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If you were to ask most whitetail hunters where a 200-inch whitetail buck is likely to come from, you'd hear a lot of locations mentioned before anyone brought up Long Island, New York. After all, this is a heavily suburban area almost within view of New York City, one of the world's largest metropolitan areas. However, the island does still have some forests and swamps that harbor big bucks, and there are pockets of public hunting land where these deer can be accessed.

Mike Polinice has hunted the area for many years, and going into the 2018 bow season he'd bagged a handful of nice bucks. But the one he shot on this most recent opener will be really hard to top.

Mike learned of the deer from a coworker who informed him he'd seen a big buck enter a forested area of Suffolk County. Although the location was a tract of public land Mike hunted often, he had no idea the buck existed. The sighting occurred on a part of the property Mike always avoided, simply because he felt the hunting pressure there was too intense.

In early July, Mike heard another report of a big one in the area, so he set up a few trail cameras. Sure enough, the buck started showing up on them right away. Mike began to pattern him and soon pinpointed the thick area in which he liked to bed. The buck was running with a 9-pointer that would normally be considered a great deer in his own right, but the bigger one dwarfed him. The two were always together on camera, and they appeared in daylight far more often than you might expect of a pair of mature bucks.

By the time fall rolled around, Mike had seen the bigger deer in person one time and had many trail camera photos of him. He had a basic understanding of the deer's travel patterns and had chosen a good ambush location. He'd learned the area well and was surprised to discover that the hunting pressure wasn't as bad as he'd assumed.

Oct. 1 would be opening day, and Mike's plan was to sit in a stand overlooking two trails where he anticipated the bucks were feeding on acorns. He climbed in before daylight with plans to spend the entire day on stand if that's what it took.

"It was a very slow day," he remembers. "I only saw a doe with two fawns all day long."

By 5:30 in the afternoon, Mike was losing interest. Then his wife texted him that she'd just heard his late father's song on the radio: one that had been played at his recent funeral. She told her husband it must be a sign that he was going to get that huge buck.

Mike wasn't so optimistic after long hours of sitting with no action. In fact, 45 minutes later, he decided to pack up his gear and call it a day. He put away his Ozonics unit, gathered his stuff and was about to descend the tree when he saw movement. He watched for a moment and realized it was the 9-pointer: the giant's running mate. Mike frantically re-assembled his outfit and got ready for a possible shot.

"The big one appeared about 40 yards behind the 9-pointer," he says. "They were feeding on acorns, working their way toward me."

Sure enough, the bigger one ended up right on the trail that would take him within 17 yards of the bowhunter, whose heart was pounding. Mike tried to calm himself and finally managed to get the shaking under control.

"I just focused on where I was going to shoot," he explains. "I didn't look at the antlers."

It took a few anxious moments, but the huge buck finally worked around in front of Mike and offered him a slightly quartering-away shot. The arrow sliced through both lungs, and Mike heard the giant crash just 40 yards away. At that point, the bowhunter fell apart.

"I just lost it," Mike says. "I was crying and so full of emotion. I couldn't believe how big he looked. I texted my wife and friend that I'd got him. It was an amazing experience."

Shortly after, as the bowhunter was walking up to the deer, the emotions once again came pouring out. "I could not believe how big he was," Mike recalls. "The closer I got, the bigger he got."

The buck has a giant 10-point typical frame and several abnormal points. While the trophy hasn't been officially scored as of this writing, Mike taped him at a gross score of 205 7/8 inches.

Along with the dried blood from velvet shedding, the antlers have a lot of stickers and kickers that create an even more unique look. Plus, Mike says the right G-2 tine is an exceptional 15 inches. The bowhunter expects the rack to net in the upper 190s non-typical, which is world class for any whitetail: bow or gun, public land or private.

What became of the big 9-pointer that was always by this buck's side? Mike's friend shot that deer the following evening, hunting from the same tree. His own trophy went 148 inches. It's hard to imagine two bigger public-land whitetails ever having been shot from the same bow stand on consecutive days.

So what does Mike try to do for an encore, now that he's arrowed a 200-inch buck? Don't expect him to quit hunting just because he's reached a milestone few other public-land hunters ever will achieve. Those pockets of whitetail habitat surrounded by homes offer some Long Island bucks an opportunity to mature, and Mike will be out there trying to find another one.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR > Bernie Barringer is an avid public-land whitetail hunter who's traveled to many states in search of success.
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Title Annotation:GONE PUBLIC
Author:Barringer, Bernie
Publication:North American Whitetail
Date:Feb 20, 2019
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