The history of archery hunting has a short but highly venerated list of practitioners. Names like Howard Hill, Fred Bear, Saxton Pope, Art Young, Ishi, and “Chief” Compton populate it, and Chuck Adams is definitely included among them. He’s the last of his breed, and he’s still taking down hunting world records.
Adams, an award-winning magazine and book author, was the first bowhunter to take all 27 big game species in North America (the Super Slam) and currently holds 210 Pope and Young entries and counting.
This past August, Adams made his 18th pilgrimage to Kodiak Island, Alaska, to hunt his favorite game, the Sitka blacktail deer — 35 years after he notched his first typical world record Sitka on that island, he managed to do it again.
This year, Adams killed an archery world record velvet typical Sitka blacktail buck that was recently officially scored at 109 7/8 inches, eclipsing the previous record of 108 1/8 inches held by Allen Bolen since 2020.
Pope and Young convened a special panel of judges on Dec. 6 in Rock Springs, Wyoming, to authenticate the measurement of Adams’ buck and make it official.
“When I broke the typical world record on Sitka deer in 1986, that deer was in velvet, but the antlers were fully formed, and I stripped them,” Adams said on a phone call this week. “At that point, there were no velvet categories for Sitka deer and others, so that was my only option.”
Pope and Young made antlers in velvet an official category in July 2020.
“I’ve always preferred to hunt hard-horned animals,” he added. “Their antlers are a lot easier to care for, and I like the look. But I quite often hunt near the beginning of the season in early to mid-August. Most of them are still in the velvet.”
A Solo Backcountry Hunt and Severe Backpacking
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Adams, 70, was flown into a small lake area that he’s hunted out of before and set up camp there. Back in his backcountry stomping grounds with three buck tags in his pocket, he felt right at home.
“I went up by myself, which doesn’t worry me at all,” he said. “I’ve done it before a handful of times. There are brown bears running around, and I suppose a guy could break his leg or something in the mountains, but I don’t regard the dangers as being particularly significant.
“I have several serious bowhunting friends that like to go to Alaska with me. I like the camaraderie in camp, really. This year nobody had the time or inclination to go.”
With only himself to worry about, Adams decided packing light and hunting hard all day was the way to go. He kept his backpack setup simple, hauling only a spotting scope, binoculars, a few survival gear essentials, and some food.
“I do severe backpacking, so this particular trip, I was going back to base camp every day rather than bivouacking out overnight,” he said. “But I’d cover 10 to 15 miles every day in the high country, just glassing vast amounts of country and trying to see as many bucks as I could. Most of the places I hunt, I’ve been hunting for decades. So I know every wrinkle in the hills.”
“I plan what direction I want to go and what set of mountain peaks I want to look over, nothing real complicated, and just start hiking,” he adds. “It’s like like they say: Success is 90% perspiration and only 10% inspiration. So you hunt your head off and hope things work out.”
Heading for High Country
Adams says he usually sees quite a few deer in the summertime because they’re out in the open high country; getting eyes on 100-plus deer a day is not unusual.
As luck would have it, the very first deer Adams saw on this hunt was the blacktail that would become his latest world-record buck.
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“I was climbing to some high country where most of the deer hang out in the summertime to get above the bugs and be a little cooler,” he recalled. “I was still in the foothills, pretty low down. I came over a little hill, and this buck was lying about 125 yards in front of me in a little swale. I thought, ‘That’s a monster.’”
For a hunter with 37 P&Y-class Sitka blacktails to his name, that’s a hell of a statement. Adams said that the stalk took the better part of an hour.
“I was crosswind from the deer, and I wanted to get the wind in my face. There was only one place where I could get within bow range, so I circled around just took my time,” he said. “I ran into some does and had to peel them off and get them to run the other way, so this deer didn’t know I was there. I crawled within 36 yards behind a little point and nailed him.”
Adams sealed the deal with his custom Hoyt hybrid finger bow, an Easton XX78 arrow, and a G5 Striker broadhead — along with his rock-solid nerves and aim.
With the world record in his game bag, Adams hunted blacktail for another two weeks to fill his remaining tags.
“I saw quite a few deer, but I never saw a buck to compare with that one,” he said.
Pope and Young World Record No. 6
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The first world record animal Adams ever shot was a Sitka buck that he arrowed back in 1986. In 1989, he claimed the world record for Coues deer while hunting in Arizona, and he tagged the world record mountain caribou in 1995.
“In 2000, I had four-leaf clovers in my pocket,” he said. “I broke the American elk world record and the bison world record that same year.”
Adams’ proficiency as a topper of archery hunting records cannot be overstated; this blacktail is the sixth P&Y world record animal he’s taken. Nobody else has even come close to that number. In fact, a gentleman named Fred Bear is the only other hunter to do it twice.
“Fred Bear had a world record in the brown bear category and in the stone sheep category,” Adams said. “I’ve been told nobody else has ever taken more than one world record.”
“[Bear] was my hero,” he added. “I had the good fortune to spend time with him in his later years and interviewed him for a magazine article in Grayling back when he owned the company. He was the man for sure.”
All five of Adams’ previous world records have since been broken, but he knows that’s part of the sport.
“My original Sitka deer lasted quite a while. Some of them were eclipsed within, like, two to four years. Records are meant to be broken,” Adams said. “There are very few world records that won’t get broken eventually.”
Here’s to the big game we love, the opportunity to pursue them, and the wild places we find them.
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