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"Lee's Meat Buck"


Lee's Meat Buck
I answered my ringing telephone and on the other end of the line was our lifetime companion and hunting buddy, Lee Spurgeon. At the time, I was living and working in New Mexico. Lee asked if I wanted to go to Colorado and shoot some meat! He had a sportsman's license and wanted to see if he could fill his freezer. I told him I'd love to tag along but hadn't asked for any time off and had to work that week. I told him I'd have to hook up with him later.

Lee Spurgeon was a unique person. One characteristic that I'll never forget about Lee was his laugh. If he was amused, he curled his lip a bit and chuckled. If something really tickled him, he practically lost his breath, turned red in the face, and his laugh became kind of a wheeze. You couldn't help but join in the laughter knowing how tickled he was. Lee was not a tall man, but stout and strong. The harder something was, the more of a challenge it became for him. There isn't much he would back down from.

Lee started hunting with my Dad, Don Darner, when they both lived in Des Moines, Iowa back in the 30's. The Depression was in full swing and it was a time that turned them into survivors. They hunted to have meat on the table for their families and trapped to have enough cash to go hunting. It also made for good times and good memories. After several moves, our family and Lee's landed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We went on many family outings together, hunting and fishing.

One of those hunts took us along the Chama River in New Mexico. My dad, Lee, and I were hunting mule deer along the hogbacks under the rim that drained to the river. Lee was above me and Dad was below just above the river. We had walked about two hours when Lee's shot rang out, breaking the stillness of the morning. It was dead quiet for two minutes. I didn't want to holler for fear of spooking any game.

Lee's Meat Buck
All of a sudden all hell broke loose! Rocks were rolling, brush was cracking and I could hear Lee muttering obscenities. Next thing I knew, Lee and the buck he had shot appeared crashing in and out of the brush. It was hard to tell who had who. Lee had a hold of one antler near the brow tine and in his other hand he was wielding an old navy knife. Finally, he was able to find the buck's jugular vein and the struggle ended. Lee stood up and his appearance was ragged, to say the least. Shirt and pants torn and his face and hands scratched as if a mountain lion had worked him over. He was laughing so hard he was red in the face and wheezing with excitement. "Yeehaw! Darn that was fun!"

After the dust had settled I asked Lee what the heck had happened. He said that as he walked up on the buck he could see he wasn't dead. He got his knife out to finish the job. Just as he reached for the buck's horn, the deer jumped up and ran with Lee still attached. I asked Lee why he didn't just shoot him again. "Didn't want to waste any ammo," was his reply.

When I hunted the backcountry, I would always take the horses. I could cover much more ground that way. When Lee went with me, he would ride the horses now and then, but for the most part he walked and would pack any game out on his back. I've seen a time when it took him two days to pack out an elk. He thought nothing of strapping as much on his back as he could possibly handle and heading for the truck with it.

Almost everything Lee hunted was to eat. He would harvest a coyote or cat now and then and sell the hides, making enough off them to pay for the gas for his next hunting or fishing trip. I remember another family hunting trip on the Chama River when Lee took another good buck. He carried it three miles on his back to get it to camp. He immediately fried the liver and ate most of it that evening...made him sicker than a dog!

Lee's Meat Buck
About a week after the phone call from Lee inviting me on the hunt in Colorado, I stopped by his house to see how the hunt had gone. He had hunted most of that week and finally downed a buck that was feeding in an aspen stand. I guess the weather had been horrible and when he found the buck it was in a blinding snowstorm. Knowing Lee, he was probably happy as punch that it was snowing so hard because it just added that extra edge that made the hunt harder. As he told me the story he stated he had taken a 5x5 typical buck and was sure hoping it would be good to eat!

When I finally got a look at the buck, eating was the last thing on my mind as I gawked at the antlers! He was a massive typical! The best I'd ever seen. I told him we should measure it and a frown was his only reply. I jokingly called this magnificent buck his "Meat Buck" in the years to come.

Through the years, after I'd left New Mexico, I'd visit Lee and his family occasionally. Lee always had something in his reloading shop behind the house that he would want to show me. The "Meat Buck" decorated the wall of his shop and I was always amazed to see the buck again and what a magnificent rack he had. Endlessly, I'd tell Lee, "Let's get that buck down and measure it!" Lee's reply was always the same. "I don't care about that stuff! He's doing OK up there." That went on for 30 years!

Several years ago, Lee had a serious stroke that paralyzed his left side and slurred his speech. It was one of the worst things his children and I had to see: a "man's man" suffering so, in a nursing home and embarrassed to see his family and friends. His speech and condition worsened each time we visited him. He told me once, as Paula and I sat at his bedside, "I know those big mountains are between us now but please come back to see me!"
Lee's Meat Buck
On our next visit Lee asked, "Are you going back to Colorado today? Can you stop by the house on your way home?" I said, "Sure, do you need me to do something for you?" Lee said, "No. Just stop by and see Jane. [his daughter]"

When Jane came to the door, she got big tears in her eyes as she hugged me. She said, "Daddy wants you to have his buck, the one you like so much, and his 7mm Ackley rifle that he shot the buck with. I'll go get the key to his shop."

The "Meat Buck" is once again a resident of Colorado. What a perfect buck he is! This last Spring, Lee passed away. I'm sure he is stomping around the happy hunting grounds right now with his 'ol pal Don Darner.

Editors' Note: Kirt has decided to enter this buck in Boone and Crockett's records for Lee. I had the opportunity to officially measure this deer back in August. The buck didn't strike me as a potential world record when I first saw it, but as the measurements came together, I knew just how big he was. The buck's right antler measured 103 7/8 and the left antler 104 0/8. Add these to a 25 7/8 inside spread and I had a gross measurement of 233 6/8! The buck has 3 7/8 inches of deduction, which left me with a final score of 229 7/8 net. The net score is 3 3/8 inches over Doug Burris JR's World's Record! If this buck is accepted by Boone and Crockett, it will have to be panel-measured at the next awards banquet. However, there could be differences between my measurements and the panel's. Main beam length is the most critical. Boone and Crockett requires measurers to stay in the middle of the beam on the outer side. If this measurement is not correct (as defined by the panel), it can significantly change this length. I don't expect to see much difference in tine length or mass measurements.

By Kirt Darner, as told to Rusty Hall, Trophy Hunter Magazine