North Bama Deer Season Wrap-Up
September 28, 2010
Here's a look at two hunters in north Alabama that had the kind of season that we all dream of. The bucks they took were big -- all of them! (January 2008)
Keith Beasley's 157 2/8 B&C buck is the new No. 2 non-typical muzzleloading rack ever taken in Alabama.
Photo by Anthony Campbell.
The whitetail rut in North Alabama can be a magical affair for hunters who happen to be in the right place at the right time. January's the month that sees big bucks become more visible as they go on the prowl for does.
If you're hunting a carefully managed property or one next door to a sanctuary that's off limits to deer hunting, you just might bag your best buck ever this time of year. Just ask Keith Beasley of Stevenson or Sid Pugh of Huntsville. Both men did that trick last January.
Beasley's big non-typical 14-pointer, taken on private land near the Crow Creek Waterfowl Refuge in Jackson County, scored an incredible 157 2/8 Boone and Crockett Club points and is Alabama's new No. 2 all-time non-typical muzzleloader buck. Pugh was hunting a carefully managed piece of private ground in Madison County when he pulled the trigger on a 150 1/8 B&C 10-pointer, capping an incredible streak of luck for him and his brother Jack that saw them both take their best deer ever.
Both Beasley and Pugh were hunting close to home when they got their bucks -- proof that you don't have to travel to some remote destination to take a bruiser whitetail. Here are their stories.
KEITH BEASLEY'S 14-POINTER
A lifelong hunter, Beasley had taken several bucks by modern rifle prior to turning exclusively to muzzleloader hunting about 14 years ago.
"I just like hunting with a muzzleloader," the Jackson County hunter offered. "I think it makes you a better shot when you know you only have one. And the trigger on most muzzleloaders I've used is so much better and crisper than what you typically get on a rifle."
He shoots a .50 caliber in-line rifle topped with a scope. In a normal year, Keith shoots more does than bucks, because he likes to eat deer meat, and usually isn't particular about what he shoots.
But the 2006-07 season was no ordinary year for him.
The season opened with a bang for Beasley when, during the state's early muzzleloader hunt, he bagged a nice 6-pointer that sported a 16-inch spread. At the time he was more or less scouting, just slipping around the woods, when he spotted the buck at about 80 yards on a powerline. He put a stone-cold shot on it, dropping it in its tracks.
It was his usual style of hunting. A fall from a tree stand a couple of seasons back having left him leery about climbing into a stand, he did most of his hunting from the ground in 2006-07.
That outing got the hunter to thinking that maybe he ought to target bucks only for the rest of the season. He'd killed 10 does and a single 9-point buck the previous year.
The big 6-pointer fell on Nov. 17 -- and within three days, Keith would strike again.
He was again hunting by slipping through the woods, this time toward a green plot on a powerline. This time he crossed paths with a 7-pointer on Nov. 20.
"I was just walking along when I saw the buck," Keith recalled. "I knew that he could see me too and that if I stopped and raised the gun, he'd run."
Keith kept his cool and just kept walking, but he raised his muzzleloader as he moved. When he got the scope on the buck, he stopped and quickly shot.
When the .50-caliber barked, his second buck of the season bit the dust.
After that hunt, Keith rested his private hunting ground and went on a campout hunt on nearby Martin-Skyline Wildlife Management Area with his brother Doug Beasley and friend Barry Johnson.
"Barry killed a 10-pointer that field-dressed 150 pounds," Beasley noted. Brother Doug killed a doe.
Also, something quite out of the ordinary occurred: The hunting party saw four bears traveling together on Skyline during the hunt. That made Keith Beasley question the wisdom of hunting exclusively with a single-shot muzzleloader -- but it didn't dissuade him from doing it!
After the Skyline hunt, Beasley went back and scouted his private land some more. What he found would help him end up taking the bruiser later in the season.
"There was a hurt doe on a hill in there," he said. "She was limping pretty bad, and I knew she wouldn't go far if no one bothered her."
Beasley pulled out of the area and filed that bit of information away for use during the rut. With a doe that was sure to be there, and the rut coming, he figured that a buck would be sniffing around the hurt doe's neighborhood.
Christmas came and went; it was time for Beasley to go back to check on the doe. "I slipped in one morning to hunt it, but the wind wasn't right," he explained.
He ended up hunting a different spot on the farm, not wanting to taint the hill that held the doe. He went back the next afternoon, which was Jan. 16. The wind still wasn't right, and he again moved to an alternate area.
One odd thing happened during this day in the woods that actually played a crucial part in Beasley's later encounter with the big buck: A coyote appeared about 150 yards away and Beasley decided to try a shot at the wild canine -- and the muzzleloader failed to go off. "I'd hunted with it in the rain and hadn't been real particular about cleaning it," he admitted. "The bolt wouldn't work."
Beasley trudged back to his truck after the botched shot, oiled the mechanism well and worked out the kinks. "I must have pulled the trigger 50 or 100 times after I got it oiled up," he said.
Problem solved, the hunter headed back to his stand. By now, the wind had changed, and he hustled to the powerline near the hill with the limping doe.
Beasley shies away from shooting pellets, preferring 100 grains of Pyrodex powder. He also likes relatively light bullets, such as the Knight Red Hot in 220 grains or the Hornady 180. He sights in to hit an inch high at 27 steps, putting him dead-on out to 125 yards. But he can hold an inch above a deer's back with his pet load
and hit a deer out to about 230 yards.
On this day he was out of his preferred 220-grain bullets, so he loaded a 180 in his gun for the afternoon hunt. He set up below an old pond looking back up the hill that his doe used, and along the powerline. "I had a good view," he said. "If a deer came out, I'd have a good clear shot."
Beasley blew a grunt call and then heard a deer walking down the hill in the woods. The sound got to the same level the hunter was on, but he never could see the deer in the thick cover. He feels sure it was the big buck that would appear shortly.
"After three or four minutes, I heard it walk back up the hill," Beasley recounted.
The hunter next let out a long, low grunt and watched as a doe went through the clearing of the power line. Then a smaller deer went across.
"I knew a buck was following them," he said. "I held the gun up for five minutes waiting on it."
But his arms got tired and he had to lower the gun. Still, he didn't have long to wait. The buck soon appeared in the powerline.
"He was a black deer," Beasley pointed out. "And I could see his horns without my scope even though he was a long way off."
From the time he first saw the deer until he executed the shot was only three or four seconds. Just after he squeezed the trigger, he saw half the deer's rack, along with its white belly, sticking up above the brush.
It was only about 4:00 in the afternoon when he shot the buck. He waited about 30 minutes before approaching it to make sure it was down for good. "I thought I'd killed a good 10-pointer," Beasley recalled.
When he got to the buck and began to count points, he realized it was even bigger than he'd hoped. He called his brother Doug in Michigan and told him about the deer. The brothers have always had a friendly rivalry about deer hunting and a big 8-pointer that scored 137 B&C and was taken near that very spot had given Doug bragging rights over his younger brother for years.
"I counted the points while I talked to Doug," Keith grinned. "When I got to 7, he said, 'Is it a 7-pointer?' and I said, 'No -- that's just one side!'"
The landowner helped Beasley load the buck up, and the victorious hunter then drove it around in his pickup truck showing it off. "I'll bet 300 or 400 people saw it," he said.
The Scottsboro Sentinel newspaper also published a photo of the deer. After the hoopla died down, a few days remained of the season, so Beasley returned to the woods. "I wasn't really hunting hard," he said. "I was satisfied with the three deer I'd taken, and I was just going back to enjoy the woods and close out the season."
He ended up killing another 7-pointer -- dropping it at about 230 yards -- to round out his incredible year. "The only regret I have is that I only got to see the big buck for three or four seconds before I shot him," Keith concluded. "It's the biggest deer I've ever seen in the woods and I would have liked to have watched him for a few minutes."
SID PUGH'S 150-INCHER
Huntsville's Sid Pugh and his brother Jack have been hunting together for years, and shared many a fine day in the outdoors. But they've never had a streak of luck like the one that befell them around New Year's last season.
Pugh bought some hunting land in Tennessee a while back, and the brothers went there to try their luck on Dec. 30; Jack ended up shooting a gorgeous 9-pointer on that trip. While they were trailing that buck, the brothers jumped another deer and shot it, thinking that it was Jack's buck. It turned out to be a totally different whitetail, this one sporting a 6-point rack.
"We let smaller bucks pass and we probably wouldn't have shot this deer if it had just come by us," Pugh explained. "But it jumped up and was running away from us and we really thought it was Jack's buck."
The brothers were feeling pretty good about the start to their season when they came back to Alabama. In fact, they went hunting the next day on a Madison County farm they have permission to hunt. Jack scored again, dropping a nice 8-pointer after seeing seven bucks together in a farm field.
It was by then clear that Lady Luck was sharing the stand with the brothers. So, naturally, they went back the next day, taking Sid's son Ben with them. "We put Ben in the field where we'd been seeing so many deer," Pugh said, "hoping he would get a shot."
It turned out that no good trees to climb grew near the field in which Pugh had decided to set up, so he instead sat in a lawn chair on the ground in the treeline.
As many as 30 deer had been seen previously in the field Ben was watching, but none materialized on New Year's Day. "I was the only one who saw a deer," Pugh noted. "It was getting late. There wasn't a lot of shooting light left when he stepped out."
Pugh looked through his binoculars at the deer moving into the field and knew immediately that it was a shooter. "I got on the radio and told the guys I was looking at a big buck and I was taking the shot," Pugh said.
He stood up to get a better shot, and then dropped the buck with a well-placed shot from his .30-06. "My brother had passed up this very same deer a couple years earlier when he was just an 8-point," Pugh pointed out, adding, "The buck wasn't chasing a doe or anything like that, but he was making a scrape when I shot."
The field where he shot the deer wasn't a greenfield, or even a crop field of the type ordinarily associated with deer, but a cotton field. "Grass and weeds grow up naturally in these fields after the cotton is picked and deer come out in them to feed on the natural forage," Pugh explained.
The 10-pointer was the best buck in a lifetime of hunting for the Huntsville real estate agent. "My brother is a police officer and because of our work schedules, we don't get to hunt a lot," Pugh noted. "We felt that we had done very, very well for no more time than we could put into it."
The big 10-pointer was the best deer of the season for the brothers, but he wasn't their final buck of 2006-07: On Jan. 12, Jack went back to the farm and bagged his best buck ever, a 140-class 8-pointer. "We'd taken five bucks from Dec. 30 to Jan. 12," Pugh said.
As it happens, the brothers had been in a trophy-hunting club in Macon County prior to their incredible run in Tennessee and Madison County. "We took some nice deer down there, but we never saw bucks like the ones we got last year up here," stated Pugh.
Pugh can't help but believe that his
and Jack's habit of passing up smaller bucks helped him to nail the big one. "We're trying to shoot only 8s and better on my place in Tennessee," he said.
The brothers won't be hunting in Macon County this year, however: The landowner went up on the lease, and they threw in the towel. "If we'd been getting bucks like the ones we got up here, we probably would have paid to get in it again," Pugh remarked laconically.
Find more about Alabama fishing and hunting at: AlabamaGameandFish.com