Arkansas' Big-Buck Roundup

Chalk up another great year for Arkansas deer hunters. They bagged some truly impressive trophies in 2008, including these bucks. (August 2009)

Ben Plumlee's 155 5/8 typical from Baxter County was the No. 1 blackpowder buck killed in Arkansas last season. Photo courtesy of Ben Plumlee.

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!

JEREMY McMAHAN

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 5x5 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!"

BOB LEMKE

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 5x5 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!

ROBERT WHITEHORN

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!

DALE HARP

167 1/8 Typical Gun KillJohnson County

A retired lab technician for Campbell Soups, Dale Harp, 68, now makes his home in Farmington. It may sound corny, but the buck he took last fall was um-m-m . . . um-m-m good!

Dale does his deer hunting in my neck of the woods, along the southern edge of the Ozark Mountains down in Johnson County, and that's where he was on a bluebird Nov. 9 last fall.

"There's a group of us that have camped there in western Johnson County for the last 10 years," Dale explained. "It's pretty country and we've had good success over the years, though never anything like this buck."

On this day, a Sunday, he headed in to his favorite stand, a cutout cedar located at a spot where he could look over a narrow valley at the bottom of several hills. As was his custom, Dale carried along his camouflaged lawn chair and made himself comfortable just after first light.

"I had hunted the same spot the day before, but it had been so windy that I didn't even see a squirrel," Dale laughed. "I was also planning to head back to camp about midmorning, so I decided I would leave at 10:30.

"By 10 o'clock I hadn't seen anything, so I grunted several times. I was watching my watch and getting ready to leave, when at 10:20 I saw this doe come off the hillside in front of me. When she got to the bottom she stopped, and I saw a flicker of something behind her. It was a buck -- a good one!"

Dale waited until the buck stopped near the doe, then raised his Savage rifle in .30/06 caliber and fired! At the blast of the shot the animal whirled and ran, but went less than 150 yards before crashing into the leaves!

In January, Dale carried the beautiful 5x5 to the Big Buck Classic in Little Rock, where it was officially scored at 167 1/8 typical points, placing fifth overall in the statewide big-buck contest held as part of the event!

MIKE CRISP

182 5/8 Non-Typical Crossbow KillMonroe County

Mike Crisp of Marvell is a 50-year-old safety director for Jimmy Sanders Seed Company. Back in the 1970s and '80s, he hunted with his father-in-law, Clarence Russell, but drifted away from the sport for a while, returning to it around 1997. Back in those early days, they often hunted on the Potlatch property inside what is now the White River NWR.

On Nov. 29, Mike was again hunting on White River, this time with his brother-in-law Daniel Russell and a friend, Brandon Webster. The two dropped Mike off before daylight as they went in on ATVs, pointing Mike toward a stand site some 300 yards from the trail they were on. He made it to the spot just after daylight, then hooked his climbing stand onto a good tree and worked his way up.

"It was about 7:25 a.m. when I grunted three times," Mike recalls, "and I immediately heard a deer behind me. I stayed real still and he walked through some heavy brush to an opening about 40 yards away. I could see 3 points sticking up, so I knew he was a shooter."

Mike raised his Horton crossbow and triggered the release. To his surprise, the buck went down on the spot!

"I had actually hit him just a little high," Mike said, "just below the spine. He was moving a little when I walked up to him, but my second shot put him down for good!"

The massive buck, which later weighed 225 pounds field dressed, actually had a total of 16 points: 11 on the right side and 5 on the left. Officially scored by B&C scorer Todd Sharp at the Arkansas Sportshow, the Monroe County monster netted 184 5/8 non-typical points. That figure ranks it as the No. 3 Arkansas crossbow non-typical of all time!

Oh, by the way, it was Mike's first crossbow kill.

BEN PLUMLEE

155 5/8 Typical Blackpowder KillBaxter County

Twenty-year-old Ben Plumlee attends the University of Arkansas where he is a junior majoring in business management. After three years of deer hunting, mostly with his uncle and cousins, it's evident that he has the reverence and love for the sport that makes me know the future of hunting is in good hands. He has also been successful, taking four bucks and a doe during that time.

On the afternoon of Oct. 23, Ben was hunting on 100 acres belonging to his family in Baxter County, not all that far from the White River. The wind was gusting, with the temperature in the 50s, as he headed for a ladder stand overlooking two wide fields. He had hunted the same stand that morning, and had seen a good buck. Unfortunately, it was too far away for a shot. When he arrived that afternoon, there were cows around the stand and he thought briefly of hunting elsewhere. Instead, he chased off the cattle and climbed in the stand.

"About 5 p.m., I was watching two does along the edge of one of the fields," Ben recalled. "There was a forkhorn with them, and he chased them around for a while.

"Then I heard a grunt, almost right behind me! I turned my head and could see several deer back in the woods, and there was a buck there with them. As I tried to get my gun around, he chased a young doe back into the trees, but then she turned and came back to the group. The buck came right behind her, and I had my gun up by then."

Ben touched the trigger on his T/C Omega when the buck was 50 yards away and the animal ran only about 30 yards before going down.

The Baxter County 5x5 was scored at the Classic, netting 155 5/8 typical points. That score made it the largest muzzleloader buck killed in the Natural State in 2008!

So, that's this year's look at some, but by no means all, of the great bucks taken last fall. There are others worth mentioning. Brandon French of Alpena took a 154 0/8 typical with blackpowder, wh

ile Michael Forner of Benton took a 152 1/8, both very fine bucks.

It was a good year for young hunters too, with Briar Shawn of Searcy taking a 164 4/8 buck in Desha County, while Brady Thomas of Bigelow and Trent Dew of Emerson each took deer scoring 156 2/8 typical points.

Lance Lovell of Wynne had a 163 7/8 gun-kill typical. Issac Aldridge of Cotton Plant downed a 163 4/8, and Harold Casey of Hot Springs a 161 7/8. All three of those bucks ranked in the Top 10 at the Arkansas Big Buck Classic.

The parade of top bow bucks, my personal favorites, was led by Raymond King of Searcy with a 167 2/8 monster taken on Hurricane WMA and scored at the Arkansas Sportshow in Jonesboro. Next, Randy Reese had a 156 0/8 typical, while Ed McKinley of Wynne took a 155 1/8 and John Cowell of Lamar a 155 0/8! Any buck taken with archery gear is a trophy, but those stand out.

James Daniel of Rogers killed a 157 6/8 typical with his crossbow, while Gregory West of Pangburn took a 181 3/8 non-typical with modern gun. All of those deer are big enough to make the Arkansas Trophy Club, which requires a minimum of 150 for typicals, 175 for non-typicals. They also graphically illustrate the quality within the Arkansas deer herd today.

Here's hoping to see your buck on these pages next year!

Note: Kenn Young of Clarksville is a recognized authority on Arkansas deer. He's written three books on the topic, volumes I, II & III of Arkansas' Biggest Bucks of All Time. He also owns the Monster Whitetails of Arkansas traveling big-buck display.

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