Photo by Robert H. Cleveland Jr.
Mississippi’s new record-holder for typical deer by archery can’t be accused of ever having had buck fever. Does, however, could be a different story for Madison’s Rob Stockett.
“I have to wonder,” said a joking Stockett, who last Nov. 11 set the standard for all Magnolia State bowhunters with an astonishingly typical 10-point typical that had a rack measuring 167 2/8 inches. “I was as calm as could be when I shot the buck. I don’t really think I had time to be anything else. It happened so fast.”
The perfect shot, taken at 25 yards, followed by less than an hour two horribly placed shots at a doe. “Don’t know what happened there,” Stockett acknowledged, “except to say I just plain old missed. You bowhunt long enough and you’re going to miss a few shots, I guess. I’m just glad to say I made the shot that counted.”
The buck, officially scored in January by Chad Dacus, a deer project coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and by Rick Dillard, co-founder of the Magnolia Records program, nearly gave the state its first typical archery kill that would exceed the minimum threshold for the Boone and Crockett Club all-time record book; it just missed that 170-point score. Needless to say, it far surpassed the minimum score of 125 required to make the Pope & Young Club’s all-time record list for bow-killed whitetails.
“When I first saw it, I knew it had a chance,” said Dacus. “It had great mass, big points, a good spread and that amazing symmetry. In all my years of looking at and scoring trophy deer, I have never seen a set of antlers on a buck of that magnitude that had that kind of symmetry.”
Scoring it was easy enough. “We just measured, wrote down scores and added,” said Dillard. “We didn’t have to do a lot of subtraction — there just wasn’t any. I mean when you’re talking about a buck that grosses 169 2/8 inches and nets 167 2/8, that’s only 2 inches of deductions. That’s amazing. It is a beautiful buck.”
Stockett’s buck has assumed its place atop the record list, replacing a 165 5/8 P&Y deer taken in 2004 by Carl Taylor of Greenville. (Continued)
Taking a record-book buck was the last thing that Stockett had on his mind when he went hunting. “I wasn’t out there that day, or any other day that I hunt for that matter, looking for a record,” he said. “Does anybody? I was out there doing what I love — getting away from work and everything to bowhunt. I was hunting for the pure joy of hunting. That I got the record? Well, that’s just a bonus. I was in the right place at the right time.”
Being in the right place was no accident: Stockett’s preparation for the hunt was a five-year labor of love. But before we explain the hard work and dedication that went into creating a hunting camp capable of producing a trophy-book buck, let’s go back to that overcast afternoon in the north Mississippi Delta and join Stockett in the stand.
“I had driven up there thinking it would be a good afternoon to be in the stand,” Stockett recalled. “We’d had such a warm season to that point, anytime we had a cooler day, we’d try to make use of it.”
It was cool enough that Stockett was able to wear a jacket and enough clothes to keep the mosquitoes away. “I was hunting a small field we have and one that I knew deer were using,” he said. “I decided that if I got the opportunity, I would take a doe. It was still kind of early for bucks, I thought. I figured I’d take a doe and put some meat in the freezer.
“I hadn’t been there long when some deer came into the field. And there was this one old doe that came up close enough for a good shot. First chance I got I took the shot — and I missed! I don’t know what happened, but I missed. I could see my favorite arrow standing up in the ground.”
The doe had spooked, but hadn’t run off. “She jumped, but didn’t go far,” said the archer, “so I reached around and grabbed a second arrow and got ready for another shot — and I missed again! I don’t know what was happening — why I was missing — but all I know was I was in that stand and my best two arrows were sticking up in the ground in the field in front of me.
“You know how bowhunters are — we rate our arrows. I had my No. 1 and No. 2 arrows, and now I was down to my No. 3, and it was my last one. I had just one more broadhead, and it was one I had never done a lot of work with — you know: I hadn’t shot it much.”
|THE NEW STATE RECORD|
|SCORABLE POINTS……10(5R,5L)||Total length of abnormal points: 0|
|INSIDE SPREAD……21 0/8|
|Main Beam||27 6/8||28 0/8||2/8|
|1st Point (G-1)||6 1/8||6 2/8||1/8|
|2nd Point (G-2)||8 0/8||8 0/8||–|
|3rd Point (G-3)||10 2/8||9 7/8||3/8|
|4th Point (G-4)||5 6/8||5 5/8||
|1st circ. (H-1)||4 3/8||4 5/8||2/8|
|2nd circ.||3 6/8||3 5/8||1/8|
|3rd circ. (H-3)||4 3/8||4 0/8||3/8|
|4th circ.||4 1/8||3 6/8||3/8|
|TOTALS:||74 4/8||76 6/8||2 0/8|
|Gross Typical Score:||169 2/8|
|Subtract side-to-side differences:||-2 0/8|
|Subtract abnormal points:||-0/8|
|FINAL NET TYPICAL SCORE:||167 2/8|
|Taken by: Rob Stockett III
Location: Tallahatchie County, Mississippi
But instead of climbing down out of the stand, Stockett decided that since deer were obviously moving, he’d hang around.
“Those deer had run off,” he said, “and it was still pretty early, so I decided to stay put and see what happened. I figured another doe would come along, sooner or later.”
Stockett figured right, and, fortunately, soon found out that an earlier prediction had proved wrong: Bucks were indeed active, and starting to pursue does. “I don’t know how much time had passed, but I looked up and a doe came walking out into the field,” he explained. “I was watching her trying to decide what she was going to do. I was concentrating on her when I noticed her look up and back across the field.
“I looked and saw this buck. He was well out of my bow range on the other side of the doe. It was standing there looking at her. He was definitely interested in the doe.”
One look at those antlers, and Stockett was interested in the buck. “Yeah — I knew right away that it was a shooter,” he offered, “but I tried not to think about that too much. At least not right away. I looked back at the doe, and she kept looking back at the buck. He might have been interested in her, but she didn’t seem too ready to deal with him.
“She finally turned her head around away from him and bolted. She ran away from him. The good thing for me was that she ran across the field quartering in front of me.”
Unfortunately for the buck, and fortunately for Stockett, the old boy followed. “When she broke and ran, he did too and was in pursuit,” the hunter stated. “She led him right across in front of me. I was ready, and when he was about 25 yards in front of me, I hollered at him. He locked up and froze right there, broadside, at 25 yards. It was a perfect broadside shot, just what you’d want. And I took it.”
When the pressure was on, Stockett’s aim was true, and the deed was done. The buck ran out of the field, but the tracking was easy. Broadhead No. 3 had done its work on the vital organs in the buck’s wheelhouse.
“It all happened so fast,” observed the bowhunter. “From the time the doe walked out to the time I saw her look back at him to the time I saw him, and to the time she led him to me, I didn’t have a lot of time to think; all I had to do was react. It couldn’t have worked out any better.”
What Stockett found at the end of the trail was the buck of a lifetime wearing perhaps one of the prettiest sets of antlers that Mississippi will ever produce.
|MISSISSIPPI’S TOP 5 TYPICAL ARCHERY BUCKS|
|Rob Sockett||Tallahatchie||2007||167 2/8|
|Carl Taylor||Issaquena||2004||165 5/8|
|Jimmy House||Issaquena||1999||164 7/8|
|John Harvey||Adame||1969||158 1/8|
|Danny Lowery||Hinds||2000||155 5/8|
The main beams are extremely long at 27 6/8 and 28 inches. The brow tines (G-1s) both exceeded 6 inches, and the G-2s were both exactly 8 inches. The long G-3s were 10 2/8 and 9 7/8. The inside spread of the 10-pointer was 21 inches at the widest point. “I was stunned,” Stockett said.
So were the biologists who unofficially green-scored the buck two days later. “This was the first buck I’ve seen where you hold it up and look at the two sides, and it’s like looking in a mirror,” Rick Dillard remembered. “Amazing symmetry. And we knew we were looking at a potential record.”
SYMMETRY COMES IN THREES
More symmetry than just that displayed by the rack worn by the Stockett buck is in play here, however: Historical symmetry with the buck that it replaced atop the archery record book was also evident.
One facet of the account of the Stockett buck recalls an element in the story of Carl Taylor, who had shot his buck three years earlier: While Stockett’s first two arrows of the day misse
d, Taylor’s first two choices for the conduct of his morning hunt misfired.
Taylor, a transportation coordinator for the Uncle Ben’s rice mill in Greenville, started his hunt on family land in Washington County, only to find it too busy on Oct. 1, the first day of the season. “I started out early that morning at my favorite spot, on some private land near Glen Alan, but the farmers were there getting their equipment ready to do some spraying,” he recalled. “I knew that wouldn’t work, so I drove over to Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge. It was too crowded, and there were too many mosquitoes where I was, so I left.
“It was getting late by then, so I decided to go another six or seven miles to some of my family’s land in Issaquena County to do some scouting. I wasn’t really going to hunt more than just to look around.”
More symmetry between the tales: Stockett faced a critical decision as to whether to quit when he had just one arrow left. Taylor’s key decision was his last-second impulse to reach back in the truck and grab his bow before scouting the property.
Another parallel: Provided a shooting opportunity on the spur of the moment, both hunters made the perfect shot. In Taylor’s case, it happened incredibly fast.
“I was just walking and looking and hadn’t gone very far when I heard something to my left,” he said. “I turned — and there he was. He had been bedded down in a small thicket, and I guess I jumped him. He stood there for a split second, about 15 yards from me, looking at me, before he turned and started running.
“I don’t think he was scared, probably because it was so early in the season. He didn’t run fast and he didn’t go straight away. He turned and went across in front of me.”
The buck’s choice of path was a fatal error, taking him at half-gallop straight toward Taylor at 30, then 25, and finally 25. “I figured, what the heck, I’d take the shot, because he wasn’t going that fast,” the archer said. “I just threw the bow up, aimed and shot.”
He had every reason to be confident: The broadhead tore through the deer’s vital area. But Taylor’s buck’s antlers were a different story entirely, and the two narratives part ways on that score.
Taken in November, Stockett’s buck was in prime rutting condition; downed on opening morning in October, Taylor’s buck was still in full velvet. While Stockett’s buck was a clean 10-pointer, Taylor’s had 13 scorable points with a lot of deductions.
Taylor’s buck grossed over 181 inches, but lost more than 15 inches in deductions. The velvet had to be removed, leaving the hunter with a bright-white set of antlers.
At the time of the kill, Taylor’s buck exceeded the existing record, set by Jimmy House of Oak Grove, La., by less than an inch. House’s buck also came from Issaquena County, so the top three bucks on the typical archery record list in Mississippi came from Delta counties.
DEDICATED TO SUCCESS
It was the potential to raise big bucks that led Rob Stockett and partner John Denkins into purchasing the track of land in Tallahatchie County in 2002. They were fully aware that it’d be awhile before the project paid off.
“We knew when we got it that it was going to take a lot of work and dedication,” Stockett admitted. “When we got it, we couldn’t find many mature bucks on the place. We put our cameras out and only recorded one mature buck. We decided that we would start a management program and stay away from shooting bucks.”
The first call went to the MDWFP. “We got with the biologists,” recalled Stockett, “and they gave us a plan, and we executed it. They deserve a lot of credit. We did what they told us to do — and, no, it wasn’t always easy. But it was worth the effort. We saw improvements every year. We saw mature buck numbers coming up. I’m not saying we are loaded with bucks in that class — but we’ve got mature bucks.”
Stockett and Denkins basically redesigned the property, developing food plots and bedding areas. In addition to manipulating the habitat, the landowners followed a harvest plan to create a balanced deer population that would give maximum production out of the habitat.
“I’m not going to tell you it’s easy to sit up there year after year and pass shots on good bucks even though you know they haven’t reached their potential,” Stockett noted. “But you have to. You have to be dedicated to it, and if you are, then you can get results. I guess I’m living proof.”
According to Dacus, Stockett’s dedication to the program was the most critical factor in his record-breaking kill. “There is only one way you are ever going to see bucks reach their full potential,” he said, “and that is by letting them live to be 5 and 6 years old. You can make food plots and manipulate the habitat and all that, which is very important — but if you are shooting your bucks at 2 or 3, or even 4 years of age, then you aren’t going to see them reach full potential.”
Dacus added that most hunters throughout Mississippi now realize the importance of quality deer management. “I don’t think you have to look far to see evidence of that,” the biologist stated. “You can look at the 2007-08 season and see that. In addition to the new record archery buck, we’re going to end up with 10 or 11 Boone and Crockett-class bucks — and I’m talking net scores here, not gross. There’s dozens more that grossed over the minimums, both typical and non-typical, that couldn’t net high enough.
“To have that kind of season is a testament to the dedication of land managers and hunters. You don’t see bucks like this by accident.”
In the following months, we’ll look at some of the best deer and stories of the incredible 2007-08 season. By the time opening day of the 2008-09 season arrives, we’ll have you in the mood to spend some time hunting top-quality deer.