Ben Chaffer was disappointed with an early miss, but he was back in his tree stand later and tagged 'the buck of a lifetime'

He missed and his heart sank. 

Because Ben Chaffer may be only 17 years old, but he knows. Bucks with 10 points don’t come along every day, much less offer a shot broadside. So when he watched the load from his .30-06 hit a branch instead of the buck he had sighted in from about 100 yards on the opening day of firearms season, he was discouraged.

And a couple of hours later, he was inside his Naples house.

“I didn’t see that limb there,” said Chaffer. “But he was gone.”

So was a frustrated Chaffer, who also knows well enough that no matter how frustrating the world of hunting can be, you still can’t get a deer from your couch. And that’s why he listened to his grandfather, Milt Burlingame of Conesus, and headed back out. By noon, he was seated in his stand.

“It was 12:19 and this buck came up over the hill,” recalled Chaffer, a senior at Naples, who also plays basketball for the Big Green. “It was the buck of a lifetime.”

Chaffer didn’t miss this time. And the 14-point buck that’s expected to score around a 150 green is the product of everything that makes ethical hunters proud.

Earlier on opening day, Chaffer saw smaller deer but let them walk. He works with his grandfather, and dad Chuck Chaffer, to keep their land in Naples pure with no food plots and minimum pressure.

“We like to let the deer keep to the woods,” he said.

It’s approaches like this that make the 14-pointer so satisfying for hunters like Chaffer. Patience, selectivity and sound management of resources are just part of the equation when it comes to finding trophies like the one Chaffer tagged. 

It’s also what eases the pain of his earlier miss.

“Oh, I was so upset,” he said of his shot at the 10-pointer. “It ruins the day for you … I saw the limb break and I went out and looked just to be sure. No hair, no blood, no nothing.”

But you can add persistence to the equation of management, too. Because Chaffer believes with all his heart that encouragement from his grandfather was a big factor in his success.

“He helped me get that buck,” said Chaffer. “He’s always telling me to keep hunting and good things will happen … I couldn’t have done it without him. Keep on hunting, be patient and the respect you have to have in letting the little deer pass.”

Chaffer of course isn’t the only hunter to think in such terms, but it’s refreshing to hear it from a young hunter. As the overall number of hunters continues to dwindle, to hear young hunters talk about the pursuit with such respect and reverence is encouraging for the future. As Chaffer pointed out, the bucks he saw that morning were around because other hunters joined him in not shooting at fawns, yearlings or button bucks.

That includes grandpa, who last year brought in an 11-point buck that scored in the 150 class. The buck for Chaffer was his third deer overall, and his first buck.

“I certainly did get lucky with this, it’s amazing,” said Chaffer. “But if you let the (the small ones) go, it pays off.”

Chavez is sports editor at The Daily Messenger. Contact me at or follow me @MPN_bchavez