Yazoo: Big Bucks Of 2006

Yazoo: Big Bucks Of 2006

This national wildlife refuge in Washington County gave up some outstanding bucks last season. Here's the story of those hunts. (September 2007)

Angus Cachot spent more than 100 hours in his Yazoo NWR stand last season. He was waiting for this bruiser buck.
Photo by Robert H. Cleveland Jr.

Even after 100 hours of sitting in the same stand in the same tree without seeing a single deer during the 2006-07 season, Angus Cachot knew not to give up -- not when that tree was in Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge. And not when he knew the buck of a lifetime either lived nearby or, at the very least, was an infrequent visitor.

"Thing about Yazoo is, when you get on one of its big bucks, and you have a chance, you can't give up on him," offered the archer, who makes the Delta his winter weekend home each deer season. "And I'd seen him. I knew he was living nearby. All I wanted to do was see him again, up close, during the season. I was going to be patient."

The south Mississippi bowhunter's determination was fueled by visions of the heavy-headed buck that he'd crossed paths with one afternoon during preseason scouting. "Only time I saw him," he said, "I caught a glimpse of him during the early fall, and hadn't seen him since. But I knew he was using the area: I found a lot of his signs -- big rubs and scrapes -- so I felt like he was still coming through.

"Thing is, I knew he was nocturnal. You see a mature buck like that, and he didn't get old and escape being killed that long by moving around during the daylight -- not when hunters are using the refuge. But I knew there was a chance that he might make a mistake; I also knew that he wouldn't make more than one or two -- and neither could I. That meant I had to spend every hour I could in that stand waiting."

The history of Yazoo NWR, part of the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Complex in the Mississippi Delta, was also a factor in Cachot's determination. Although the quality of Yazoo's deer herd has diminished somewhat over the past decade, it remains the state's No. 1 public hunting area for high-end bucks. Extend the view over the past quarter-century, and Yazoo NWR shows itself to be one of the South's best public hunting areas.

"We've seen a decrease in the quantity and quality of our bucks over the past 12 years," admitted Yazoo biologist David Linden. "We still have a lot of great bucks that do come through each year, but as a whole, the quality is down."

Linden had absolutely no doubt as to why quality's fallen off. "It's the state's 4-point rule," he said, "which is the worst management tool you can have for quality bucks. We are by law forced to adhere to state regulations, but I will say this: We push it to the very limits in what we allow hunters to take.

"What the 4-point rule does is take hunting pressure off the young inferior bucks you'd want to remove from the herd and puts more pressure and greater harvest on your superior young bucks. That takes a toll, and will impact the quality of bucks when they mature, because you have eliminated the bucks with the best potential before they reach maturity and reach their full potential."

In short, hunters are harvesting 1 1/2-year-old bucks that have developed 4 points quickly, while passing over older bucks that have slow-growing racks.

As just noted, Yazoo officials are limited as to what they can do to offset the negative aspects of the 4-point rule. "Last season, and it may change this year, we required hunters to get a qualifying buck in our first season before we would allow them to hunt during our January hunt," Linden said. "We required them to take either a 1 1/2-year-old buck with 5 points or less or a 2 1/2-year-old or older with 7 points or less. That doesn't mean they couldn't take a bigger buck, but they had to take a qualifier to take part in our January archery hunt."

During the 2006-07 season, hunters took a total of 158 deer, 95 of which were bucks. Of that total, 36 were 8-pointers or better and 17 had inside spreads of at least 18 inches.

"Quality-wise, it was a little better than recent years," Linden observed, "but quantity-wise our numbers were down. We may have to do something different in 2007-08 to get our numbers up, especially does. But, we did have 28 qualifying deer taken to allow January hunting."

One of those was a 2 1/2-year-old 6-point taken by Cachot, which allowed him to hunt into January. And good thing, too -- because after taking that inferior buck on Oct. 13, the deerslayer from Wiggins moved to his primary area, where he had seen the big buck, and began his vigil.

The second half of October and all of November passed. Cachot sat in his tree and never saw a deer -- not a buck, not a doe nor a yearling. "Not a single one," he said.

December came, and with it, the onset of the rut. Cachot knew that if the big buck was going to err, it would be when its hormone level was up and its guard down. But December passed, and the archer, who had yet to be graced by a single deer visit, could only hope that the new year would bring him a change in luck.

And it did.

Back in his tree on Jan. 2, Cachot saw a deer at 5 p.m; then he spotted another. Presently, two others walked past. "Four does walked out into a clearing," he said. "To be honest, I was just glad to know deer still lived in the area. Rubs and scrapes are one thing, but to actually see a living, breathing deer -- I was a little excited."

That feeling was about to intensify about a hundredfold: Cachot's big buck walked into the clearing. "Apparently he was chasing those four does," the bowhunter surmised, "because all of a sudden he stepped out in that clearing with the does about 30 yards from my stand. It happened that quick. All of a sudden -- I mean -- there he was!"

Of course, the story can't end there. It's never that easy, is it? "Unfortunately, no," Cachot said. "He was within 30 yards, but I didn't have a clear shot. The four does and the buck were in that clearing, and I had no shooting lane."

So as he had done for so many hours over so many weeks and months, Cachot remained patient in his stand -- waiting.

"Eventually, the four does got bored and moved away," the hunter recounted. "When they were walking off, I was worried about what he was going to do. If he went with them, I wouldn't get a shot. But my stand was right over one of his scrapes. And when the does started leaving, he turned and headed right toward me. I couldn't believe it. The wind was right. He was coming and I was ready."

The big buck walked into a shooting lane just 10 yards from Cachot's tree. Then, as if the hunting gods were repaying the hunter for his patience, the buck stopped and turned broadside. "I had a perfect shot at his vitals from 10 yards," Cachot marveled. "Ten yards!"

The shot was perfect; the arrow did its job and put the big deer down not far from where he had been standing. Neither trailing nor finding it was difficult.

Cachot's buck, ruled a 15-pointer, measured a fraction over 199 6/8 inches and scored 187 3/8 Pope & Young Club points after deductions. It ranks as the No. 5 non-typical buck taken in Mississippi by an archer.

"It had nearly a 25-inch inside spread," Cachot said. "And as impressive as that was, and as impressive as the points were, neither was its greatest asset. What it really had was mass: tremendous mass -- starting with 5 7/8-inch bases that grew to over 8 inches farther out." A true Yazoo trophy!

"The secret to that buck was patience," Cachot emphasized. "All I do is bowhunt, and I have been hunting that deer, or at least a Yazoo trophy like it, for three years. All those hours, days, weeks and months I spent in that stand were worth it. That may have been the only mistake he was ever going to make, and the key was not giving up and being there when he made it."

Not all Yazoo trophies are as difficult to come by. Consider the story of Johnny Luke, of Louisville, who came upon his huge buck exactly one month earlier by just the opposite technique -- which Luke called pure luck.

"There's nothing else you can call it," he said. "About the only skill involved was pulling off the shot when I had the chance."

Luke's chance came on Dec. 2 during the limited draw primitive-weapons hunt. "I went online last summer and registered with my friend Gabe Watts," he began, "but we gave up when we hadn't heard from Yazoo by the first week of October. Wouldn't you know it? A couple of days later we got a letter saying we'd been drawn for Dec. 1-2."

Knowing that being drawn for the hunt provided an opportunity at a trophy buck, Luke and Watts decided to make the most of it, and so planned a scouting trip a week before Thanksgiving.

"We found what we called a hot area full of good sign," Luke recalled. "We found a pretty good bit of buck sign, and it looked like there was at least one big buck working that area. We felt pretty confident when we were headed home."

Neither that confidence nor the expectation of a possible trophy was enough to get Luke and Watts out of bed on Dec. 1, however. "The night before our hunt, a strong cold front came through with some really cold air and strong winds," Luke said. "We awoke to temperatures in the teens and a wind chill in single digits. We didn't have a lot of 'want-to,' so we slept in and went late."

The two finally made it to their hotspot at midmorning -- at which point they found out that it wasn't exactly a secret. "Trucks were everywhere," Luke said. "Not good. We had to move, and we didn't have a backup plan. We had to find something, and half of the first day of a two-day hunt was already gone.

"We scouted for four hours and finally found a spot with some fresh scrapes, but no impressive rubs. It was the best we had, so we set up and hunted there. We hunted to dark and didn't see a thing."

On the second day of the hunt, the two hunters returned to the woods with little expectation of success and a whole lot of dejection. They decided to split up to see what they could find.

"I started walking, easing through the woods," Luke said, "and at one spot I jumped three does. Deer were there, and I didn't have anything else to go on, so I decided to settle in for what I thought would be another long and fruitless day.

"But 20 minutes later, I looked up and saw six does walk up and start feeding on my right. I was watching them, and in a few minutes they began getting nervous, and then they ran off. I thought they had winded me or something."

That "something" turned out to be exactly what Luke had dreamed of when he decided to register for the primitive-weapon hunt at Yazoo: A big buck was headed his way.

"He was walking at a very fast pace toward where the does had been," the hunter recalled. "He kept coming, and I got ready, found an opening and squeezed the trigger."

When the huge cloud of black-powder smoke cleared, Luke saw the body of the big buck motionless on the ground. "I couldn't believe it," he said. "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. It turned out to be a huge 9-point with a 19 3/4-inch inside spread, 5-inch bases and main beams of 23 1/2 and 24 inches" -- another Yazoo giant!

Combine the two previous stories and you get the tale of Carl Taylor, and a third and trophy from the 2006-07 Yazoo season. His is a story of patience and then luck, but the hunter acknowledged, it has an ending that neither he nor, indeed, anybody would ever want.

If Taylor's name sounds familiar, you clearly know Mississippi bowhunting history. During the 2004-05 season, on the opening day of the archery season, Taylor established the current state archery record for typical deer with a 165 5/8-inch buck taken on private land. And when he backed that deer up with another P&Y class deer last year at Yazoo, he solidified his rank among the best archery hunters in Mississippi.

After two weeks without success at Yazoo, Taylor realized that he faced a major obstacle in his search for a refuge trophy: crowded woods. "I wasn't seeing anything but other hunters, so I figured I'd better get away from the crowd," he said. "So the morning of Oct. 14, I just took my climbing stand and moved to a new area of the refuge one morning in the dark."

The archer was in the dark -- both literally and figuratively. Before dawn, using only a flashlight, he moved into the area, which was so new to him that he had no clue as to what he'd find.

"I just knew there weren't nearly as many other hunters," he stated. "I didn't see any other vehicles, and I didn't see any people either."

When the sun came up, Taylor got his first look at his new location. It didn't look good -- but it didn't look bad, either, and at 7 a.m., he learned that deer were in the area. "I looked up and saw a deer about 40 yards to my left," he said. "I couldn't tell what it was at first until it bobbed its head; that's when I knew it was a buck. I kept watching -- and then I knew he was a shooter."

We're not talking about one of the inferior qualifying bucks, either; it was a big-bodied, heavy-antlered buck walking toward him. "Once I knew he was a shooter, I got ready," Taylor said. "He started moving right toward me. When he was 15 yards away, he stopped, but he was right behind a tree -- a big tree. I couldn't see any part of him, so I knew

he couldn't see me either. I drew my bow. I aimed dead at the tree, so no matter where he reappeared, I was ready." That was the smart move, and the reason that he was able to make the shot.

"The buck apparently had winded me," Taylor said, "because when he stepped out from the tree, he had turned and was leaving the same way he had come. Because I had drawn, I was able to shoot before he started running -- and I sort of spined him. It wasn't a great shot, turns out."

Which leads us to the part of the story that Taylor hates to tell.

"Being as I was in woods I didn't know, I guess I got a little turned around," he admitted, "and my friend Willie and I couldn't find that buck that morning, which was Saturday. It was a deadly shot, but it was high and it didn't penetrate through the deer. It didn't leave any blood trail that we could find."

A man whose sense of religious observance is strict about the Sabbath, Taylor doesn't hunt on Sunday, and the Delta was inundated with heavy rains and lightning on Monday. "I couldn't search in that, so it was Tuesday before I returned," he said. "I went back to the same tree, climbed back up in it and got my bearings; I walked right to him. Coyotes had eaten most of the meat.

"You know, the Lord takes care of all His creatures, and the coyotes got the meal. Only the rib cage, head and antlers were intact. I did recover the antlers."

The rack green-scored 130 inches net -- very respectable for a true 8-pointer. The rack had a 19 1/2 inch inside spread, 5-inch bases, 22-inch main beams and 9-inch brow tines. Yazoo officials aged the buck at 4 1/2 years and estimated its weight at over 250 pounds.

"Like I said," biologist David Linden observed. "We still do have some quality bucks that come through each year." l

Find more about Mississippi fishing and hunting at: MississippiGameandFish.com

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