On opening day of the 1990 firearms deer season, Shawn Sears was up early enough to get to his favorite treestand before daylight. He had no idea that this foggy, cool morning would produce a lifelong memory and a prominent place in the deer hunting record books.
Shawn explained that he had been hunting for a number of years with a bow. He had been successful in taking five deer, none of them bucks. He said that during the early bow season, at about 60 yards, he saw an extremely large buck running with a group of does, which he now believes was the one that he shot later.
According to Shawn, the habitat area where he hunts was a logged tract that had some very good undergrowth of briars and rose bushes. This, he believes, is one of the best hunting areas he has ever seen.
When asked if he used any special hunting tactics to bag the big buck, his reply was, "One thing I nearly always do is get to my treestand before daylight." He explained that by doing this, the deer are bedded down and are not as apt to get spooked when he enters the area.
Also, in this particular spot, it isn't necessary to go directly through the deer bedding area. From the road, you can go through the tall timber and put your treestand about 60 yards from where deer are bedded.
Shawn believes being patient has helped him a lot.
Another hunting tactic is the use of cover scent neutralizers which help him to become invisible in the woods.
"Visibility was 40 yards due to heavy fog,” Shawn remembered. “But it was beginning to lift.”
At 7:45 a.m., he heard the bark of his dad Robert's .357 Magnum handgun. Since there was only one boom, he assumed it must have been a good shot. At 8:00, he heard a noise in some brush to his right. Shawn turned slowly to see a doe coming straight toward him. He then saw a buck on her backtrail at about 75 yards.
Shawn avoided looking at the antlers, knowing he’d become too excited. At that point, he also remembered the rule of "never shoot as long as deer are coming closer to you." He sat tight, never moving a muscle, while the buck and doe came closer.
"If I didn't tell you that I was shaking and getting very tense, it wouldn't be fair," said Shawn. "At only 10 yards, the doe stopped in front of my treestand, and the big buck was just behind her. I dropped the sights of my dad's 12-gauge pump down on the big buck just as they both looked up at me, probably thinking the tree was about to fall on them. It was the only tree in the woods shaking, though the wind was very calm."
Shawn admitted this probably was the most excited he had ever been in his life. With the big buck looking up at him, he moved the sight from the buck's shoulder to his neck, just below his chin, and then squeezed off the shot. The doe took off as the big buck crashed to the ground.
Shawn then sat down to get himself together and to think about what had just happened. After a short rest, when some of the shaking had stopped, he stood up to see if the big buck was moving.
"I couldn't see the buck's rack very well from my stand after he fell because of the high grass. All I could see was part of one antler sticking above the grass," Shawn explained. At that point, he thought he had shot a big 8-point buck.
After a short rest, he unloaded his gun, lowered it to the ground, and got down from the tree. After putting one slug back in the chamber, he headed over to where the big buck was lying.
“Holy cow! I can't believe the size of this buck's body and antlers. They are the biggest I've ever seen except in magazines," Shawn exclaimed. He had no idea just how big this buck was until he started to drag him out of the woods.
"There was plenty of antler to hold on to, but he sure was heavy," Shawn remembers.
He managed to drag the buck about 200 yards to the edge of the woods so he could see his dad when he returned from the woods to his truck. Then he field-dressed the buck and just sat and stared at it. It was the biggest he had ever seen, and he was amazed that it was actually his.
Shawn remembers thinking that in no way was he going to leave the big buck behind and go looking for his dad. The fear of losing him to someone who just might happen along was too great.
Finally, he saw his dad coming out of the woods about 300 yards distant. As soon as he got his dad's attention, his dad drove the pickup to where he was. Upon his arrival, his dad said, "Son, don't you know it's illegal to shoot elk in Indiana?"
After loading the big buck in the truck, they headed off to retrieve Robert's buck. To Shawn' surprise, his dad's buck had a body as large as his deer’s, with a 10-point rack and a 19-inch spread.
The Shawn Buck was taken in Fulton County, where a number of record book bucks have been taken. Whether it's the soil with the right mineral content or the super habitat this geographical area has to offer, it sure is coming up with some super trophy bucks.
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View Official BTR SCORESHEET for Shawn Sears.
Hunter: Shawn Sears
BTR Official Score: 222 4/8
BTR Composite Score: 245 5/8
Location: Fulton Co., IN