Photo courtesy of Carl Taylor
Oct. 1, 2004, started out like every other opening day of the Mississippi archery season: The alarm clock went off at 3:30 a.m., and by 4:00 I was headed out to hunt some public land in Washington County, about 30 miles from my home in Greenwood. You have to get into the woods early when hunting this land, so I made it there by 4:40 a.m. Getting out of the truck, I was met by a swarm of mosquitoes, so I hurriedly sprayed on some repellent.
After settling in my tree stand and waiting for daybreak to come, I could hear vehicles off in the distance; they were slowly approaching my position. As fellow hunters started entering the woods, I could see the flashlights as they made their way to their stands. I could also hear deer moving around in the darkness.
I was also very discouraged by the number of hunters walking around near my stand, and figured that all the deer in this section of woods would be long gone by daybreak. When it came, all I saw were several raccoons and squirrels.
After climbing out of my tree at 9:00 a.m., I still had time to drive to some private land in Issaquena County and set up for a hunt. On arriving at the new location, I saw several tractors out on the fields; the farmer who owned the place was picking cotton. That particular property isn’t that big, so I assumed I wouldn’t have any luck there, either.
At first I decided to give up, but having taken the day off from work, I figured that I might as well hunt somewhere. So I headed to another piece of private land that I had permission to hunt. I had never hunted it before, but it was only about three miles away.
I drove to this new location with the idea of doing some scouting. By then it was after 11:00 o’clock, and I almost left my archery equipment in the truck. Fortunately, I decided instead to gather my gear and carry it along as I headed for the woods.
I walked about 150 yards, mostly in an open field, and still hadn’t made it to the woods in which I planned to look for a spot to hang my stand. As I was passing a small thicket out in the middle of the field, I heard what might have been leaves rustling. The moment I heard the sound, I looked in that direction — and there was a buck, looking at me!
He was bedded down, and I must have startled him enough that he didn’t know what to do. It appeared as if he was getting ready to run, but he chose to stay put and let me walk by. When I made eye contact with him, though, he got up and started to trot off.
When the deer was about 30 to 35 yards away, he turned broadside in front of me and headed for the big section of woods across the field. He didn’t seem to be too alarmed, and wasn’t running all that fast, so I quickly decided to try taking a shot. I use a Whiskey Biscuit arrow rest, so I didn’t have to worry about holding my arrow in place.
Everything happened pretty fast after that — I don’t even remember drawing back my bow and releasing my arrow. I do remember hearing the arrow hit, but I wasn’t sure exactly where. The buck flinched when the arrow made contact, ran about another 40 or 50 yards into another small thicket, and didn’t come out. Knowing that he was still in there, I decided to wait about an hour to let my 100-grain broadhead do its job.
Back in my truck, I sat shaking from the excitement. I couldn’t wait the full hour: After about 25 minutes, I gathered my bow and arrow and slowly started stalking my way to the thicket. As I approached, I readied my bow, thinking that he was probably going to break and run at any time.
The closer I got, the faster my heart beat. When the buck didn’t jump up, I guessed that he must have sneaked out of the thicket while I was sitting in my truck. I eased closer and closer and finally could see a portion of his rack. My legs felt as if they were made of rubber.
Finally I could see that the rack was lying on its side rather than resting in an upright position. I later found out that my arrow had hit him in the hindquarters, severing his femoral artery; he had bled to death shortly after the shot.
I couldn’t believe the size of his antlers. It took me at least 10 minutes of staring at the deer before I even tried to touch him. He was still in full velvet, although that was just starting to come off.
After dragging the animal 50 yards or so, I was able to drive my truck right up to him. With no help in sight, my work was cut out for me, and getting him loaded up took another 20 or 30 minutes.
On the way home, I called my brothers on my cell phone and told them to meet me at the house. The minute they saw my buck, their mouths dropped open. Kidding me, one of my brothers asked me what kind of animal I had just killed, because it couldn’t be a whitetail. My other brother started counting points. When he got to nine, I realized that I hadn’t even counted the points myself. He finished at 14. We later put my buck on the scales; it weighed 238 pounds.
I’ve always wanted to shoot a buck with at least a 20-inch inside spread, and this one bested that mark, coming in at 22 inches.
Next I called a very good friend, John O’Conner, who is a taxidermist. Though he is not an official scorer, he green-scored my buck. I estimated that the rack would score 140 or 150, but John put it at more like 163 or 164 Pope & Young Club points. He also said that I might have a new No. 1 archery record for Mississippi. I was speechless.
Another good friend of mine, Otis Hill, killed a one-time state-record typical archery buck in Washington County in 1990. That buck, which was scored at 160 1/8 P&Y, remained No. 1 in Mississippi for nine years, until being ousted in 1999 by a 164
7/8 buck killed in Issaquena County by Louisiana hunter Jimmy House. Back when Otis held the record, I used to tell him jokingly that I was going to beat his record someday!
“I hope somebody does,” he always replied, “and when they do, I hope it’s somebody I know.” Turns out that, in a way, he eventually got his wish!
After the mandatory 60-day drying period, the buck was scored in early December by Randy Breland, an official P&Y scorer who had measured three other state-record archery bucks. The buck had 13 scorable points, instead of the 14 my brother had counted. The rack grossed 181 2/8 inches of antler, a total eventually reduced more than 15 inches by deductions. Breland’s final pronouncement: a net score of 165 5/8 typical P&Y points. Though it exceeded Jimmy House’s 1999 kill by only a scant 6/8 inch, the buck earned for me the new Mississippi state record for typical archery bucks.