Every autumn, thousands of Georgia hunters head for the woods in hopes of bagging a deer. While what is considered a trophy buck sits in the eye of the beholder, dozens of good bucks were taken last season, with a handful reaching the lofty 160 score that makes a Boone and Crockett buck. However, for most Peach State hunters, any buck scoring over 120 is a very nice trophy.
The thrill of seeing and killing a trophy is what keeps most going back to endure multiple lonely sits waiting on that magical moment. For a few hunters, that magical day came together last season. While not the largest bucks taken in the state, three trophies were taken by ladies, a segment of hunters that is fairly small but growing in number every year.
Susan Russum didn't grow up hunting, starting after she married her husband about 28 years ago. However, she has hunted every year since. About three years ago, she started hunting with archery gear, taking a doe with a crossbow last season.
Along with her husband Steve, Susan hunts a friend's land in Oglethorpe County. They've been letting the bucks walk so they can grow to trophy size. Susan shot a 13-pointer in 2015 and a piebald a few years ago. She usually hunts the same stand, but on that day in early November, she decided to hunt a stand on a field of turnips.
"My husband had gotten off work and we were in a hurry to get to our stands," Susan said. "We live about 20 minutes away and I dropped off Steve first."
In getting to her stand, Susan ran off two does, making her anticipate more activity as the sun dimmed. The does returned to feed on the turnips around dusk, Susan began thinking the day's hunt was over when she spotted something across the field. At about 130 yards, she could see amazing mass and a drop tine on a giant buck. She instantly knew this deer was bigger than anything she had ever shot.
She put the crosshairs of her 7mm Savage on its chest and squeezed the trigger. He dropped at the shot, then jumped up, turned and fell again. After about five minutes of trying to calm down, she returned to the truck and drove to get her husband who immediately said, "Let me guess, he ran?"
Susan quickly replied, "No, we've got to go take pictures because this one is down!"
The 16-point buck, with a large drop tine, was aged at 6 1/2 years old. The dark brown rack had excellent mass, grossing 178 inches and netting 165.
No one had seen the buck that season but a neighboring friend had a grainy trail cam photo of the buck back in the summer. The Russums didn't give it much thought at the time because the photo was fuzzy and almost didn't look real according to Susan. But it was real, and the buck now hangs in their Danielsville home.
AMAZING ARCHERY BUCK
It is hard enough to get a shot at a mature buck with a rifle, much less a bow and arrow. But many hunters still head to the woods with archery gear, including Stephanie Odom from Blakley.
Bowhunting since 2000, Stephanie's family is immersed in the outdoor life, with two sons that hunt and a husband who spent five years working on the "Real Life Outdoors" TV show.
Today, Shannon Odom farms cotton, corn and peanuts on 400 acres of leased land behind their house. He often sits in the same tree with Stephanie and they had an encounter with a big 7-pointer on opening day of archery season. The buck showed up on trail camera in mid-October so they decided to try the same area again. The weather turned cooler on October 22, which was the firearms opener although Stephanie was still hunting with her bow.
Facing different directions, Shannon spotted a good buck coming up behind them early. They were hunting a corridor between a creek and a peanut field where their son had taken a nice velvet 8-pointer earlier that season. The buck had its head down as Stephanie stood up, grabbed her bow and readied for the shot. Unfortunately, the buck was downwind, caught their scent, and bounded off.
Stephanie was optimistic that the buck might come back, but Shannon was doubtful. However, about 30 minutes later, the buck did return. It made its way to the front side of Stephanie's position at about 15 yards. The excitement was almost too much for her. At 8 yards, Shannon grunted and the buck stopped where Stephanie put an arrow behind its shoulder.
The 10-pointer bolted, leaving a huge blood trail for about 60 yards before staggering and falling. Though still shaking, they still waited a little while before getting down and examining him. It wasn't until then that they realized the size of this monster.
The buck's antlers were very symmetrical, losing only a few inches of deductions — grossing 139 and netting a Pope and Young score of 137 1/8.
"He was beautiful, so thick and symmetrical," Stephanie gushed. "His horns were chocolate colored, he was gorgeous."
As difficult as it is to kill a large non-typical buck, and as challenging as it can be to arrow a trophy with a bow, the likelihood of a husband and wife both killing big bucks on the same day on the same property is even more improbable. That's exactly what Chris and Christy Childers of Monroe did on November 6 last season.
The Childers have been married since 2008, which is also the year that Christy began hunting. Chris has hunted for most of his 48 years, having killed numerous big bucks, including five in Kansas that qualified for Pope and Young. But he had never killed a big one in his home state of Georgia.
The couple hunts on two properties in Putnam County, a 100-acre tract and a 35-acre tract. Running about 10 trail cameras, Chris began getting photographs of a nice 11-pointer in mid-October on the 35-acre tract. Being a self-employed electrician, he was able to take time off to hunt the buck and was in the woods about three times each week. But he never saw him.
"I was almost to the point that I was ready to give up on him and hunt somewhere else," Chris said. "That's basically what I did."
On a Saturday afternoon, he hung a climbing stand about 200 yards from Christy's hang-on stand on the 100-acre property. The next morning the pair headed for their stands, hoping for some buck activity. Set up in hardwoods with acorns on the ground, Chris watched three small bucks move through, intermittently sparring. He also saw a bigger buck back in the brush. However, all moved off toward Christy's stand. A quick text let her know they were coming, and she soon saw the young bucks, too, still sparring.
After the little bucks left, Chris had a doe come in to feed on acorns. A nice buck was behind him but stayed back in the brush and out of bow range. Then a half-racked two-year-old buck came in and headed for the doe. The bigger buck came on in and ran off the smaller buck. All the while the bowhunter was standing with release on the string waiting for a shot at the shooter. The doe spooked at the buck interaction and came toward Chris' stand. The big buck stuck his neck out and trotted toward the doe. At 20 yards, Chris grunted to make the buck stop for his shot.
Meanwhile Christy had seen the bigger buck with the three smaller ones chasing a doe but couldn't get a shot. She had decided before the season to hold out for an 8-pointer and was content with passing on the small bucks. Disappointed at the missed opportunity, she didn't have long to wait before the pair came back.
"He was trotting and I tried to whistle to stop him but nothing came out," Christy recalled. "I was nervous."
Placing her scope in an opening, she waited for the buck to enter and pulled the trigger when he appeared in the crosshairs. The big deer dropped at the shot.
When Chris heard the shot, he wasn't sure that it was his wife, but soon got a text stating she had taken the buck. Chris got down to meet his wife with her trophy and share the joy. After loading up her buck, they returned to search for a blood trail. After 100 yards they found Chris's trophy.
"The first thing I said was, 'That's the 11-pointer,'" Chris recalled.
In fact, it was the same buck in the pictures from the other property, a 140 2/8 Pope & Young trophy.