A quote attributed to Fred Bear states: "A hunt based only on the trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be."
Fred Bear saw hunting as an intimate and personal activity. Oftentimes, attempting to kill a trophy buck every year can seem like the wrong motivation, and likely is for some deer hunters. But when taking younger bucks becomes easy, hunters tend to strive for loftier goals.
Fortunately, Magnolia State hunters seeking the very best deer hunting in the nation don't have to look far. Mississippi is considered one the best states in the nation to harvest a trophy buck. In fact, the Quality Deer Management Association's 2016 Whitetail Report revealed that Mississippi hunters harvested a higher percentage of mature white-tailed bucks than any state that collects such data. In the report, Mississippi took the top spot with 74 percent of the bucks harvested in the 2014-15 season being 3 1/2 years old or older, with true trophies taken every year.
BOLIVAR COUNTY DELTA DOUBLE
Monster bucks are almost synonymous with the fertile Mississippi Delta, but a single hunter taking down two in a single season is an anomaly. Pittman Edwards of Cleveland accomplished such a feat during the 2016-2017 deer season.
Edwards' story begins with a fateful mid-December trip to the local convenience store following an evening of watching Monday Night Football. As he drove back to camp, Edwards' headlights lit up a huge mainframe 10-point buck as it crossed the road in front of his truck. The next morning found him in a stand alongside an old oxbow lake near where the buck had crossed the road.
An avid bowhunter, Edwards decided to carry along his rifle as well because of the terrain being so open. About 9:30 a.m. a trio of does passed, with a group of love-struck bucks in hot pursuit. As he watched the action, the sound of grunting to his left caught his attention. Edwards reached for his bow, knowing instantly that this was the monster he had seen the night before.
"He came right by my stand at five yards and I was already at full draw," said Edwards. "But I couldn't get him to stop."
Edwards quickly placed his bow on the hanger and grabbed his rifle. After finally finding an opening at 75 yards, he squeezed off a round. Unsure of the shot placement, he fired twice more for good measure. Edwards called some friends with tracking dogs and the big buck was recovered within 20 minutes.
The buck sported a massive 10-point mainframe rack with an additional pair of abnormal points. The Bolivar County 12-pointer had main beams of nearly 28 inches in length and an inside spread of 21 4/8 inches. While the buck officially grossed 194 1/8 inches, the deductions brought the net score down to 168 2/8 inches.
But that's only the first half of Edwards' story. About a week later, Edwards decided to focus his attention on a big 9-pointer that he had originally been pursuing on his family's farm prior to encountering the 12-pointer.
"I had been chasing this buck for three years," said Edwards. "I had trail camera pictures of him for four years and sheds from two different years. I was starting to think I would never get him."
An afternoon hunt sitting over a food plot planted in rape and oats changed his mind. Edwards had been watching a group of does and young bucks feed in the food plot when the 9-pointer offered him a perfect broadside bowshot. Much like with his first big buck, tracking dogs found the big buck in short order.
Edwards' second trophy of the year grossed 173 7/8 inches and netted 166 6/8 inches. According to Edwards, he was actually more proud of the "smaller" buck because he killed it on his family farm with archery gear.
"I never imagined I would be so lucky," Edwards said. "Harvesting one big buck in a season is great, but being fortunate enough to take two is awesome!"
LAFAYETTE COUNTY STATE-RECORD ARCHERY BUCK
The vast majority of trophy-class bucks harvested are the result of chance encounters, when hunters were not even aware the deer was in the area. However, such was not the case with Earl Stubblefield's Mississippi State Record for typical archery. This Oxford hunter had been keeping a close watch on this particular buck for three years.
Trail camera pictures indicated that the buck was a very uniform 10-point the first two years. The first year, Stubblefield estimated the buck would measure around 117 inches. The following year, the buck bloomed into an impressive 140-inch class trophy that most hunters would love to have a chance at harvesting. However, Stubblefield saw potential in the young buck and expected him to reach the mid-150s if left alone.
Anxious to see how much the buck had grown, Stubblefield placed trail cameras near a soybean field prior to the opening of archery season. The images captured indicated that Stubblefield's prediction wasn't even close. Instead of a 150-inch set of antlers that would easily break the Lafayette County Record, as the buck had added two more points to its perfectly symmetrical 10-point frame and exploded into a 180-inch typical 12-point monster.
Utilizing additional trail cameras around the bean field, Stubblefield was able to pattern the buck's movements. After hanging stands in key locations where the deer was entering the soybean field in early September, the hunter decided to leave the area alone until archery season.
The first two times Stubblefield sat watching over the field, the giant buck failed to materialize, despite numerous other deer feeding in the soybeans. However, Stubblefield wasn't really surprised since he had never gotten a single picture of the buck during daylight hours.
At 6:55 p.m. on October 8, 2016, the big buck made the fatal mistake of entering the bean field a little too early. With 10 deer already feeding in the soybeans, the 12-pointer followed a young 4-point buck right underneath Stubblefield's stand. Patiently waiting for a clear quartering away shot at 27 yards, Stubblefield sent an arrow into the vitals of the big buck. The buck ran out into the middle of the bean field before crashing in a cloud of dust.
As Stubblefield approached the downed buck, he instantly knew it was everything he had envisioned. However, it wasn't until he put a tape to the antlers and started adding up some measurements that he came to the realization that the buck was even bigger than he had first thought. But even then, he had no idea that the buck would even be in contention for the state archery record.
The buck's antlers had matching 27 3/8-inch and 27 4/8-inch main beams, with G3s and G4s over 9 inches in length, and G2s over 8 inches. He also sported massive 5 1/8-inch bases and an inside spread of 17 3/8 inches.
The official Pope & Young Score, following the required 60-day drying period, confirmed the Stubblefield buck as the new Mississippi State Record Typical Archery Whitetail. It had a gross score of 182 7/8 inches and netted 181 2/8 inches, beating out the previous record buck by nearly 8 inches.
"Only nine typical deer scoring over 180 inches have been harvested by any legal method in Mississippi," said Rick Dillard, director of the Magnolia Records Program. "Stubblefield's buck ranks at number six."
CANEMOUNT WMA MONSTER
Wildlife management areas in the Magnolia State don't have a reputation for producing trophy-class whitetails. Or at least that was the case up until Josh Clark of Iuka dropped a monster 18-pointer at Canemount WMA in Claiborne County this past season.
Clark had been fortunate to get drawn for the second year in a row to deer hunt at Canemount WMA. Although hunters are allowed to scout their zone the Thursday before the hunt, Clark was unable to use that to his advantage.
"I live six hours away, so I couldn't drive that far to scout for one day," said Clark. "Luckily, I got some good advice from the owner of the local campground where we were staying."
The first morning Clark placed his climbing stand in a sharp horseshoe of James Creek, where he found several large rubs. The setup was ideal, with the steep bank of the creek forcing deer traveling to or from a nearby food plot to pass right by his stand. From his perch he could easily see both the food plot and the horseshoe bend in the creek.
The first day was uneventful with only a spike and two does passing his stand. The second day was even worse with not a single deer seen. Clark had made up his mind to hunt a different area north of the creek the next morning. He even offered his spot overlooking the horseshoe bend to a hunting buddy, but his friend declined.
The third morning, Clark realized that he had to retrieve his climbing stand from his original spot, so he decided to just sit there for a while before moving to the new location. Once he settled, Clark tried rattling, grunting and bleating with no results. He waited a half an hour and tried another series of calls.
"I had lost all confidence in that spot," said Clark. "I decided that I would wait another 30 minutes or so then I was going to get down and leave."
About 15 minutes later, Clark's patience had gotten the best of him. Using a rope, he lowered his gun to the ground.
"I was taking the seat off the back of the stand when I saw that big main beam coming around the horseshoe," said Clark. "I quickly sat back down and started pulling the gun back up to the stand with the rope."
Fortunately the buck never noticed Clark's movements and continued walking. Clark picked out an opening and squeezed off a round with his .35 Whelen when the buck's shoulder appeared.
"The recoil of the gun knocked my hat over my eyes," said Clark. "By the time I got my hat out of the way, the deer was gone. I started thinking that I had missed him."
Clark climbed down the tree and eased over to the opening where the buck had been standing. There was a good blood trail and Clark couldn't resist the temptation to start following it. Just as he reached the crest of the first ridge, he spotted the heavy antlers through the brush.
The massive 18-point public land monster officially grossed 198 6/8 inches, but due to numerous deductions netted 162 6/8. Regardless, Clark's monster Canemount WMA buck remains one of the largest buck's ever taken on public land in Mississippi.