The Colquitt Monster

The Colquitt Monster

This massive buck from the 2002 season topped the 200-point level on the Boone and Crockett scoring system. Here's the story behind Jacky Stanfill's hunt for this record-book whitetail.

Jacky Stanfill's non-typical brings Colquitt County's B&C record book total up to six. Photo by Bill Cooper

By Bill Cooper

Unless a hunter is fortunate enough to own the land where he hunts, or depends solely on public land opportunities, such as wildlife management areas or national forest property, a very real part of deer hunting today is the ability to retain a hunting lease from one season to the next. Several years ago, few people would have believed lease prices would reach the double-digit-cost-per-acre figures that many land holdings now bring.

Supply and demand may sound simplistic, but the fact remains that unless someone comes up with an innovative way to manufacture acreage, land fees aren't going down. To further complicate matters, new highways, suburbs and strip malls are swallowing up rural hunting lands, not to mention wildlife habitat, at an alarming pace. The bottom line here is that an annual deer lease is a little like grabbing the brass ring on a merry-go-round; maybe there'll be another ride, maybe not.

Virtually all types of land are susceptible; however, the more desirable lease holdings, such as river and stream bottomlands, where the best quality wildlife habitat occurs, usually account for the highest turnover rate. A good example of just such a situation occurred recently in southeastern Colquitt County, where Jacky Stanfill of Moultrie and seven other hunt club members leased 400 acres of land along the Little River and Indian Creek.

"We had leased that block of land for over 10 years without any problems," Stanfill related. "Then, following the 2001 season, another group began talking to the landowner and our lease fee suddenly doubled. A few of our members had gotten older and only hunted occasionally but had remained in the club because of the availability to fish the Little River. However, they couldn't afford the sudden cost increase and the rest of us were unable to make up the difference, so we lost the land."

The loss was particularly tough for Stanfill, because his ties to the property extended back to when he was a young boy. At that time, approximately a hundred acres of fields were present in the upland areas that are now covered in various-age planted pine stands.

"As I was growing up, I helped my family farm those fields for a number of years," Stanfill said. "We also did some hunting; however, the deer population at that time was considerably smaller than today. Over the years, there was a change in landowners and farming operations ceased, but we continued hunting the area and eventually the club was formed and a lease fee established."

As many hunters can attest, locating a new hunting site within a few months of the upcoming season is not the easiest thing to do. Even local hunters living in rural communities have a difficult time finding land that is not already under some type of lease agreement. Fortunately, Stanfill was not entirely without a place to hunt, though, admittedly, it was extremely limited in size.

"My uncle owned between 45 and 50 acres along Indian Creek," Stanfill noted. "In fact, his land actually bordered our former hunt lease, with the creek being the boundary line. However, his property stopped just short of reaching the Little River. The small tract was less than 300 yards wide, but it had never been cut over and was predominantly covered with scrub oaks and a few scattered pines."

Stanfill had hunted there in the past, but rather infrequently, choosing instead to spend most of his time on the club's land. Also, the tract was rather remote and could be reached only by using an ATV. Nevertheless, over the years, both he and his uncle had accounted for a number of wild hogs and big bucks on the property.

"Early last fall we cleaned out one small area and established a 100-by-30-foot food plot," Stanfill said. "Actually, the plot was shaped somewhat like an hour glass because, near the center, we plowed around a couple of oaks instead of removing them. We decided to plant a mixture of iron clay peas and rye grass, but the deer took to the plot so quickly that they never allowed the peas to get over 8 inches high. I was surprised at the number of tracks and signs of deer activity on the ridge."

Several yards from one end of the plot was an 18-foot tower stand that his uncle had erected a few years earlier. This placed a hunter above most of the trees and provided an excellent view of the surrounding ridge.

"When positioned in the stand, the distance was slightly over a hundred yards to the back edge of the food plot," Stanfill said. "There was a narrow break in the bordering vegetation at that location and, for some reason, deer always entered the opening at that point. Because of the plot's hourglass shape, a deer would usually move quickly out of sight as it began feeding and several minutes might pass before it came back into view near the center of the plot."

During the first three weeks of the 2002 season, Stanfill hunted the stand several mornings and saw a number of young bucks, all with racks of less than 8 points. During some brief scouting forays, he had discovered a few small trees that had been rubbed and a scrape or two, but nothing to indicate the presence of a big deer.

"Nevertheless, there was no doubt in my mind that a few mature bucks were around," Stanfill said. "The hunting pressure is not heavy, and from time to time some very good bucks are sighted. On a foggy morning near the end of the 2001 season, I was hunting nearby on our former club land when a very big 10-pointer materialized from the fog. Unfortunately, the buck managed to escape and I was confidant he was still somewhere in the general area."

Around daybreak on the morning of Nov. 7, Stanfill dismounted from his ATV and began the long climb into the tower stand. Although he had observed no sign of rut activity, the time was quickly approaching.

"The really strange thing about that location was that every single deer I had seen from the stand had been a buck," Stanfill related. "From all of the tracks in the plot, I knew there had to be some does around, but it was sure surprising that at least one hadn't made an appearance."

About 30 minutes after getting situated, Stanfill caught a brief glimpse of a buck as it entered the back edge of the food plot. Although the deer appeared to have had a

good rack, it disappeared too quickly for him to be sure.

"I waited several minutes for the buck to reappear, but nothing happened," Stanfill said. "Occasionally, a deer would come into the plot and simply walk out the other side, and I would never see it again. I was about to assume that's what had happened when, suddenly, the buck stepped into view right in the middle of the plot. My rifle was already in position, and when I saw the big rack I quickly lowered the crosshairs to the base of the deer's neck and squeezed the trigger. The buck dropped in its tracks."

Everything happened so quickly, Stanfill never had a chance to get excited. After climbing to the ground, he walked over to take a closer look at the big whitetail.

"I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but even after examining the antlers and counting the points, the buck's size didn't really hit home with me," Stanfill stated. "Don't get me wrong, I was definitely impressed with the deer, but for some odd reason the rack didn't appear to be all that much bigger than other bucks I had taken."

The hunter left the buck where it was lying and rode back to his truck for the ATV trailer to haul out his deer. After getting the buck loaded, Stanfill called his son to tell him about the deer.

"After meeting me later that morning, he took one look at the buck and just had a fit," Stanfill said. "He told me I just didn't realize what I had, and I guess that should have been a wake-up clue, but for some reason it still hadn't sunk in. After taking a few photos, we carried the buck to Moree's Deer Cooler."

While the deer was being unloaded at the cooler, Paul Murray, who owns and operates Bowie Box Outdoors at the same location, walked over to see the buck. After one quick look, and then having to quickly catch his breath, he told Stanfill that his buck was one of the biggest whitetails ever brought in there.

"Paul's statement definitely got my attention," Stanfill said. "Located on the Worth County line, I knew a lot of big bucks had been taken to Moree's over the years. Paul then located Keith Moree, and together the two of them took a number of antler measurements. Afterwards, they explained that while their results amounted to nothing more than a rough estimate, there wasn't much doubt the buck would make the record book."

It would be an understatement to say that Stanfill was shocked, but it was certainly the type of news he could deal with. The buck was weighed at 230 pounds live weight and tooth wear placed it in the 4-year age class.

Official antler measurements, taken after the required 60-day drying period, more than substantiate the rough estimates of Moree and Murray. The rack has 16 scorable points, 10 of which make up an exceptionally symmetrical and impressive typical frame. Long main beams of 28 3/8 and 28 6/8 inches hook sharply forward and then inward. This growth pattern doesn't particularly enhance the rack from an appearance standpoint, because the front tines and beam cover up the back portion. However, even with this tight configuration, the antler spread is still 18 7/8 inches inside and 21 1/8 inches outside. Tine length is outstanding, with brow tines that exceed 6 inches and paired G-2s and G-3s that average just under 12 inches. Antler mass is also impressive, with all eight circumference measurements exceeding 4 inches.

The 5-by-5 typical frame grosses an outstanding 185 5/8 Boone and Crockett Club (B&C) points, and with very minor asymmetry deductions drops only slightly to a final net score of 182 5/8. The rack also has six abnormal points, totaling 17 4/8 inches, which brings the final non-typical B&C score to 200 1/8. This qualifies the deer for both the B&C awards and all-time record books.

Stanfill's buck is the second largest non-typical of the 2002 season, falling just 4 5/8 points behind a monster 18-pointer scoring 204 6/8 B&C, taken on Rocky Branch Plantation in Harris County by Lauren Atwell. These two bucks are amazingly similar from the standpoint that both have exceptional long-tined typical frames with net scores in the 180s.

Within Colquitt County, Stanfill's great whitetail ranks as the second largest non-typical ever recorded. It also raises the county's total of bucks qualifying for B&C's all-time record book to six. This means Colquitt now stands as Georgia's second most productive county in this category, ranking just behind Macon County, which has accounted for seven B&C bucks. Colquitt's neighboring county, Worth, is only a step behind, in third place, with five bucks in the record book.

On a statewide basis, the Colquitt buck ranks No. 16 on the all-time list of non-typical whitetails. However, for the counties of extreme South Georgia, it stands as No. 5.

Considering all of these statistics, it is certainly relevant to recognize this particular portion of the state in terms of the quality bucks that continue to be taken. For example, during the 2001 season, Andy Jaramillo of Valdosta took the biggest typical whitetail in South Georgia, scoring 163 5/8 B&C, in southwestern Cook County. This happens to be just across the Little River, which also serves as the Colquitt County line. During the 2000 season, Mickey Tillman of Morven accounted for the state's top typical whitetail, a giant 10-pointer that scored 168 7/8 B&C, while hunting the Little River drainage in eastern Brooks County, only a few miles south of Colquitt County.

Within the last couple of years, B&C bucks from past seasons, both all-time and awards book quality whitetails, have been discovered in Lowndes, Brooks and Worth counties. Not only is this area of the state producing big bucks now, but it has also been turning them out for some time.

Why?

There is no single reason, but rather a combination of factors. To begin with, the state, along with several private hunting clubs, released a number of northern whitetails (most were from Wisconsin) in the area during the Deer Restoration Program's restocking efforts.

Aside from genetics, the area is part of a major crop-producing region, which provides the local whitetail population with a mineral-rich supplemental food source. Additionally, numerous stream drainages, such as Warrior Creek, plus the Little and Ochlockonee rivers, provide excellent bottomland cover and food.

Finally, the area includes numerous large-acreage landowners, which have always been good stewards of the land. Not only has this been an asset in maintaining good wildlife habitat, but it has also helped to protect and manage the local deer populations.



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