Ron Shaulis, center, with his new state record whitetail. To the left is Game Commission scorer Ray Brugler, to the right commission records program coordinator Bob D’Angelo.
It was the luckiest miss of his life.
Ron Shaulis of West Newton was hunting in Forbes State Forest early in archery season. There were several big bucks around. He knew; he’d captured three of them on the trail cameras he’d been running since May.
One seemed exceptionally large.
But it was smart, too.
All of the pictures on his cameras showed it moving before daylight or after dark. So – though he thought he had it patterned better than the other two bucks – 24 days into archery season he’d still not see it in the flesh.
Things were starting to feel hopeless.
So when a 10-point buck, big by anyone’s standards, came by his tree stand set amongst some large beech trees, he decided to take it.
And he missed.
“It was a 20-yard shot and I just missed. I shot right over its back,” Shaulis said.
What a break that was.
Later, on Oct. 24, Shaulis was back in his stand when the really big deer – the one he’d been focusing on – showed up.
He killed it the very first time he saw it at 32 yards.
He wasn’t aware right away of what he’d done. The deer was “huge,” he understood that. But he never considered that it might be a state record whitetail until his taxidermist – a veteran of 20 years of mounting trophies – told him otherwise.
Shaulis moved to get the buck’s rack scored.
Bob D’Angelo, coordinator of the big game records program for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, did that live on Facebook on Dec. 4.
The buck indeed moved to the top of the charts. It’s the new state record whitetail in the typical category, with a net score of 185 4/8.
The previous record scored 178 2/8. Micahel Nicola Sr. of Waterford killed it in Allegheny County in 2004.
D’Angelo said he thought right away that Shaulis’s buck had a chance to take over the top spot. It had 13 points, with an inside spread of 20 2/8 inches. The left main beam was 25 inches, the right main beam 26 2/8.
“Any time you see more than 25 inches in a main beam, that’s pretty good,” he said.
Still, he didn’t expect the rack to score quite as high as it did. He thought it might hit the low 180s.
By going even beyond that, it “smashed the record,” he said.
“It was even bigger than I thought,” D’Angelo added.
It’s been that kind of season, and decade really.
D’Angelo said hunters added 171 bucks to the commission’s record book last season. This year’s total may surpass even that, he said. That includes some giant deer.
On each of the next two Thursdays, for example, he’ll be scoring two non-typical archery deer – one killed in Perry County, the other Clarion, both with a crossbow – that will likely finish in the top five.
That’s all part of a long-term trend. D’Angelo said the number of quality bucks has been climbing steadily, with Westmoreland County in particular usually ranking in the top five statewide for big bucks produced.
“The numbers have been going up every year, ever since we started antler restrictions,” D’Angelo said. “It’s been amazing.”
Shaulis’ deer is evidence of that.
He killed nice bucks before, including a 10-point and a big 6 with no brow tines, near where he got his record. But none like this one – his record deer, the one he got the very first time he ever saw it.
And all after a miss.
“That was my best miss ever,” he said. “My wife and buddies tell me that same thing all the time.”