Georgia'™s Best Bow Kills -- Part 1: The South

Peach State archers continue to rewrite the Pope and Young Club record book for our state each year. Here's how they did it last season in South Georgia.

Gary King took the top archery buck in the state last season on a hunt in Worth County. The rack netted 153 1/8 P&Y points.
Photo courtesy of Gary King

No one could have guessed that of the five South Georgia bucks to make the Pope and Young Club all-time record book in 2004, the two largest would come from adjacent counties not 10 miles apart. Even more astounding is the role that two local creeks would play in the recovery of these twin trophies. Here are the stories.

THE KING BUCK

Gary King, a 31-year-old fireman for the city of Albany, has taken his share of big bucks during the past 20 years, including a 150-B&C-class 12-pointer and an 8-pointer that scored in the upper 140s. But since he started flinging arrows about 11 years ago, other than a few does and small bucks he had yet to take a really nice whitetail with his bow.

King is fortunate to be able to hunt on 4,000 acres of family owned land bordering the Flint River in Worth County. Known as Red Oak Plantation, this property is located in the heart of the Flint River corridor of counties long known for producing trophy bucks. While the former owners were primarily interested in quail, the focus in recent years has been on managing for big bucks. A mixture of upland pines and extensive bottomland hardwoods along the river and Big Abrams Creek, coupled with some 400 acres of summer and winter food plots, make for excellent deer habitat.

Having lived on the property a number of years, King knows the land intimately, and he and Brian McClure, the farm manager, watch and video deer year 'round. They had observed several good bucks in one particular pea patch during the latter part of the summer. Scouting had shown that there was a good travel corridor from that field along a small ridge that ran down into a prime bedding area in the bottoms of Big Abrams Creek. King had picked out a stand location near a large white oak in the bend of the creek where a number of deer trails converged. It was a natural evening stand.

"I knew where I wanted to go because I had scouted the area," he said. "But I was waiting on a west wind that would blow my scent up the hill out of the creek bottom before I hunted there."

Gary arrowed a doe for the freezer on opening day and had hunted four or five times the first week of the archery season. It had been hot, as it usually is in early September in the southern part of the state. Remnants of a couple of hurricanes had recently passed through the area, and the wind and heavy rain had prematurely knocked off a lot of acorns. The deer had already found the oak mast.

On the afternoon of Sept. 17, conditions finally got right for the hunter to try his prime spot on the bend in the creek. He parked his truck just off the highway, slung his climbing stand over his shoulder, and walked several hundred yards to the creek. Attaching the stand to a small water oak about 50 yards from the creek, he climbed the tree and readied his gear. It was 5:45 p.m.

"It was pretty hot, so I was taking my time putting on my gloves and head net and getting situated," King recalled. "I was just trying to cool down."

He had been in his stand scarcely 10 minutes when, over his left shoulder, he detected movement. Along the edge of the creek about 60 yards out, an 8-pointer in full velvet was walking his way. As King slowly swiveled to get a better look, he spotted an even larger 10-pointer behind the first buck. Quickly sizing up the antlers, the now excited bowhunter judged this one a definite candidate for Pope and Young recognition and decided to take the shot if it presented itself.

As the two whitetails slowly approached the big white oaks about 40 yards up the ridge, Gary suddenly spotted yet a third buck bringing up the rear. It was another 10-pointer, but one that dwarfed the earlier bucks.

King nocked an arrow and watched motionless as the first two bucks fed by him at 25 yards. Almost afraid to even blink, he waited as the "boss" buck approached to within 15 yards and started eating acorns. As the big whitetail turned broadside, King drew his compound bow and released.

"I felt good about the shot," King recalled. "He jumped and went about 15 steps and then stopped and just stood there a few seconds before turning and walking back down towards the creek."

The anxious archer waited in his stand about 15 minutes until he heard splashing in the creek. Thinking that the deer had crossed the stream, King came down out of the tree, found his arrow, and began following what started out to be an ample blood trail. Within 40 yards the trail disappeared, and Gary decided to return to the barn and get the family's Labrador retriever to help find the buck.

King returned shortly with the dog; the farm manager; his wife, Jennifer; his 14-year-old daughter, Samantha; and his 9-year-old daughter, Bailey. The dog led the crew to the creek, but after a considerable amount of time, they were unable to find the buck or where it had emerged on the opposite bank. It was now past 9:00 p.m., so Gary reluctantly called off the search until the next morning.

"After a sleepless night for me," he said, "my wife, two daughters and I got up and took the dog back to the creek. But this time, we came in from the other side and downwind. At the creek, the dog started acting funny and seemed confused."

They decided to walk the creek bank, and about 50 yards downstream Gary spotted an antler sticking out of the water near the bank.

"I started yelling that I had found him," he said, "but before I could get to him, Samantha had jumped in the water and was holding his antlers up. We all ended up waist deep in the creek just whooping and hollering!"

It turned out that there was plenty to shout about. Along with good tine length and mass, the hefty 10-pointer had main beams more than 24 inches long. When officially measured after the mandatory 60-day drying period, the antlers grossed 160 5/8 inches and netted a final P&Y score of 153 1/8.

Gary's buck was the largest typical bow kill in Georgia last season, as well as the largest bow kill ever from Worth County. It was also the winner of the Typical Archery category of the 2004 Georgia Big Deer Contest. This contest recognizes the best bucks taken by bow and arrow and firearms each year and is sponsored jointly by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Sportsman magazine and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association.

THE DOZIER BUCK

Another fine whitetail was taken in neighboring Lee County by 28-year-old Jon Dozier, a landscaper from Albany. Dozier has hunted ever since he was old enough to accompany his dad and has killed a number of nice bucks with a gun. In recent years, bowhunting had become such a fascination that, this past season, he abandoned his rifle entirely. He had yet to take a buck with his bow, but that was about to change in a dramatic way.

Dozier had never seen the particular deer that would become a milestone for him in 2004. But he and his hunting buddy, Patrick Galloway, had thoroughly scouted the 1,200-acre family property located just east of Leesburg. Most of the land is planted in corn, cotton and peanuts, but about 20 percent is in planted pines and bottomland hardwoods along Muckalee Creek.

They had figured out that deer were traveling between bedding areas beside the creek and the upland fields. One of those main travel lanes was an old logging road that led down into the bottom; it was riddled with rubs and scrapes. Jon selected a pine tree about 15 yards off the logging road for his climbing stand.

After hunting a lot during the archery season, Dozier finally downed a doe on the evening of Oct. 15. That led to renewed enthusiasm and plans to hunt again the next morning, opening day of the firearm season.

"I left Albany and met Patrick at the farm 45 minutes before daylight," Jon recalled. "He went his way and I went mine; our stands were about a mile apart. I got to my stand on the old logging road within a half hour, climbed up and got everything situated."

It was a muggy 60 degrees that morning, and the hordes of mosquitoes apparently either never went to bed that night or else got up early like Jon. Daylight finally crept into the woods, and nothing seemed to be moving. Finally, after an hour, a small 6-pointer and two does eased by him, but Dozier was not interested in them on this day.

"About 8:30 I saw this buck coming down the logging road," he said. "He was kind of weaving in and out of the trees."

As the buck steadily approached, Dozier could tell that this deer would easily make the P&Y record book. He raised and drew his compound bow and then grunted just as the big whitetail reached an opening about 15 yards away. As the buck momentarily froze, Jon released, watching the arrow strike farther back than he would have liked. The deer wheeled around and ran off out of sight.

After waiting a few minutes to settle his nerves, Dozier quietly came down the tree and headed back to his truck to give the deer time to lie down. Galloway showed up about 9:30 and listened as Jon relayed the story to him before they returned to the area of the tree stand.

"We walked in there and couldn't find any blood," Dozier said, "and I'm thinking, 'I've lost this deer!' We decided to go back to where the buck had been standing to look for sign, and out of the corner of my eye I saw an antler move. He was lying down looking right at us, not 40 yards from my stand."

Dozier tried to ease around to get a shot at the deer, but it jumped up, obviously hurt, and hobbled off. From that point, there was no problem following the sign for several hundred yards through the creek bottom until it ended at the east bank of Muckalee Creek. It appeared that the buck swam across the creek, a maneuver the two archers were not willing to try. So Jon tied some flagging tape on a bush on the bank, and they walked back to the truck.

SOUTH GEORGIA ARCHERY BUCKS
HunterCountyP&Y Score
Gary KingWorth153 1/8
Jon DozierLee135 7/8
Jerald SholarScreven132 6/8
James RogersDodge131 4/8
Jack LesterDody130 6/8
Jeff FulfordLee127 6/8

They drove down to the State Route 32 bridge, crossed the creek, and proceeded to find the man who owned the land on the west side of the creek and get his permission to retrieve the buck. It did not take long to reach the point opposite the flagging tape, but there was no sign near the creek. As they slowly expanded their search, suddenly the buck jumped up and headed back to the creek, promptly jumped in, and swam back to the other side, where he stood, exhausted, looking back at his pursuers.

Dozier had already nocked an arrow and was ready when the buck crawled up the bank. He slightly misjudged the 40-yard shot, and his first arrow sailed under the big whitetail's belly. A quick second shot found its mark, and the deer crumpled.

The two bowhunters decided to borrow a canoe and float the buck down to the landing at the bridge, rather than try to drag the 200-pounder all the way back to the truck. It was 2:30 p.m. when they finally got the buck loaded.

"I was really pumped up," he said. "Not only was it the first buck I had killed with a bow, but it was also the biggest buck I had ever taken!"

There was finally time to admire the very symmetrical 8-pointer, which ended up grossing 138 1/8 and netting 135 7/8 P&Y, becoming the largest archery buck ever taken in Lee County.

THE REST OF THE PACK

Four other impressive bucks meeting the minimum 125 typical score needed for entry into the P&Y all-time record book were also taken in 2004.

Jerald Sholar's Screven County 10-pointer, taken on Oct. 23, measured 132 6/8 inches. It is the No. 9 best bow buck ever bagged in that county.

On Nov. 10, James Rogers arrowed a big Dodge County whitetail that netted 131 4/8 P&Y. His 11-pointer currently ranks No. 2 in that county.

Jack Lester's Dooly County bow kill was downed on Nov. 14. It had 12 points that produced a final P&Y score of 130 6/8, which ties him for No. 2 on the Dooly list of typical bow kills.

Finally, Jeff Fulford was also hunting in Lee County when he bagged a whitetail with a rack that scored 127 6/8 P&Y points.

Next month we will highlight the best bow kills from North Georgia.

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