Every deer hunter who has ever sat in a stand does it. We put our head on a swivel looking into every shadow, around the edges of every thicket and on the crest of each creek bottom.
We react to each crack of a dried limb breaking or crunch of a dead leaf.
All of us hope the next movement we see is the body of a buck sporting a head full of heavy hardware. We try to “will” a truckload of antlers to pop up out of nowhere.
It’s why we hunt. It’s why we spend nearly a billion bucks a year in Mississippi searching for giant bucks.
Truth is, in most instances, when one of us puts a bullet in or an arrow through a record-book buck, it is one we’ve seen or gotten photos of and it is simply the end of a chase that centered on that one animal.
The following three stories are prime examples of exactly that; guys who knew exactly what they were looking for and found it. It completes our look at the best Mississippi trophy bucks from the 2010-11 deer season.
Casey Orr, his dad and a select few friends knew there was a monster buck walking around their deer camp in Choctaw County.
Keeping it a secret, as tough as it was, was not as difficult as actually killing what would become the No. 9 non-typical ever taken in Mississippi — officially scoring 216 6/8 B&C points.
“We had first seen the buck early in the 2009-10 deer season, when he was 3 1/2 years old,” Orr said. “When I say ‘seen’ I mean we had trail cam photos of the buck that year, and the amazing thing was that he was just as good then as he was this year. Imagine over 200 inches in 3 1/2 years.
“We decided that we’d keep this buck secret. We got a lot of members in the club and we’re all friends, but we didn’t tell anybody about it. It was just dad, Craig Yates and I.
“It was kind of funny,” said Yates, a close personal friend and the assistant principal of Pisgah School. “We were trying to hunt that buck without anyone knowing.”
And, the three men hunted him hard all through the 2009-10 season.
“We had all those trail cam photos of him, but once the season opened, he just disappeared,” said Orr, an assistant football coach at Starkville Academy. “We never saw him. We hunted the areas where we had seen him and he didn’t show up. The season came and went and it did so without that buck ever being seen.
“So we went into the summer of 2010 wondering where he’d gone and hoping that he was still a secret. We kept it to ourselves. I only showed a few friends the trail cam photos. It was a long, long off season.”
Orr’s anxiety over the giant buck eased a bit late that summer when he went to the camp to go fishing and was walking down the power line right of way, which was in the area where all the pictures had been taken.
“I was walking down the power line to the lake and I jumped the buck,” Orr said. “It was in that same area where all the pictures came from so I felt better about it. I was sure it was him and that made me think that he was staying around and we’d get a chance at him.”
The confidence climbed another notch, when Orr’s dad, Jerry Orr, ran into the buck up close and personal on a squirrel hunt. Jerry Orr is the soil conservationist for Choctaw County for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Dad was out during squirrel season in early November and he came face-to-face with the buck,” Casey Orr said. “All dad had was his shotgun with squirrel loads and he wouldn’t do anything like that. He watched the deer run off and told us about it.”
A few weeks later, the 2010-11 gun season opened and the search for the monster buck, which had palmated antlers resembling a moose and once seen could never be forgotten, began anew.
“We hunted every chance we had, and we concentrated on that area where we’d seen the buck, but the first gun season passed and we never saw him,” Casey Orr said. “Then came the primitive weapon season and we kept at it.”
And, finally, on Dec. 14, on the next to last day of the primitive weapon season, the buck made a mistake.
Casey Orr was in the right position to take advantage of the animal’s error.
“I knew that every sighting and every photo we had of that buck came from that one area, about a 100-yard square area around that power line,” he said. “I had cut down some small pines and built a ground blind on the edge of it and was in it that day.”
Orr was armed with a .444 caliber rifle that qualifies as a primitive weapon in Mississippi and nestled down in his pine tree nest that afternoon.
The end of the story is mundane, and not the stuff of hunting legend. Even Orr told it without a lot of enthusiasm.
“He just walked out of the woods on the other side of the power line right across from me at about 60 yards and kept on coming,” Orr said. “I just sat there, gun up, and let him come toward me.
“He never stopped, kept on coming and gave me an easy broadside shot at 15 yards. The 265-grain bullet him right behind the shoulder and he didn’t go 20 yards.”
Word of the monster buck spread rapidly as photos were posted on different Web sites and send to the statewide newspaper.
The odd-shaped, palmated mass was gross scored by state wildlife biologist William McKinley a few days after the kill and he came up with 207 5/8 inches gross, 197 3/8 net.
“I knew that was odd as the buck was, I needed to get more scorers to help with the officially measuring once the 60 days passed,” said McKinley, who was joined by fellow State Deer Biologist Jason Blaylock and Magnolia Records Club founder and U.S. Forest Service Biologist Rick Dillard.
“We teamed up on him due to the degree of difficulty,” McKinley said. “There were a lot of decisions to be made on normal verses abnormal, origination of points, common base verses sticker points, etc. We took our time and we referred to the Boone and Crockett handbook often, and after hours generated the final score of 216 6/8.”
The 19-inch difference between green and official scores, McKinley explained, was that in the original scoring he chose the lowest possible result for each measurement.
“I expected the official score to be higher,” he said.
The trio scored the buck as an 8-point main frame, with 12 non-typical points. The main frame had a typical score of 156 4/8 inches and the non-typical points added 60 2/8 inches. The inside spread was a meager 15 6/8 inches, but the greatest circumference was an amazing 13 6/8 inches.
41 Years In The Making
Bubba Buford of Greenwood never forgot the first set of true trophy antlers he’d ever seen. He was 12 when his dad took him to see Franklin Smith’s B&C qualifying deer that scored 180 4/8 typical and was killed in 1968 in Leflore County.
“I remember telling myself, ‘I’m going to get me one like that one day’ and I’ve never forgotten that buck hanging on that man’s wall,” said Buford, now 53 and still living and chasing big bucks around his native Greenwood.
“Who’d have ever thought I’d get one.”
Buford did, of course, get his B&C buck, or else you wouldn’t be reading about him now. His typical, with nearly perfect symmetry, was just four inches shorter smaller than that of Smith’s.
The official score for the monster 12 point is 176 2/8 inches.
“What is really so impressive about him though is how symmetrical the antlers are,” Buford said. “There is only 3 6/8 inches of deductions throughout the entire rack.”
Buford killed the deer Dec. 1 on his own property about three miles outside Greenwood.
“I shot him about 800 yards from my back door,” said Buford, whose trophy buck and land management practices have been producing big bucks for years. “We have shot a lot of 140- and 150- deer over the years and in Mississippi those are some fine deer. But when you see a 170, there’s a world of difference.”
Shooting the buck that close to home makes it sound like it wasn’t that difficult — no way!
“I’ve been hunting them hard for 41 years,” Buford said. “I have never lost the passion for deer hunting and I’ve been pursuing my record book buck all that time. I hunted a long time for my giant Delta buck.”
Buford had seen just such a monster two years ago on his property, and just as Smith’s deer had been forever burned in his memory, this one was also impossible to forget.
“I had seen a giant 12-point in that area around two old brakes two years ago, but didn’t get a good shot,” he said. “I hunted him the rest of that season and then again the entire next season. But I never saw him again that year or last year, and the only day I saw him this year was the day I shot him.”
Buford had trail cams, too, but never had any photos.
Just a memory, and that was enough to keep taking him back to the piece of ground between the two brakes.
“That’s where I was that day, sitting in a tree stand where I could see the thickets between those brakes,” Buford said. “One look at this spot and you know how a buck could live there for so long and not be seen. It’s really, really thick in there. You just about have to be looking at the right spot when a deer walks through an opening to see it.”
Buford was lucky to spot movement in one of the openings and turned his full attention to the area.
“I saw the back end of what looked like a big buck and then I got a better view, from behind, and I could see these antlers and I knew it was the big one I’d see two years before,” he said. “It’s a good thing I didn’t get a long look at it, because I probably would have gotten a case of the nerves.”
According to Buford, the area is so thick that once a shooting opportunity presents itself, you better not pass it up.
Buford took the shot and made it count, but added another round to the mortally wounded animal as it tried to make it back to one of the brakes where it would be difficult to locate. The buck went down.
“I remember walking up to it and seeing those antlers and saying to myself, ‘you did it’ and saying to him ‘you couldn’t hide forever and I never forgot you’ and I was shaking, I was so excited,” Buford said.
The antlers were indeed worthy of excitement.
The main beams were 24 4/8 and 23 6/8 inches long, with the left producing 81 3/8 inches and the right 80 7/8. Three of the tines exceeded 10 inches and three more exceeded nine inches. The inside spread was 17 6/8.
“He is something to behold,” Buford said. “I don’t think you could find a prettier, more symmetrical set of antlers with that kind of measurement.
“He was certainly worth waiting 41 years for, that’s for sure.”
ANOTHER BACKYARD GIANT
Dwight Shaffer of Tylertown thinks he saw the big buck two years ago. But he isn’t 100 percent sure it’s the giant non-typical he killed Dec. 2 on his family’s property on the opening day of primitive weapon season.
But it likely is, because, let’s face it, Walthall County is not known for producing monster bucks.
“I saw a big one in the same area a couple of years ago and I’ve heard about a lot of trail cam pictures of a giant buck in the area, but I never saw the pictures so I’m not sure it was this one,” Shaffer said. “But I know this for sure, once you’ve seen this one, you wouldn’t forget it.”
It’s a good thing his father-in-law and neighbor couldn’t forget it.
“He’d been seeing this big buck and telling me ‘I swear he looks like he has a chair on his head,’” Shaffer said, “That’s what he kept saying, that there was this big buck on our property with such big antlers that it looked like he was carrying a chair on his head.”
Shaffer had his doubts. The property in question is a mere 20-acre block of woods, and he figured that if such a giant existed, he’d have seen it at least once in the last two years with his own eyes.
So when he came home from his oil job offshore and primitive weapon season opened, he and his brother, Burnell, planned to go to their deer club about 10 miles away.
“But as I was getting ready, my father-in-law came over and asked me if I was going hunting,” Shaffer said. “I told him where we were going and he said I was crazy to be leaving there. He’d seen that big buck again and he was still carrying that big chair around on his head.
“He said he’d seen it that morning and me and Burnell ought to stay put. So when Burnell came by to pick me up, I told him there was a change in plans. When I told him why, he agreed. We stayed home and hunted close.”
That afternoon in a tree stand just 100 yards from his back door, Dwight Shaffer was looking directly at a pine thicket he calls a deer magnet that is about 200 yards from the stand, when he saw a deer.
“All of a sudden, even at 200 yards away, all I could see was antlers,” he said. “There was a lot of antler out there, with points going every which way. I put my scope on him, looked for a spot on his body and quit looking at his head.”
Using a new CVA .35 Whelen bought a few months earlier with a Nikon scope, Shaffer was confident in the 175-yard shot in the final moments of legal shooting.
He proved up to the task and put the buck down with a single shot.
“The buck fell 20 yards from where I first saw him,” Shaffer said.
Officially scored in March by state Wildlife Biologist Chris McDonald, the non-typical buck with 18 scorable points produced an official measurement of 190 2/8 inches, falling just short of Boone & Crockett’s all-time record minimum of 195 inches. It was scored as a typical 10, with eight atypical points — four on each main beam. Those produced 29 6/8 inches of non-typical additions to the main frame’s gross of 160 6/8 inches.
The longest tines were the two G-2s, at 12 1/8 and 11 1/8 inches. The third longest was a drop tine on the right antler measuring 10 5/8 inches.
“When you see it, when you hold it in your hands, you know what?” Shaffer said. “My father-in-law was right. It does look like you could sit in those antlers. It does look like a chair.”