Three generations of Godfrey family land bucks in special season
This is going to be tough to beat.
The game room is John Godfrey's Natrona Heights home is a taxidermy showcase, with a little bit of everything. There's a walleye and musky, bass and trout, a coyote and turkey, squirrels and pheasant and, soon, a bobcat, among other things.
And there are antlers. Plenty of them.
None, though, rivals these. At least not as a set.
This fall, Godfrey, his son Patrick and grandson Chase all took bucks on state game lands near their camp in Tidioute, Warren County.
Talk about a memorable deer season.
Patrick and Chase got theirs from the same stand on the same morning in rifle season. John's came from just a quarter-mile away in archery season.
And all had big racks.
John's is an 8-point with a 22-inch spread. Chase's is an 8-point, too, with an 18-inch spread. And Patrick's is a 9-point, with about a 14-inch spread.
“That's a shame,” Patrick said with a laugh. “I got a 9-point, and it's the baby. When I first got it, I thought I might get it mounted. It's my biggest deer with a gun.
“Then, when Chase got his, I was like, never mind. We'll get yours mounted instead.”
John, 65, got his buck in his first deer season hunting with a senior lifetime license. Chase, 15, got his — his first deer ever — in his last deer season hunting with a junior license.
All are impressive.
“They're all just really big for mountain deer,” John said. “And to get them all in the same year, very close to the same spot. I don't want to call it a fluke because we're good hunters. But it's really something.”
Twice before, in 1997 and 1999, the Godfrey clan had seasons with three generations of hunters getting deer. That involved John's dad, Wilbert, John and Patrick.
But those bucks included several spikes and 4-points. None rivaled these.
All three were in the camp the family's had since 1952, too.
That John took his buck in archery season is no surprise.
A family friend, Rich Matuizek, got him started in the outdoors. He picked up a bow not long after and soon was addicted.
At one point, he carried a hay bale in the trunk of his car and shoot wooden arrows from a recurve on the football field at IUP while visiting his now-wife Karen.
He killed a lot of bucks with bows over the year. Most of his whitetails, in fact, fell to an arrow rather than a bullet.
This year's deer — his largest ever — came in his 50th season of archery hunting.
He went to camp for opening day of the rifle season anyway, just to be part of the action.
It came pretty quick.
Patrick and Chase were sitting back-to-back under a tree on opening day when a buck approached.
“It was coming right at us,” Patrick said. “It was right on us somehow before I could even tell Chase or say anything. So I had to just shoot it.”
That was exciting. He'd never killed a buck with Chase by his side, so the father-son team was pretty pumped.
That was around 7:15 a.m. Patrick asked if Chase wanted to go back to camp or continue hunting; the teen decided to stay in the woods.
That proved a wise decision.
The hours started ticking by, so Patrick stretched out his legs and closed his eyes. He told Chase to wake him if a buck came by.
At 10:15 that morning, one did.
He didn't spend a lot of time counting antler points: As a junior hunter, he's permitted to take any buck with a spike at least three inches long.
He tried to wake his dad, saying “deer, deer, horns,” several times.
Getting no response, he looked ahead, picked out an opening in the direction the deer was traveling, and killed it with one round from his single-shot .243 when it stepped into that space. That woke his dad up.
“He asked me like eight times, ‘Are you sure it had horns?' ” Chase said. “I kept telling him yes.”
“He was like, ‘Yeah dad, it had a big rack.' I was like, ‘Yeah, right,' ” Patrick said. “Then when we walked up to it I was like, ‘wow.'
“I was extremely proud that he was able to do everything right on his own, though. It was cool to me that he wanted to stay and hunt all morning anyway, when he could have said he wanted to go back to camp because he was cold or hungry or whatever. And then to do everything right, just like he was taught, that was the neatest thing.”
They called John back at camp, and he came and helped drag the deer out of the woods.
Now, all three deer are headed for the wall.
Patrick is having the rack from his buck put on a plaque.
John and Chase are getting full shoulder mounts, though.
Making space for them on the wall is going to require a little re-arranging, John said. Space is getting scarce.
“I keep telling Karen we might need an addition,” he said with a laugh.
He doesn't think he'll get it. But that's OK, he said.
This season was special enough on its own.
“It will never be beat,” he said.