By BRYAN BRASHER | Scripps Howard
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Larry West went deer hunting looking to do a simple good deed.
Pastor of a church in Somerville, Tenn., West hoped to kill a doe for one of his parishioners who wanted to put some meat in the freezer.
But West's good deed turned golden when an 18-point, 170-pound buck-of-a-lifetime stepped into his shooting range at 7:15 on the morning of Nov. 27.
It was the largest antler rack that West has ever harvested -- and it's almost certainly headed for the Tennessee Deer Registry once the antlers can be scored after the mandatory 60-day drying period.
"I have a trail camera hanging on my property, but I had never gotten a picture of that deer," said West, 64. "I had no idea there was anything like that on my property. I was just trying to help a brother from the church. It was definitely a nice surprise for me."
West owns five acres just east of Oakland, Tenn., and he was hunting that morning from a pop-up ground blind. He was experimenting with two sound techniques that are designed to lure bucks into shooting range.
One of the techniques, known as "rattling," involves scraping real antlers together to simulate the sound of two bucks fighting. West was also using a "grunt" call to simulate the sound a buck makes during the winter mating season known as "the rut."
The massive buck took the bait.
"He came in moving fast," West said. "He wasn't running, but he was walking really fast. He came in with a fighting attitude -- I guess looking for the other bucks he thought he was hearing."
West first caught sight of the deer in a thicket to his right. He used shooting sticks to prop up his rifle and waited for the deer to enter a clearing before he fired the kill shot into the deer's right shoulder.
"I always take lollipops into the woods with me, and I had just put one in my mouth," West said, laughing. "I knew the deer had some good horns, and I got really shaky after I fired the shot. I honestly couldn't tell you what happened to that lollipop."
Though West had never gotten a picture of the deer on his own trail camera, neighboring property owners had gotten more than 50 photos of it -- including one that was snapped just 30-45 minutes before West killed the deer. But as good hunters often do, they had kept quiet about the deer, and West knew nothing about it.
Some who saw West's monster believe it may score higher than the 220-inch non-typical trophy taken in Fayette County by Tommy Springer on the opening day of the modern firearms deer season.
"I saw the trail-camera photos of the deer that Mr. West killed, and it looks huge from every angle," said Ty Inmon, a Tennessee conservation officer who works Fayette County. "I saw Tommy Springer's deer the morning it was killed, and I can honestly say, if those two deer walked out on me at the same time, I would probably choose to shoot Mr. West's deer.
"They're both headed for the Deer Registry for sure."