Clayton Johnson (left) shakes David Pearson’s hand, congratulating the young hunter on a ‘buck of a lifetime’ trophy.
Clayton Johnson (left) shakes David Pearson’s hand, congratulating the young hunter on a ‘buck of a lifetime’ trophy.

Fifteen minutes after David Pearson's 2012 deer season began, it was over. This particular hunt, however, had lasted three years.

Pearson harvested a non-typical whitetail buck measuring 189-3/4 inches (green-scored) this year. The rack isn't only tall and wide, it's heavy. The base of each antler measures 7-1/2" around, about as big as a pop can. Where the tines branch off, the beams are almost wrist-sized.

The inside width is 23 inches, while its 26" wide outside. "The taxidermist said it was at least 7-1/2 years old," Pearson said recently.

After the rack has dried for 60 days, an official measurement can be taken. Since it shouldn't shrink by more than an inch, the total will still be above the 185 needed to earn a Boone & Crocket award. That puts it among the best trophies ever taken in Houston County.

"For me, deer hunting has always been associated with my father (Roger) and Clayton Johnson," Pearson added. "My dad and Clayton go way back. He's been like a second father to me, just by default.

"I was probably 10 years old when Clayton bought his property in Black Hammer Township. My earliest hunts were there. After 5 to 8 years or so my parents bought a property right next to Clayton's."

When the trophy of a lifetime appears, anything can happen. The big non-typical started showing up on the hunter's trail cam photos several years ago.

"It's extremely hard not to tell everybody," Pearson said. "People would drive by and tell us they just saw the world's biggest deer out at our place."

"We've been after this buck for three years. This summer, we had pictures of him since mid-July, when he was in velvet. He's just been out-smarting us. Clayton has had a couple chances at him in previous years but he's too much of a sportsman to take a shot that's not good. Even if the deer is walking, he won't take the shot."

"We've been walking on tacks. You get nervous when bow season starts. When you look at a deer like this on your trail cam it gets you pumped up for the season."

November third finally arrived. Out in his stand in early-dawn pitch darkness, David heard deer moving around close by, but couldn't tell what they were.

As the sky began to brighten, a doe and a yearling came into view. Pearson sat as quietly as possible, since an alarm from either could scare off approaching bucks.

Legal shooting hours finally arrived. At about eight o'clock, "he came right up the logging road, right towards me," David recalled.

"I knew right away that this was the deer we'd been watching. He turned and walked broadside, right into the crosshairs. It couldn't have been more perfect."

In March, the mount will join several impressive racks in Pearson's living room. The biggest until now is the first buck he took, a wide "typical" that has a story behind it...

"Clayton handed that one to me," he said with a nod. "We were going to the tree stands together, and he had moved a stand for me to use. He'd actually been out bow hunting the night before and had seen that deer.

"I didn't know exactly where I was going that morning, which was the opening of shotgun season. He just said, 'Well, you go there.' He sent me to where he knew that deer was.

"That's the day I shot that buck. You can't hand a deer to somebody any more than that. The thing is, that buck was bigger than anything he'd shot to date around here. That's pretty selfless.

"That's one of the best things about the people I hunt with - my dad and Clayton. Even though I got this one, I can guarantee that they're just as happy for me, and I'd have been just as happy for them if either of them had shot it.

"There's no competition between us. There's no jealousy whatsoever. As soon as I had this deer down and got out of my stand, I went over to Clayton's. I told him it was on the ground. He just grinned and gave me a hug.

"Those guys are great teachers. We've been hunting the same property together as long as I can remember. To be able to do this with them is the best part of taking a trophy buck."