenty of deer to roam.
After one deerless weekend at Bear Spring, I decided to change locations. There's something to be said about patiently waiting out a good stand, but when I hunt a new spot, I'm moving if I'm not seeing deer. One problem with hunting central New York: the traffic.
The most promising aspect of my new spot was the healthy acorn crop. You couldn't take a step without crunching an acorn and the deer were all over them. I setup on a hillside where three different deer trails converged. There were rubs and scrapes all over the place so I knew bucks were trolling the area.
On Friday night I drove up from my apartment in Brooklyn toward my hunting spot. By the time I escaped the city grid lock, it was already pretty late, so I decided to just sleep in my car. The back seat of a Jeep Cherokee isn't the most luxurious of accommodations (it got down to about 30 degrees that night), but the next morning I was at my stand well before dawn. All I had to do was get dressed, throw my climber on my back and go. And the early start paid off because at about 8:30 a.m. this 8 pointer strolled out in front of me. He was munching on acorns and didn't stop to look up at me once.
When he came within 20 yards, I drew back and settled my middle pin behind his shoulder. He was quartering toward me slightly and after the shot, I couldn't see where the arrow hit. The buck dashed off and for a few moments I feared the worst.
But with shaky hands, I climbed down from my stand and found a solid blood trail. After an easy 200-yard trailing job, I found my buck laying dead.
It was clear that the buck had been battling other deer in the area. Check out the scabbed-over gash in his neck.
But no public land deer hunt could be this easy. The real work started after I punched my tag.
The buck ran straight down to the bottom of a steep hill, and soon my excitement turned to exhaustion. I looped my safety harness around his antlers, put my arms through the leg loops and started pulling like a horse in front of a plow. I was hunting by myself, and with no backup, it took me about four leg-burning hours to get the deer out to the trailhead.
You know those hunting gear advertisement photos where a happy hunter smiles as he causally drags his beautiful buck through the autumn forest? Well my experience was about the opposite of that. I was sweating like crazy, sucking wind and looking like hell. But every step was worth it.
The next day OL editor, Gerry Bethge, helped me butcher the buck. Yes, Outdoor Life editors (even the old ones like Gerry) cut up their own deer. Thanks Gerry.
We found my broadhead still buried in him.
Is he the world record whitetail? Not even close. He's young, his brow tines are stubby and he doesn't have great mass. There are many regions around the country where this deer wouldn't even be considered a "shooter." But on public land in central New York, this is a quality buck.
Most importantly, he's a trophy to me. I wouldn't trade him or my experience in the Catskills for every Pope and Young buck in the book.

I didn't know what to expect for my inaugural deer season in the Empire State. But with a little luck and a lot of hard work, I was able to punch my first tag in New York on public land.