Chad Tate saw the trail cam photos of the monster buck and knew immediately that it was to be his son’s deer. Almost two months later, it was.
As soon as Dr. Paul Warrington shot his trophy buck, he thought about his son in a nearby stand and how pleased he’d be to know that the deer they’d been hunting their whole lives was down.
Family — and not always just in the form of father and son — has always been a great part of the hunting tradition. So many great stories of success and love form the fabric of each deer season.
But never in the history of Mississippi has family had the impact it had on the record books as it did last season. Both of the bucks mentioned above qualified for the Boone and Crockett Club Record Book of North American Big Game.
Both hunts also involve great stories from the Mississippi woodlands. Here’s a look at both of these yarns of successful hunts.
207 6/8 B&C Non-Typical
In mid-November prior to the opening of the gun season, Chad Tate of Summit grabbed the disks out of the trail cameras from his deer camp in Amite County. As he scanned through the pictures on his computer, he nearly passed out: It was the biggest buck he’d ever seen — way bigger than anything Tate had ever heard of from a county not known for giant bucks or non-typical growth.
Photo courtesy of Chad Tate.
“I couldn’t believe what I was looking at,” he said. “I looked at the pictures and all I could think of was that somebody had played a joke on me. It was a monster buck. I mean a real monster buck!”
As it became obvious that no trick had been played, and that the whitetail was real and living and walking around his deer camp, another thought occurred to Tate: This was a record-book buck.
“I knew immediately that this was a sure-enough Boone and Crockett buck — and if it was going to be listed in the record book, either in B&C or in Mississippi’s (Magnolia Records) book, the name beside it was not going to be mine,” Tate said. “No, the name I wanted with that deer was my son’s.”
At age 11 Shelby Tate was to inherit the buck.
With that decision began a long, arduous labor of love that wouldn’t play out for almost seven weeks. Killing a buck that big wouldn’t be easy — nor should it have been.
“I can’t tell you now much agony that deer put us through,” Chad Tate recalled. “I knew the area he was using. The cams had done that for us. It was in a small bottom, and there was a small field in it. That little field was where I knew we would likely get our best chance. I studied it and figured out exactly what conditions we needed wind-wise to hunt that area.
“I told all the people that hunt that area — and it’s not that many — to stay away from there. And they did. We made that area off limits except to Shelby, and only then when the conditions were just right. They almost never were.”
For over a month, the Tates watched the short-term and long-term weather forecasts, and waited. “I wasn’t in any hurry,” the elder Tate said. “Really, I wanted to let the buck get settled, get very comfortable in his zone while all the hunting was going on around him. I’m not saying that I didn’t want to go in there and hunt him, but I was in no hurry. I wanted everything to be just right, not only for us, but for the buck.”
The first gun season passed, as did the muzzle-loading season. Then Christmas came, and went. And still the Tates held off.
Finally, on Dec. 28, it all came together: The wind was right, and the bucks were starting to actively move on does. And the Tates were ready for an afternoon hunt.
The hunting party consisted of Chad Tate and his fiancée Erica Tate (no relation — at least, not yet) and Shelby. There was no stand in the area, so they carried a pop-up blind and one other accessory that made all the difference in the world.
“I have to credit Erica for the one thing that may have closed the deal,” Shelby Tate said. “I wanted us to all be together and knew the ground blind was the only way we could do that. But in that small area the ground blind would be kind of obvious and would stick out pretty bad.
“I knew immediately that this was a sure-enough Boone and Crockett buck — and if it was going to be listed in the record book . . .” –Chad Tatum
“Erica came up with this idea, I think from watching TV or in a magazine story: She suggested we get a doe decoy, put some estrus scent on it and that might keep the buck’s attention away from us in the blind. She went to the store and got everything we needed to do that.”
“I knew the only way we were going to get that buck to step out in to the open in daylight and with that ground blind was with the decoy,” Erica remarked.
Arriving in the bottom at 3 p.m., they put up the blind in the shadows at the edge of the opening. Chad and Erica put the doe decoy about 25 yards in front of the pop-up and doused it heavily. “We made her smell real good,” Chad said. Then they climbed into the stand to wait.
The plan couldn’t have worked any better. About an hour later, they caught a glimpse of movement about 50 yards away at the edge of the field. Without hesitation a buck walked right out into the field.
“It was the buck — the big buck we’d been looking for,” Chad recalled. “I couldn’t believe it. Everything worked so perfectly. He walked into the field about 50 yards from our stand and he headed straight for the decoy. He never had a clue we were there.”
Shelby got ready, easing his rifle out the window. “I told him to wait, because I could tell there was no need to hurry,” Chad Tate said. “The wind was perfect. The buck was concentrating on the decoy, and he was walking right to it. He walked right up to the decoys and stopped 25 yards from our blind.”
Boom! Shelby Tate’s rifle roared, and the deal was officially closed. The youngster never flinched.
“He was perfect,” the proud daddy said. “I asked him after if he got nervous.” No, Shelby replied to his dad, because he’d done what Chad had told him and never looked at the antlers. He’d focused on where he was going to aim, he said, and never looked away until after he’d taken the shot.
Rick Dillard of the U.S. Forest Service officially scored the stunning buck at 207 6/8 B&C points. He was certainly stunned: “Not only for its mass, but for where it came from,” he said. “Amite County? Nobody could see that coming.”
To Chad Tate, the buck and the story represent three very important things. “First is the importance of trail cams,” he offered. “Second is how effective a doe decoy can be. Third, and most important, is how great it is to make deer hunting a family event.