Local teen hunts down club history

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 18, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Just when Paul Helvestine was ready to hang up his eye-opening orange hunting cap and put away his 12-gauge shotgun, something happened to turn him into Suffolk’s newest hunting sensation.

During the 2001-2 hunting season (the period runs annually from mid-November to early January), Paul was able to bag only a single doe. Last season, he didn’t record even a single kill. It wasn’t until three weeks ago, however, that the young buck blaster received his near coup de grace from the wildest of sports.

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Back on the last Saturday of December, the 18-year-old Lakeland graduate was out at a poquosoun (wooded logging area) near his Carolina Road backyard. Suddenly, an eight-point buck (a deer’s age can often by determined by the number of points on its antlers), much like the one whose head hangs on the living room wall of the Helvestine home, put there by Paul’s father Mike, wandered onto the road.

Paul racked his gun and fired away at the animal, roughly 40 yards away. But he missed, and the creature galloped away.

&uot;That was frustrating,&uot; Paul recalls. &uot;I was about ready to give up.&uot; However, Mike and the rest of the Community Hunting Club, which father and son joined three years ago, convinced him to finish out the season.

Paul agreed, and he, Mike and about 20 other members headed back to the poqouson on the early morning of Jan. 3. At roughly 10 a.m., Paul and Mike received a call on their CB from members of the Byrd Hunting Club, also based out of Suffolk (a type of sportsmanship and cooperation that’s unusual among rival hunting clubs).

&uot;They said that their dogs had tracked a 12-point deer, and it was heading right toward us,&uot; Paul says. He went down one side of a path poking through the poquoson, while Mike and another member went to the other end.

Paul could hear barking and rustling through the woods. Then he saw the buck charge out of the wooded area, and rush toward Mike. Their fellow member shot at the deer and missed, sending the frightened animal back toward a surprised Paul.

&uot;It jumped out of the woods, and I shot at it,&uot; Paul says. &uot;I thought I’d hit it, but it kept running.&uot; As the deer made its way to the middle of the path, Paul fired again (a blast that, he said, would have taken his family pickup truck had it missed its four-legged target!). The animal turned around, and attempted to lurch back into the woods. Paul shoved a shell into his Remington, and launched one more shot at his prey.

Mike ran up. &uot;Did you get it?!&uot; he asked Paul. At first, Paul couldn’t be sure.

He headed into the woods, and could see the Byrd Club’s dogs, mostly walkers and beagles, pulling something out of the woods. &uot;I couldn’t see anything because there was a log there,&uot; he says. Then he saw the deer on the ground – and it wasn’t getting back up.

&uot;I was screaming, ‘I got it! I got it!’&uot; he laughs. Mike charged to the CB and called all the surrounding hunters. Two minutes later, he, Paul and the deer were surrounded by nearly every member of the club. Five of them carried the deer back to the truck.

In the next two hours, Paul estimates, &uot;I took about 100 pictures. Everyone there wanted to take a shot, and then I drove around and showed it off to my buddies.&uot; He had a great deal to brag of – the deer, point-wise, was the club’s largest kill since 1963. On Wednesday, Paul will receive the group’s Big Buck Award, and his kill may win him an award at the Big Buck Challenge in South-ampton this September.

The critter is now at the taxidermist, and it may take from six to eight months before it’s back with its owner; the animal must be skinned, hided, soaked in acid, and remodeled. But Paul knows exactly where the head is heading.

&uot;I’m going to put it right there next to my dad’s,&uot; he says, pointing at the buck his father bagged. &uot;Mine’s about twice as big!&uot;