Thirteen-year-old Tyler Fewell of Esmont, Virginia, wishes his grandfather were still alive to see the buck he shot on Sept. 25, 2016. It was just the kind of deer the man mentioned in his stories.
Peter Britton, Tyler's granddad, died last January. The man didn't hunt, but he encouraged his grandson to do it. He spoke constantly of the big-racked bucks he'd seen, delighting at the boy's saucer eyes.
A month earlier, Tyler received a new rifle for Christmas.
Long before the state's weeklong youth hunt arrived this fall, the boy unscrewed the butt plate from the stock and inserted a charm his mother had given him. The bullet contained a pinch of his grandfather's ashes.
Tyler said he wanted his granddad's spirit with him every time he hunted deer with the gun.
Mike Young, Tyler's stepdad and hunting mentor, took him to a friend's 47 acres on Saturday, Sept. 24. It was so hot that day, they cut the hunt short and returned home, which was just 3 miles away.
They returned to the ground blind on Sunday morning.
"Tyler and I went to that land to hopefully get Tyler a deer," Mike told John E. Phillips, who's writing the story for Rack magazine. "We enjoy venison. It's a staple in our family's diet. So I wanted Tyler to harvest any legal deer we saw."
They took home a whole lot more than venison.
About 45 minutes into the hunt, Mike spotted a monstrous buck about 80 yards distant. He wanted it for himself, but only Tyler could have a gun that day.
"We were hunting about 20 yards off an old logging road," Mike said. "I watched the buck, saw it was steadily walking straight down the old road.
"We had the wind in our favor, and we'd been quiet getting into our blind," he added.
Mike began advising his stepson not to look at the rack, which of course made the boy want to look at the rack. Tyler knew the drill. He'd shot a nice 11-pointer a couple of years earlier and other deer besides that.
The suspense was killing Mike.
"I told Tyler, ‘Don't you dare miss that buck, or I'll beat you with the gun,'" he laughed, quickly adding "He knew I was kidding."
When Mike couldn't hold his tongue any longer, he whispered "Shoot!" and his stepson obliged.
"Tyler and I thought the buck might run over us. But when it got between 40 or 50 yards from the blind, it finally dropped," Mike said. "Then Tyler looked at me and said, ‘I love you,' with big tears in his eyes."
Seeing the giant whitetail at his feet caused an overwhelmed Tyler to say "I can't believe how big it is!" over and over, like a broken record.
The Albemarle County 14-pointer has a BTR composite score of 188 3/8 inches.
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