Last Season's Biggest Bow Kills -- South Georgia

Last Season's Biggest Bow Kills --  South Georgia

The Peach State continues to produce some outstanding bucks for archers. Let's have a look at some of the best ones taken from the southern part of the state in 2003.

By Steve Ruckel

Taking a big buck is nothing new to Jarrod Brannen. Several years ago, he downed a Morgan County whitetail that scored 141 6/8 Boone and Crockett points and landed him in second place in a statewide big-buck contest. In 1997 he killed a Dooly County buck that netted 160 6/8 points. But after seven years of bowhunting, the 33-year-old owner of an automobile dealership in the small town of Unadilla had yet to arrow a buck with his compound bow.

It wasn't that he has not had opportunities; in fact, several does and a multitude of wild hogs have fallen to his broadheads. But early on, he had made a decision to shoot nothing less than a candidate for the Pope and Young record book for bow-killed bucks. For a typical rack to qualify for that prestigious honor, it must score a minimum of 125 P&Y points.

"I've passed up bucks for four seasons," Jarrod said. "If I feel he won't gross in the 140s, I won't shoot him. And I don't feel comfortable shooting if one is past 35 yards."

MACON COUNTY MONSTER

Jarrod is fortunate to own 700 acres in Dooly County, and one of his good friends owns about 1,200 acres along the Flint River in Macon County. Both counties are legendary for their production of big deer. Along with another hunting buddy and their kids, they usually all hunt together on whichever property strikes their fancy.

Before daylight last Oct. 31, Jarrod and his two buddies were deep in the dark, swampy bottoms of the Macon County tract. It was already 70 degrees and would hit the mid-80s by afternoon. Among the interlaced cypress/gum wetlands were scattered islands of slightly higher land covered with mature hardwoods. On one such long ridge down in the swamp, Jarrod's friend had planted a series of small food plots in oats. Previous hunts had shown that the deer were moving from plot to plot and also feeding on the abundant acorns that had dropped. It was along this ridge that Jarrod and his party sat in stands a few hundred yards apart.

"I had hunted that land in previous years and once that season," Jarrod said, "but never that deep into the property. I wouldn't have gone where I did if it wasn't for my buddy who owns the land. He told me where to sit that morning in a ladder stand he had put up and said that there were several nice bucks working the ridge."

Jarrod tried to sit still as he scanned the woods. Mosquitoes whined around him, and he was thankful for his bug-tamer jacket and Thermacell insect repeller. The twittering of small birds grew louder as the morning light slowly crept into the creek bottom. From his 16-foot-high perch, he could see the outline of several large oaks in front of him and even more across the creek behind him. It didn't take long for the action to begin.

Jarrod Brannen topped the South Georgia typical archery list with his 13-point Macon County buck. Photo by Steve Ruckel

"A big boar hog came by about daylight," he recalled. "He was a real big hog - one of those you would get mounted. I pulled back on him but decided not to shoot."

Periodically, Jarrod had been calling with his "bleat in a can" call, which had worked well for him on several bucks in the past. Thirty minutes later, a small doe appeared to his left and began feeding under the large trees. Nearly an hour went by as the doe seemed intent on vacuuming up every acorn in the vicinity. As he continued to watch her, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye.

"A small 8-pointer came out to my left about 70 yards away, saw her, trotted over and began chasing her around," Jarrod said.

As he watched the scene unfold in front of him, Jarrod suddenly saw another deer materialize near where the 8-pointer had come from. It didn't take long for him to determine that this deer, an obviously mature buck, was a shooter.

For a while, the big buck was still and impassive, seemingly transfixed by the cat-and-mouse chase before him. Then, somewhat deliberately, he moved toward them.

"At first, the deer were so far to my left, I couldn't turn around that far to shoot," Jarrod recalled. "But the doe finally trotted up the hill and crossed about 30 yards in front of me, the 8-pointer right on her tail."

Following behind them, the big buck ambled along as Jarrod pulled to full draw, hoping the buck would stop.

"I grunted with my mouth to get him to slow up," Jarrod recalled. "He kind of hesitated but never stopped."

When the buck crossed a small opening, Jarrod released the arrow and saw it hit a little far back behind the shoulder. The buck shook all over, like a dog just getting out of the water, threw his tail up and calmly walked on out of sight.

"I know it's probably not a good thing to do, but I don't like to wait around," Jarrod said. "I got right down, found my arrow stuck in a stump and started following the blood trail."

Had Jarrod waited a while, most likely he would have found the buck dead within 40 yards, which is the distance at which he discovered the buck lying down, but still alive. The doe had bedded down, and the 8-pointer was standing there as Jarrod slowly approached them. They immediately ran off, and the big buck struggled to his feet. Another shot through the chest and the old swamp monster collapsed.

Almost in disbelief, Jarrod gazed down at the buck. There was no doubt he had a buck for the record book. Its somewhat average body size of about 180 pounds made the 12-point rack seem even more impressive. A mainframe 10-point rack with two abnormal points, the antlers were characterized by good tine length and mass, as well as excellent symmetry.

"I went over to him and knelt down to take a look," Jarrod recounted, "and then I let out a couple of yells to let my buddies know to come over where I was. It was bragging time!"

Indeed it was. When the buck was measured after the mandatory 60-day drying period, it grossed 152 5/8 P&Y points and netted 143 0/8. It was the top typical bow kill in South Georgia last season.

MITCHELL COUNTY

Another fine buck was taken in Mitchell County by 25-year-old Kevin White. Kevin, who lives in Camilla, began hunting with his dad, Duane White, when he was 6.

"My dad taught me everything about hunting," Kevin said. "He is my best friend, and unti

l this buck, he has been with me every time I have killed a deer."

At age 14, Kevin began bowhunting, and in 1998 he arrowed his first deer, a Baker County 11-pointer that scored 121 P&Y.

During the fall of 2003, Kevin had been hunting often with two of his good friends, Jeff Moss and Rhett Palmer, on 400 acres of planted pines and swamp bottoms in the northwest part of the county. Just before the archery season began, they had captured a photo of a very nice buck on a trail camera set up over a food plot. Needless to say, that had them all looking forward to opening day.

Several trips to the property had yet to produce the "trail camera buck" for Kevin and his buddies, so midway during the bow season they decided to move some stands. Kevin found a suitable tree in a stand of pines about 10 yards off of a firebreak that passed a nearby patch of persimmon trees and ended at a food plot some 50 yards through the pines. There were signs of considerable deer activity in the area, but as the season wore on, this stand also proved fruitless. Finally, they decided to give the property a rest for two or three weeks.

On Sunday afternoon of Nov. 16, Kevin, Jeff and Rhett threw their gear in the truck and headed back to the 400 acres. It was overcast with a slight breeze, and the temperature was in the high 70s.

"I had hunted from that tree several times and never seen a deer, even though there was a lot of sign," Kevin recalled. "To be honest, I really didn't know anywhere else to go. So I went back to my pine tree. I was rather discouraged when I walked down the firebreak because this time there were no fresh tracks, and all the persimmons were gone. Plus, it was very hot!"

Shortly after 4 p.m., Kevin had settled into his climbing stand about eight feet up the tree. Sweat beaded up on his forehead, and as the afternoon wore on he felt a lethargic daze slowly come over him. Before he knew it, 1 1/2 hours had passed and the sun had dropped down behind the trees.

"All of a sudden, I saw some movement on the other side of the food plot," Kevin said, "and it was him. My first thought when I saw him was that this was the buck we had caught on the trail camera, so I didn't spend a lot of time sizing him up."

The buck crossed the food plot and headed down the firebreak in Kevin's direction. The hunter had one clear shooting lane at about 35 yards and another at 25 yards, but the deer never stopped, even after Kevin whistled a couple of times. Head up, the buck kept coming, and at 12 yards Kevin released the arrow.

"When I hit him, he kind of dropped and spun around," Kevin said, "and ran about 10 yards back in the direction he had come from and then cut hard right and ran about 30 yards behind me. I saw him flip over a big piece of roofing tin that was lying on the ground and stay down. I sat there for 25 or 30 minutes until it started getting dark, then got down out of the tree, put my stand together, walked back up the firebreak and met my buddies.

"I was so excited I couldn't talk," Kevin recalled. "I showed them my quiver with the arrow missing and finally I told them that I thought I had killed the buck off the camera. We were all whooping and hollering at that point."

Even though Kevin felt sure the buck was down where he saw him fall, he wanted to allow plenty of time before they looked for him. They decided to walk back to the truck, drive into town and call their wives to tell them they would be late.

Within 45 minutes they were back, ready to trail the buck. They immediately found the remainder of the arrow, which had broken off about eight inches from the broadhead, and then slowly followed the sign leading toward the piece of tin.

"Jeff looked up and saw the deer first," Kevin said. "His rack was sticking up above the broomsedge. We all went crazy!"

What they found, now lying still at their feet, was not the trail camera buck, but a magnificent 9-pointer that was much bigger. With the rack's incredible inside spread of nearly 24 inches, it was no wonder they could see the antlers above the vegetation! Beams that were about 25 inches, along with good tine length and average mass, led to a gross P&Y score of 143 7/8 when the rack was later scored. After deductions for asymmetry and the unmatched ninth point, the rack netted 136 7/8 P&Y. That made it the third-best bow buck from South Georgia last season and the best - and only - P&Y record-book buck ever to be reported from Mitchell County.

"I just felt like the buck was a gift from God," Kevin said as he reflected back on the events that led to only his second buck with a bow.

OTHER BUCKS

Two other P&Y bucks were taken south of the Fall Line last season. On Oct. 29, David Campbell downed a huge non-typical 15-pointer in Macon County that netted 160 7/8. Not only is it the best non-typical bow kill ever from that county, but it is also currently ranked among the top 10 non-typicals ever taken in Georgia.

Jacob Paschal arrowed an 11-point buck in Baker County on Oct. 11 that netted 136 6/8, the best and only P&Y buck ever taken from there.

Next month we will profile the Pope and Young bucks that were taken in North Georgia last season.



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