For the last decade, hunters in the state of Arkansas have averaged taking three to four bucks annually that score high enough to make the all-time records list of the Boone and Crockett Club. That number was dead on for the 2008-09 season, with four Natural State mega-bucks taken! While it is my personal observation that the overall number of big deer statewide may be down slightly from 2007-08, there’s still a lot of cream at the top of our state’s deer gene pool!
One other observation: As I’ve said for the last 10 years, this is one of the most enjoyable articles I write. Why? Because it gives me a chance to meet some of the very best people in this entire state! That’s certainly the case with the hunters highlighted here, and with a lot of others I’ve met in recent months as well!
The highest-scoring buck overall for 2008-09 was a 209 0/8 non-typical taken down in Phillips County by Davis Smith of White Hall. It and another Booner, a 174 2/8 typical taken by Frank Foster of Mena, will be featured in future issues of Arkansas Sportsman, so I won’t cover them here. But don’t worry; there still are plenty of quality deer to write about!
179 4/8 Typical Gun KillDesha County
Jeremy McMahan, 33, lives in Tupelo, Miss., where he makes designer furniture from Mississippi River driftwood and deer antlers. He does his actual deer hunting on Concordia Rod & Gun Club, a private club located inside the Mississippi River levee. That club is on the Arkansas side of the old river channel, which explains why his buck is considered as having been killed in Arkansas.
Some years back, Jeremy became enthralled with big deer, which is somewhat natural for someone hunting in the delta region. Kansas to Saskatchewan, deer are what they eat, and there is virtually an unlimited food source throughout the region.
Back during the second week of dove season, Jeremy saw a huge buck. He immediately began scouting the area, and before opening day of bow season put up several stands in locations the monster seemed to frequent. One of those was along the edge of a cotton field. Jeremy saw the big buck from that stand, but it was too far for a bowshot.
When gun season opened, family duties kept Jeremy close to home for the first few days, but on Sunday, Nov. 9, he was able to hunt the afternoon. He returned to the stand by the cotton field, only to find that the cotton stalks had been cut. That pushed him back to a stand near the field where he had first seen the buck.
“I wasn’t really expecting to see him in that open field,” Jeremy told me, “but as more and more deer filtered into it, my anticipation grew. Then at 4:55, the big buck followed eight does and an 8-point into the field! He was about 300 yards away, so I waited to see if he would come closer.”
A little after 5 p.m. the light was starting to fade and Jeremy knew the time had come. The buck was about 250 yards away when he raised his Browning .30/06 and fired. The mortally wounded animal ran only 100 yards into the surrounding woods before crashing to the ground!
The 5×5 Desha County buck had been eating a lot of beans, tipping the scales at 232 pounds. In January, Jeremy carried the rack to the Big Buck Classic in Little Rock, where it was officially scored at 179 4/8 typical points! That figure will make it the largest typical taken in the state last fall, and Arkansas’ No. 14 buck of all time!
“I had intended on hunting Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” Jeremy recalled, “but my wife, Catherine, needed help at home with our two young children. So that Sunday afternoon was the first time I got to go. I believe that God blessed me for getting my priorities right and putting my family first!”
177 3/8 Typical Gun KillSt. Francis County
Back in the fall of 1987, Bob Lemke was along on the hunt when his friend George Hobson took his 208 5/8 non-typical buck during the two-day Zone 4 shotgun hunt. It took a while, but Bob now has a Boone and Crockett buck of his own!
A 61-year-old building contractor from Forrest City and a lifelong deer hunter, Lemke was actually trying to get his good friend Marty Heustess a “buck for the wall” last season. With that in mind, the two of them had built a box blind overlooking a cut bean field on some land Marty leased. Game cameras put up in the area showed several good bucks using the field, but only one picture out of many showed a buck that “might have been this one,” as Bob put it.
The two hunted the spot morning and evening when the season opened, and added the midday period when the rut started. Then on Nov. 25, Marty couldn’t go — something about chores his wife thought he had been neglecting. And so, as fate would have it, Bob went alone. When he arrived at the stand just at daybreak, there already were three bucks in the field, all of them small. He eased inside the blind to wait. (Continued)
“Along about 6:30, I saw a spike buck lying along the edge of the field,” Bob said. “He kept looking back over his shoulder into an area of tall weeds. When I looked through my binoculars I could see a buck there, a big buck!”
Bob raised his rifle and fired, but the buck never seemed to move! It wasn’t until he walked up to the spot, some 269 yards from the stand that Bob realized the buck had been lying down in the weeds instead of standing! The shot had been true, killing the monster in its bed!
The beautiful 5×5 rack was scored at the Arkansas Big Buck Classic and netted 177 3/8 typical points. That total puts it at the No. 20 spot in the overall state rankings. It also becomes the second largest typical from St. Francis County, only behind Andy Anderson’s 185 5/8 buck taken in 1998.
So, sometimes fate can be fickle, as Marty can no doubt attest, but for Bob Lemke fate provided him the opportunity to take an Arkansas buck of a lifetime!
191 6/8 Non-Typical Gun KillBenton County
Robert Whitehorn is a 54-year-old Reverse Mortgage Specialist for Financial Freedom in Rogers, and makes his home in the nearby small community of Little Flock. A veteran of more than 30 years of deer hunting, and with several bucks to his credit, his hunting style is somewhat unique.
“I have to be at work by 9 o’clock, so I’m a clock-watcher,” Robert chuckled. “I also alw
ays take along a book to read when I’m on stand, usually a Western.”
On Nov. 12, he was hunting on property belonging to a neighbor, Gary Huffard. The two of them had put up a two-man ladder stand along a hillside that they kept brush-hogged. In that area were lots of red oaks and post oaks the deer seemed to be using. The two had initially planned on hunting together that day, but Gary had “something come up” at the last minute.
“I went on stand at daybreak, and at 8:50 I was getting ready to leave,” said Robert. “But when I put down my book there was a deer standing there, about 20 yards away, looking at me from behind a big cedar. I have no idea how he got there, but I managed to get my rifle up and fire.”
At the blast of the Marlin 338, the .35 Remington bullet put the buck down on the spot! As Robert walked up to the deer, he could see antler points sticking up in every direction! The rack actually had 25 points in all, 13 on the right and 12 on the left. They resulted in a net non-typical score of 191 6/8, which was good enough to gain Whitehorn the Honda ATV given to the winner of the Mountain Man Big Buck Challenge held in Fayetteville!
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