Trophy bucks can pop up anywhere. Biologists claim that the right combination of decent genetics, good nutrition and enough years to reach maturity can produce a good buck anywhere in the state. Some areas produce more and better bucks than other areas; just look at what comes out of the Black Belt.
Bringing home a big buck is every hunter's dream. Even more exciting than taking a big buck, though, is watching a son or daughter take the buck of a lifetime.
Graci Williams lives in Troy and has been hunting deer most of her 16 years. She says she can't remember when she started hunting with her father, DJ Williams, but he says she was about 8 or 9 years old.
"We had a small ground blind set up behind my sister's house," DJ said. "That way if she got too cold she could slip back in the house."
Recently, the pair has been hunting on a piece of property of about 500 acres that belongs to a friend of his uncle's.
"There's a big shooting house on a big power line," DJ said. "We have probably 8 or 10 stands, but this is the biggest one."
The afternoon Graci got her deer, they had already sat in that shooting house three times since the start of the season but hadn't seen anything. In fact, Graci told him that if they didn't see anything that time, she didn't want to go back. On this day, they sat in the blind, on a day when nothing, birds or anything else, was making any noise. While Graci and DJ were discussing how quiet everything was, four does walked out.
"They came out about 4:00," DJ said. "I had never let her shoot that far before, but she's shooting a .308 now, so I told her to take the shot. I told her to aim at the top of the doe's back, take a breath and pull the trigger. She's always been a real good shot and she did what I said. I was watching through binoculars and the bullet hit right in front of the deer."
When the does took off, Graci was not happy because she had been bragging earlier that she never misses. However, even after the miss, she wanted to stay because the deer were moving.
DJ kept scanning with the binoculars and saw what he thought was a good buck hidden in some brush along a creek about 125 yards away.
"We like to play a joke on each other," he said. "When one of us dozes off, the other one says, 'There's a deer!' to make the one that's dozing jump and look around and there's nothing there."
DJ had already played that trick on Graci twice that afternoon, so when he said, "There he is!" Graci thought he was kidding. He was quite serious, though, telling her to get her gun up and find the deer that was walking toward the woods.
"He showed me where it was, and I got my gun ready," she said. "He got his gun ready just in case I missed it, but I wasn't going to miss it. I shot it and we went down and got it, and it was really big!"
According to DJ, it was a perfect shot, with the 195-pound 9-point buck just falling over and never moving; it didn't even kick.
"I've only killed one in my life that was even close to this," DJ said, "and hers is bigger. I told her not to expect to kill a deer like this every year."
While Graci was thrilled about her buck, she claims the most important part of hunting is getting to spend time with her dad.
"It's bonding time for us," she said. "That experience is always going to be a really good memory for my dad and me."
CALLEE JO WILLIAMS
When Brooke Ward Williams took her 6-year-old daughter Callee Jo hunting last November 27, neither one of them had any idea what would happen that day. The two of them bagged almost identical big bucks within less than a minute of each other, from the same deer stand.
"We think they were brothers, because they're so much alike," Brooke said.
For the most part, Brooke says, she and her family know what deer are on their hunting property, but these two big boys were a surprise.
While the family has long spent time outside — roping, rodeoing, etc. — it wasn't until the last decade or so that her father began hunting, much to the astonishment of the family. Then, one evening, he fell and broke several bones while climbing into a stand. After that, the family got concerned about him hunting alone.
"So six or seven years ago I started hunting, and then my kids started hunting with me," said Brooke. "It became something that we do for fun, and then we all became pretty obsessed with it."
Callee Jo has been hunting pretty much since she was old enough, with Brooke always taking at least one child, often two. In fact, every time Brooke has taken a deer, she has had a child with her.
The property Brooke and Callee Jo were hunting on is a lease the family has in Crenshaw County, one county north of their home in Covington County. Her husband leases about 400 acres to farm, and they hunt the property, staying in a house there almost every weekend of hunting season.
On the day that Brooke and Callee Jo took their trophies, they were lake getting to the property, around 3:30 p.m. Callee Jo was frustrated, thinking they weren't going to see anything because it was so late. They went to a shooting house, which was close to the main house and only about 7 or 8 feet high, because it was the quickest to get to. Shortly after arriving, while Callee Jo was rolling Silly Putty into a ball and using it to create funny noises, a doe and a fawn walked out, followed by more does and fawns.
About 5 p.m., Brooke decided it was time to go home. She had one leg out of the shooting house and was reaching to put her rifle on her shoulder and get down when she saw a tiny bit of movement out of the corner of her eye. She quickly told Callee Jo to sit back down.
"We got back into the shooting house and I got my binoculars back out," said Brooke. "I could see a buck, but he had his head down and I couldn't see how big he was. I didn't care at that point what size he was, because she had never killed a buck."
Brooke helped Callee Jo get ready to take the shot, and then got herself set up in case Callee Jo missed. Then a second buck popped out. The first buck had a bigger body, so Brooke told the youngster to take him. While waiting for it to turn broadside, a third buck walked out.
"We had no idea those deer were in there," Brooke said. "That's the area where we dove hunt, because we don't have to worry about messing up the deer there."
When the first buck finally turned broadside, they could see how big he really was. Callee Jo shot and the buck dropped. The others just stood there, so Brooke fired and dropped the second buck. In fact, the pair could have taken the third buck, as he continued to look around, not knowing what was happening.
The pair of bucks taken by the ladies actually brought out some jealousy, particularly from a hunter who buys corn from Brooke's father. The customer was at the barn, making a purchase, when he mentioned that he hadn't seen a buck all year, but had been at a local gas station the other day and learned that two girls had killed two massive bucks. Brooke's husband pulled out a picture, showed it to the customer and said, "Yeah, that's my daughter and my wife."
Jay Galimore is a lifelong hunter, and has been taking Hudson hunting since he was small. Now 12, Hudson and his father hunt on family property close to where they live in Opelika.
"I enjoy getting my boys in the outdoors, whether we're hunting or fishing or doing something else," Jay said. "Hudson started going in the woods with me when he was about six."
As such, the monster that Hudson took this season was not his first deer. It was, however, Hudson's first buck.
A big cold front came through the first weekend of December. The pair decided to go to one of the stands on the back of the property. They sat there for most of the day, only seeing a couple of does. As it started getting late, Hudson got cold and started fidgeting, wanting to get down. Jay told him to wait five more minutes to see if anything happened. Before the five minutes were up, a buck stepped out of the woods straight across from the deer stand.
"Then four more stepped out," Jay said. "The one that my son harvested went up to each of the other bucks and rattled their horns and shoved them. He ran the bigger-racked deer off the field. When he got within shooting distance of us, I told my son to get set up. He made a good shot, and the buck ran about 15 yards and fell over right at the edge of the field. It was a good, quick, clean kill."
The mainframe 8-point buck had two kickers on the bottom of each base and weighed about 200 pounds.
"So I guess you would call him 12-point," Jay said. "His brother Barrett shot a good buck off that same field two years ago. Everyone keeps saying I'm starting them off high, but I told them I'd pay for them to each mount one deer, so it had better be a good one, because after this it's their own money."