It’s not often that a hunter who shoots a 170-class deer gets more excited to find a 6-inch piece of antler than the actual animal itself, but that’s exactly what happened with Heath Clement and a unique Hogue Island buck nicknamed “Handlebars.”

Dating back to when it was in velvet this summer, Clement had hundreds of trail cam pics of the mature 14-pointer north of Lake Providence with matching rear-facing kickers on its G2s that earned the buck its nickname. 

“That’s all I ever talked about,” said Clement, 44 an ag pilot from Lake Providence. “All I talked about was Handlebars. He had character to him.”

But the unthinkable happened when Clement actually arrowed the big deer about 5:30 p.m. Oct 26 with a 24-yard shot from his Mathews Z7. 

He and a buddy tracked the deer for 400 yards that evening and located the buck, but were dismayed at what they found — or actually, didn’t find.

“When we went up there, he got to him first and said, ‘You’re going to be upset.’ I said, ‘Please, don’t tell me. Please don’t tell me.’ He said, ‘Man — yes.’

“Sure enough on his right G2, the tine broke off. I said, ‘You have got to be kidding me.’ I was sick.”

With 400 yards from the where the deer was shot to where it was recovered, the odds were long that Clement would ever locate the 6-inch piece of bone that made Handlebars look like handlebars.

“So that next morning I went back to where I shot the deer and found where he barreled through some stuff, and I could see where he hit a small tree and then a bigger tree — and you could see where that tine hit that tree,” Clement said. “I said, ‘This is where it is right here. This is where it happened.’ And I looked and I looked and I looked and I looked, and I couldn’t find anything.

“So I was all upset. I said, ‘This is like finding a needle in a haystack. There’s no way I’m ever going to find this thing.’ There’s no telling where it’s at.”

But a few days later, he took his nephew Deuce Clement hunting at Hogue Island for youth weekend, and at the youngster’s urging, returned to the spot between hunts and showed him where Handlebars had crashed through the woods.

In the meantime, he had talked to a friend who had found a missing tine in a similar situation, and he told Clement it was a full 20 yards away from the tree impacted by the buck.

“I was concentrating on a 5-yard radius around the tree, and I was mainly looking out from the tree that he hit,” Clement said. “But think about it — if you’re going in a car and hit a tree, what’s everything going to do? It’s going to fly forward.

“So I said, ‘Hell, maybe I didn’t look up far enough.’”

So Clement adjusted his search zone for the missing tine further up and away from the tree he suspected the buck crashed into along the trail. 

“And I’ll be damned. It was like somebody laid it there …. Are you kidding me? I took off running through the woods like a little kid. I had found the doggone tine.”

Without the 6-inch handlebar tine, the big buck green-scored 172 inches at Simmons’ Sporting Goods in Bastrop. 

Estimated at 7 ½ years old with an inside spread of 18 4/8 inches, Handlebars sported bases almost 6 inches in circumference and tipped the scales at a hefty 260 pounds.

The buck is currently in third place in the archery division at Simmons’, just one-eighth of an inch behind Clement’s good friend Grady Brown.

And now instead of having to create a fake tine, his taxidermist will use the real thing to restore Handlebars’ rack to its full glory and prepare a mount that Clement won’t ever forget.

“The only reason I went back to look was to relive the moment for my nephew, and I found it. To me, finding that tine was almost like I shot that deer again,” Clement said with a chuckle. “But if it wouldn’t have broke off, I would be winning at Simmons’ right now, I guess.”

Don't forget to enter photos of your bucks in the Nikon Big Buck Photo Contest to be eligible for monthly giveaways and the rand drawing for Nikon optics at the end of the contest.

Read other stories about big bucks killed this season by clicking here.